Batman: The Enemy Within, is a wild, wild series. But in terms of the thrill, or excitement which it provides, but in terms of its overall quality. The first episode in the series, titled ‘The Enigma’ was simply superb. It ticked all the boxes, and was a shining example of what episodic games should be like. However, ‘The Pact’ which was the second episode of the series, was simply shambolic. And a complete antithesis to Enemy Within’s inaugural episode. The drastic drop in quality didn’t bode well for the future of the series. But despite of the major setback which The Enemy Within has suffered with ‘The Pact’, it has managed to salvage some of its face with the third episode in the series, titled ‘Fractured Mask’.
Fractured Mask, unlike its direct predecessor, ‘The Pact’, is stable on both mechanical and technical levels. The episode in question runs smoothly, and is devoid of any serious glitches and/or bugs. And lack of all those ‘’imperfections’’, subsequently makes the episode much more enjoyable to experience. As all who purchase ‘Fractured Mask’ will not have to suffer through awkward cutscenes, and glitchy, sub-par gameplay sequences.
The most recent episode of the Enemy Within, in general is much more gameplay intensive than ‘The Pact’. As it involves many more player-driven sequences. And yes, all the in-game puzzles are rather simplistic, as they only require one to move one object from A to B, and so on, but ultimately, the increased user-agency results in higher level of engagement.
In addition to numerous puzzles, Fractured Mask, also features a handful of action based sequences, which add a lot to the gameplay, and the story itself. As one allows the player to get to know John Doe a little better, whereas the other gives one a chance to learn more about the Cat Woman. And while the episode still features the rest of the cast throughout, it mainly concentrates on the two abovementioned characters.
In-game gameplay sequences of Fractured Mask, may not be ground breaking or revolutionary in any way shape or form, but they are a welcome change to the otherwise cut-scene heavy title. And while my inflated opinion may be based upon the fact that the bar was so set so low by The Pact, that even the slightest change would constitute a major improvement, I’m still confident in saying that Fractured Mask, is still a major step up from its predecessor.
By ironing out all the bugs and glitches, Telltale has managed to eradicate the vast majority of the title’s flaws. But while one will no longer have to play in 20fps, or with characters behaving like robots, one will still feel like he/she is being rushed through the episode. Like the game is doing everything it can to get the player in, and then straight out the exit door. And this mainly stems from the fact that Fractured Mask was simply too short. One second you are escaping a death-trap, whereas the next you are drinking coffee with the John Doe.
The erratic jumps between contrasting scenes can be rather jarring, but they are not as damaging as the sudden changes in characters’ personalities. Within a single minute long conversation, an NPC can be joyful, mad, and depressed. And this doesn’t just apply to John Doe, who is meant to be unstable – but to the entire cast. Characters such as Alfred, Selina, Gordon, can all go through sudden, and contrasting mood swings within seconds. And such jarring changes, destroy any semblance of reality within the title, and ultimately make it feel like just like a simple game.
I fully understand that all the above-mentioned, narrative-related flaws stem from the fact Telltale is under time constraints both in-game, and in real life. As all the episodes have to be released in a timely manner, and can’t run for hours on end. But if every single future episode of this particular series, will be just as incoherent, then maybe it is time to alter the Telltale formula. As not every story can be told within the same, old, tired five-episode framework.
Ultimately, Batman: The Enemy Within – Fractured Mask, is a Telltale experience, through and through. It is overly short, it features an exuberant amount of information and data, which ultimately is conveyed to the player incorrectly. And just like all the other Telltale episodes, of The Enemy Within, or any other series for that matter, Fractured Mask ends on an underwhelming cliff-hanger, of which outcome can be guessed even before the credits roll. But subsequently, Fractured Mask, does enough to push the series forwards, and we can only hope that with time, the series will improve and return to the glory of its inaugural episode.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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