After the somewhat improbable comeback made in Batman: The Enemy Within Episode One, it seemed almost equally unlikely that Telltale could make good on their Batman series for a consecutive second time. Happily then, I can report that’s just what the long-time adventure developer has done with ‘The Pact’, an episode that easily ranks up there with Telltale’s finest offerings.
Continuing the good work done in the season opener
The Enemy Within’s sophomore episode continues the strong work that the season opener did, kicking things off with a bang as Batman goes toe-to-toe with one of DC Comics most iconic super villains in a display of raw physicality for the ages. As well as being viscerally and cinematically satisfying, this fight also makes good use of The Enemy Within’s penchant for allowing the player a degree of freedom in their violent exploits; a fact that makes this confrontation even more compelling than it otherwise might have been.
On the theme of Batman’s villainous foes, The Pact does great work elsewhere too. Nowhere is this better represented in this episode than how Harley Quinn is not only introduced, but also in how she is depicted, bearing in mind Telltale’s knack for putting novel and original spins on established characters. Indeed to this end, Quinn is a very different kettle of fish compared to her comic book and silver screen counterpart; no longer on the business end of Joker’s psychological and physical abuses, here she is the one that holds the power over the Clown Prince of Crime, forcing him to submit to her every whim and making him pine for her approval, rather than the other way around.
Beyond such character script flipping, this Harley Quinn is also much more calculating, sinister and less prone to the constant bouts of quirky, violent mania that have so deeply characterised her in the past; marking her Telltale incarnation as one that easily stands as a supremely intelligent and cunning supervillain that stands on her own merits. Though that shouldn’t suggest she doesn’t have a violent dark streak, because she really does; it just happens to be pitch black, a mile wide, and can occasionally make her seem like a gender-swapped gangster Joe Pesci at times.
Though Mister J is seemingly subservient to Harley here, his infatuation with Bruce Wayne still remains hugely compelling. Certainly, quite like the previous episode, their non-antagonistic relationship is refreshing, interesting and continues to offer up new depths to a relationship dynamic between the two traditionally sworn enemies that we just haven’t seen up until now. It’ll be interesting going forward how that relationship survives the exploits of Wayne’s masked alter-ego when the brown stuff starts to hit the fan.
If there is one drawback to the manner in which the various villains are portrayed in this episode it’s that, simply, there are just far too many of them. With at least half a dozen major DC baddies crammed into an episode that boasts a running time of just shy of two hours, not all of them get sufficient time to shine and one chilly individual in particular, could certainly do with more screen time than the effectively extended cameo he has here.
Another continued focal point from the previous episode is the adversarial relationship that exists between Jim Gordon and no nonsense agency head honcho, Amanda Waller. Once more, the player is thrust into choosing between the loyal street smarts of Gordon and his police force and the ruthless efficiency of Amanda Waller and her agents, though here the choice is far less cut and dry because surprisingly, the agents under Waller’s command are given their own personality (see the Agent Avesta ‘incident’ from the previous episode), and feel far less like the rent-a-goons that other writers might portray them as.
Ultimately, there are a lot of moving parts in the narrative of this season of Telltale’s Batman and Telltale’s writing team should be commended for keeping the whole thing coherent, snappy and most of all, engaging; a trend that I hope persists in future episodes of The Enemy Within. For the curious, and as was the case with the first episode of The Enemy Within, this second episode is completely bereft of the technical issues that so thoroughly plagued the first season and as such, easily stakes its claim as one of the most technically impressive episodes Telltale has ever put out.
In spite of having a marginally overstuffed roster of baddies, ‘The Pact’ excels with great twists on established characters, their relationships and of course, plenty of cinematic action for spectacle hounds to sink their teeth into.
If Telltale can keep up this level of quality through to the season finale of The Evil Within, then Batman fans could find themselves enjoying one of the Caped Crusader’s better outings in recent times.