Release Date: 11/21/17
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (played on PS4)
ESRB/PEGI: M/PEGI 18
MSRP: $4.99 USD (episode)/$24.99 (season pass)
Written by Rick Warren / Gfn2112
Fractured Mask picks up right where the previous episode left off. This time, though, Telltale focuses on one-on-one moments with the deep cast instead of action. Doing so opens up choices I've been waiting to make for a long time now, but is that enough to make a more character-focused approach work?
Much like the previous episode in the series, Fractured Mask places a greater focus on Bruce Wayne than Batman. He remains undercover with The Pact, the group of supervillains led by Harley Quinn. Like last time, it works. It's refreshing to see a Bruce Wayne story, and especially one that's handled this well. Throughout the first half of the episode I was unsure of the choices that I was making. Everything I did was either helping Batman and hurting Bruce, or vice versa. There was absolutely no way to make everything go to plan. I loved that. Eventually, I went so deep with my undercover performance that Jim Gordon arrested Bruce Wayne. It was none other than Amanda Waller who came to the rescue, someone I had gone out of the way to piss off in my playthrough. It was a great moment that both showed that my choices mattered, and made me reflect on everything I'd done.
Speaking of choices, this episode allowed me to do things that I've been waiting for the chance to do since the season started (and one that I've been waiting to do since last season). One of these involved Tiffany, the daughter of Lucius Fox. In both episodes I've been honest with her, and in Fractured Mask I was finally able to tell her Bruce's greatest secret. As I'd hoped, she was understanding, and learning the truth behind her father's death inspired her to take after him. She's poised to build tech for Batman just like her dad, and I'm excited to see how she can help. Another of these satisfying choices dealt with the character that returned at the end of episode 2: Catwoman.
Laura Bailey's Selina Kyle was one of the strengths of the first season, and that's no different here. She too has her own motivations for working with The Pact, but a wrench is thrown in those plans when she crosses paths with Bruce. Every moment between Laura Bailey and Troy Baker is phenomenal, from their excellent fight in Riddler's lair to their rooftop conversation on top of the mayor's office. That chat gave me the opportunity to do something I never expected to be able to: pursue a relationship with Catwoman.
The first season of Telltale's Batman offered a great take on the relationship between Bruce and Selina, but offered only one conclusion. Whether she was happy, sad, or confused, Selina left Gotham city. While it was an expected outcome, it was still a bit disappointing. Enemy Within changes that. This time, players can have more than playful chase scenes and a one-night stand with her. I jumped on the opportunity in a heartbeat, and I regret nothing. In my game, I kissed Selina (multiple times), I invited her into the Batcave, and I made sacrifices to keep her safe. Thanks to those thing, she truly does seem to be changing for the better. It's unclear if it'll work out in the end, but for now, it's great to see the Bat and Cat together.
Telltale games are often criticized for simply being what they are, but I adore them. If you care about the characters (which is easy to do, given the great writing), then you'll have no problem enjoying your time with them. It's never been about the quick time events. It's about experiencing a story, and shaping it in the way you see fit. Telltale's Batman has done that well so far, and it excels on that front in this episode. It isn't action-packed like the rest (aside from the fight with Selina), and that's perfectly fine. It does such a great job with character development that I never lost interest or became bored, and it's the perfect setup for the next two episodes.
While I was quick to cite the choices made through dialogue when it came to Tiffany and Selina, it would be wrong to leave out the conversations that occurred with the rest of the cast. One of these was with Gordon, a character I had been working hard to keep the trust of. Even though I took his side in every fight with Waller, that wasn't enough; what I had been doing as Bruce Wayne was too much of an issue. When I didn't agree to turning him in, Gordon turned his attention towards Batman. When he threatened to arrest Catwoman, I had to turn my back on him and warn her.
A standout set of dialogue came between Bruce and John Doe, with the latter asking the former for relationship advice. It was a funny exchange, but also a dark one that made me realize how close he is to snapping. I immediately regretted telling John "be yourself", as his smile was a perfect indication of what's going to happen soon. With him looking up at the bat signal, and an interaction where I let him take a photo with me while in the suit (not my best Batman work, I know), it's only a matter of time before he pieces it together.
The interrogation with Harley near the end of the episode was nice too, but it led into Fractured Mask's greatest weakness: its ending. While it's not terrible, per se, the episode just... ends. The conclusion is sudden, and resembles the final moments of an episode from the first season. Further, it's just not an exciting cliffhanger. My ending saw Bruce in a death trap, something that's beyond intriguing with two episodes left. Obviously, he'll get out; he's the main, playable character. Hell, he's Batman. There's no doubt that he'll be okay, which is something that makes putting him in mortal danger at the end of the episode ridiculous. I loved this two-hour chapter overall, but the predictable way in which it ended left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Despite an uninteresting ending, Fractured Mask succeeds greatly in the field of character development. After decades of comics, Batman and Catwoman are finally together, and it's great to see Telltale offer the possibility to make that happen in their game. With major choices like this, nearly all my relationships changed in this strong episode.
A weak ending isn't enough to hold Fractured Mask back from greatness...
Batman and Catwoman's relationship +4
Satisfying Choices +3
Memorable Conversations +2
Bruce and Selina's fight sequence +1
Sudden, predictable conclusion -1.5
FINAL SCORE: 8.5