Earlier this year, DC fans were treated to the announcement of Gotham Knights, the next big Batman game. An official trailer and gameplay mission released, and it didn’t take long for fan’s questions to start flying. Is this an Arkham game? Does this follow on from the events of Arkham Knight? While it has been confirmed that the game will not be a part of its predecessor’s universe, the gameplay does take a lot from the original game’s formula and style.
The new game sees players take control of Batman’s sidekicks and apprentices, namely: Batgirl, Robin, Red Hood and Nightwing. These four heroes are thrust into the protector role of Gotham as a result of Bruce Wayne’s death, and players are able to choose, upgrade and customise whichever character they like in an unprecedented RPG format for a Batman game. Gotham Knights looks to be a unique blend of what worked in the old games and new and daring elements to the player’s experience, and that is really cool.
However, there is still one thing I have yet to address. Fans from all over the world simply love Rocksteady’s original Batman games. How in the world, then, could I be suggesting that Gotham Knights could ever be better than the Arkham games? How could it be a superior title? What am I thinking?
It isn’t that the new game is sure to blow the amazing and decorated series out of the water. Neither is it that there are gaping problems in the Arkham series that Gotham Knights will fix. I love the Arkham games, trust me. I am in no way disrespecting them. It’s just that the new game seems to be making minor adjustments that could improve ever so slightly on the Batman experience. Let me explain…
3. Upgrading and Customising Costumes
High Price, Low Range – The Story So Far
What is a superhero without their super suit? It can be the very source of their power for some, what makes them so powerful. For others, it can be what strikes fear in the hearts of their enemies. We all know that Batman utilises his for the latter. When it came to players making his suit their own, however, something was always missing in those fabled Arkham games.
In those titles, Batman began each story in his original suit. Once the introductory missions were concluded, players then had the option to purchase aesthetic changes to that costume. Whether it was a 1970s design or a style from a particular Batman movie, the caped crusader was able to change into a plethora of variations of his outfit. The issue, however, was that these different designs were not only behind a ‘buy now’ button, but were also specifically designed. Players could only equip entire suits at a time, and their breadth of customisation could only go as far as they were willing to pay.
The Ability To Pick And Choose
In Gotham Knights, however, this appears to be changing. In the gameplay footage, Creative Director Patrick Redding said that players will be able to progress through the game in their “preferred style”. This seems to suggest that players will have an unprecedented ability to personalise and shape their experience. But how do I know that this will apply to the aesthetics of the new heroes?
Both in the gameplay and official trailer, the playable protagonists can be seen to have slight variations in their outfits at different points. In the trailer, for example, Batgirl has a purple mask on, only covering the outline of her eyes. Then, in the gameplay, she wears a full cowl with her eyes whited out. We see a change like this once more in Robin. He is wearing a different costume in both the gameplay video and the trailer.
These differences suggest that Gotham Knights will grant players the ability to pick specific parts of their outfits to customise, just like in many famous RPGs. Not only will this feature hopefully showcase a wide variety of cool costume designs and colour schemes, but it will give players the freedom to choose how they want their characters to look and feel like never before. It’s a simple but game-changing feature that could nudge Gotham Knights into be slightly better than the Arkham games.
2. New Characters, New World
Through The Eyes of Bruce Wayne
Batman games have been spectacular over the past decade. The Arkham series has been a tremendous run of storylines and interactive worlds, but a large reason why it has been a hit is Batman’s amazing character and tone. Bruce Wayne’s unique worldview and personal relationships with each foe he has faced has made him great to play as. He has the motivation of his parents’ deaths, the fatherly companionship with Alfred, and even a love-hate tussle with his hometown of Gotham. We know who Batman is, and so the idea of not having him as the main protagonist might seem problematic. But it could be a stroke of genius…
Everyone knows how Batman feels about the Joker. Their rivalry is frankly legendary. Players can also often predict how he feels towards Poison Ivy, Two Face, or even Killer Croc. The past ten years have basically ingrained in us how Batman sees and outmatches his most famous rivals. It’s not boring that we know how he sees the world. If anything, it is a reflection of just how great a character he is. Changing the lens through which players take on Gotham and its enemies, however, could be a really great way to explore new characters and perspectives.
A Few Fresh Faces
Batgirl, Red Hood, Robin and Nightwing each have their own personalities and relationships in the comics. Having the option to play as each of them, therefore, will offer a new multitude of ways to interact and overcome the dangers of Gotham City. Take Robin and Red Hood for example. Robin is a young and aspiring sidekick. He will relish with enthusiasm and textbook Batman tropes when facing foes, trying to carry on his late mentor’s legacy. Red Hood, on the other hand, has survived the Joker’s cruel and twisted torture, and will likely have a more violent, ruthless approach, just as we saw in Arkham Knight. These differences in character will completely alter how villains and obstacles are taken on.
And it’s not just the social dimensions that will be enhanced by being able to play as multiple characters. With each member of the Bat family, we will likely get the chance to use a host of new technology and unique abilities, exclusive to our chosen character. In the official trailer, Batman says in his goodbye message that the tech in the Batcave is a bit ‘outdated’, subtly hinting that the new heroes will be able to upgrade and make the classic Batman gadgets their own. Later on in the trailer, we saw exactly that when Batgirl took down a thug using her own take on the batclaw.
With any luck, the same will apply to the other heroes. The ability to use a wider range of weapons and devices would be really cool, especially given what characters Gotham Knights has to work with. Red Hood has his pistols, Nightwing has his batons. The possibilities for each character to offer a unique and awesome way to play the game are endless. The Arkham games were always singular in their focus on Batman, so Gotham Knight could be better off in exploring the range of characters at its disposal.
1. A Realistic, Interactive Gotham
Crime, Crime, And More Crime
Arkham game worlds share some key characteristics. They’re dark, gloomy, and usually filled with criminals. They’re dangerous places to be, and they almost entirely lack the presence of normal everyday people. Arkham Asylum, Arkham City – these places are designed to house bad guys and bad guys only. Even in Arkham Knight, Gotham City is heavily evacuated, leaving only the worst of the city’s citizens behind.
While this makes sense within the context of each game, the true nature of being Batman is lost a little bit as a result. In the comics, the Dark Knight prowls the nocturnal city, keeping innocent citizens out of harm’s way. In the movies, too, baddies are stopped in their tracks just before devastating the fully occupied city. We protect people in the games, sure, but the large majority of the city’s inhabitants are safely elsewhere. The people we save are either police officers or our super allies. An interesting way for Gotham Knights to be even better than its Arkham predecessors would be to introduce a more day-to-day, normal Gotham. And this might just be happening…
Moving To A New Neighbourhood
Being in an alive, full Gotham would be a great way to increase the stakes of the action and inject suspense into even the dullest of missions. The Bat Family, after all, should protect people. This kind of Gotham seems to be on the horizon. All we have to do is follow the clues in the alpha gameplay.
During Batgirl’s encounter with Mr. Freeze, the footage shows that Gotham’s Police Department are fully active. They are communicating over the radio and on their way to the same part of the city. This suggests that Gotham is functioning as usual, with police being called out to specific issues and hotspots. Oppositely, police were scattered across the game-world or nowhere to be seen in the Arkham games. The fact that they require calling out in the gameplay shows that Mr. Freeze is one of many baddies popping up around Gotham.
Another feature of the video supporting the idea that Gotham will be normal is the mention of level-matching. Within the world, the difficulty level of villains and their missions will always keep pace with the progress and level of your character. This feature suggests that, rather than progressing through a linear, directed story, players will have an expansive world to explore at their own speed. With multiple storylines to choose from, it would make sense that the open world resembles the comic version of Gotham, full of different characters going about their own business.
Although there have been loads of villains in the older games, each getting up to their own mischief, they were all tied together by the main story. Everyone was in Arkham City, for example, for the same core purpose. But a variety of storylines suggests that each villain is working independently, within a normal Gotham City environment. Gotham appears to be alive in the new game, and it will be exciting to explore its unprecedented depth.