After The Enigma laid the table cloth for what’s to come, The Pact continues to set the silverware. More than anything else, the second episode cashes in on the development of Joker-in-progress John Doe by smartly flipping the roles of his most iconic relationship.
The Pact injects a big dose of villainy with a few new faces, most notably one Dr. Harleen Quinzel. But this ain’t your 90s afternoon cartoon Harley Quinn. Keeping in line with Telltale’s penchant for shake-ups, Harley debuts as an established, independent, and intelligent killer. While she still retains her sick yet charming sense of humor, Quinn is far from the ditzy sidekick role she typically assumes. In fact, The Pact marks the first time I’ve ever felt genuinely intimidated by Harley. The change works surprisingly well, largely because of how Telltale managed a skillful switch-a-roo in her relationship with John Doe.
Basically, John assumes Harley’s original role. Completely infatuated with Quinn, he aims to impress however possible. After establishing John’s new origin and behavior, his characterization (side note: his sad innocence actually made me feel sorry for him) pays off by making him a believable second-fiddle to Harley. This dynamic, along with your friendship with John, comes to a head during an edge-of-your-seat mission involving the twisted pair and the player. I won’t go into details, but trying to navigating the minefield of both psychos’ temperaments while completing a high-stakes task stands as The Pact’s defining moment.
Maintaining Bruce’s increasingly blurry code of conduct is a demanding balancing act that The Pact does a nice job of showcasing. Chiefly, during the aforementioned mission and especially in Bruce’s tumultuous dealings with Tiffany Fox. The latter takes a profound leap forward in a couple of different ways, both of which I’m anxious to see the result of.
On the opposite spectrum, Jim Gordon and Amanda Waller’s feud stagnates, lessening the tension. Their story remains the same “we don’t like/trust each other” thread without any real development. Speaking of Waller, The Pact fumbles out of the gate by not logically following-up on last episode’s cliffhanger i.e. Batman not flat-out asking Amanda “So how did you find that out?”
Gameplay in general takes a backseat to dialogue choices outside of the action-packed opening chapter. That sounds worse than it actually is, as conversations largely keep you guessing and demand attention to details and consistency with your answers. My contradictions were called out several times in a great touch of realism.
In classic Telltale fashion, a Bruce-focused chapter towards the end teases potential failure, yet seems difficult to actually pull off. Based on the seemingly concrete conclusion, that suggestion of variance mostly feels like smoke and mirrors. The same might be said of how players choose to assist John in making a good impression with Harley. I went out of my way to screw that up for him, but the result didn’t differ from if I’d been an ideal wingman. Granted, that could be a facade on John’s part and potentially bite me in the butt later, but at the moment I’m a little bummed how similarly that subplot pans out here.
The Pact’s firm middle section is the strongest aspect of an otherwise decent block-building episode. I loved the Harley Quinn stuff, and it plays beautifully into John’s slow burn towards his awakening, so to speak. Maintaining Bruce’s integrity becomes easier said than done, leading to some painful choices and intense moments. The non-answer to The Enigma’s big question bugs me. For logic’s sake, I hope that gets resolved sooner than later. Overall, a solid installment that introduces more fascinating pieces for the story to come.
Batman: The Enemy Within - The Pact was reviewed on PlayStation 4. It’s also available now for Xbox One, PC and will launch later for iOS and Android.