Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series was incredibly brilliant, popular and they also left an astounding mark on the third-person action genre as a whole. Ever since Batman Arkham Asylum released, many other developers (even Insomniac with Spider-Man) followed its formula because of a simple reason: it works. The combination of interesting stories, stealth, action and exploration was fine-tuned by Rocksteady to an incredibly high standard.
This lineage is why I do not have the same confidence in Gotham Knights that I did with previous entries in the franchise.
It seems that WB Montreal are breaking the formula in many ways, and here are the main points which particularly are scaring me as a huge Batman Arkham fan. Keep in mind, it’s still very early until we get more concrete information.
1. Batman is ‘dead’
It’s been 5 years since we got to play as Batman (unless you count Fortnite), and it seems like it’s going be a little while longer, with WB Montreal confirming he will not be a playable character in the game.
Whether you believe them or not, this was always going to be a highly contentious and confusing decision from the get-go. I certainly understand why so many fans are disappointed by this decision.
The fact that we waited this long and still won’t be able to play as the main character of the franchise is immensely frustrating, even if his ‘death’ is crucial to the story. I’m sure Batman will still be a prominent aspect of the game, and we could even see an Avenger’s style scenario with how they handled Captain America. But what I’m not sure of is that everybody is going to be happy with playing as Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, or Redhood instead.
The only light at the end of the tunnel is that I refuse to believe that they would kill off Batman in the first game in what is supposed to be a whole new line of games for Warner Bros. In a comic book franchise which has multiple ways to resurrect characters (or explain their disappearance), there’s still hope that the devs are just trying to surprise us.
2. The Style of Combat
Despite Batman’s supposed death, the Gotham Knights reveal still looked quite promising, until I saw the combat.
From the little we saw, Gotham Knights combat looks like a far cry from the fluid, dynamic and satisfying action seen in any of the Arkham games. It appeared more rigid and numbers-based, with gear and levels seemingly impacting the flow of combat more than your own skill.
Quite frankly, the combat looked more akin to a new Assassin’s Creed game, which is certainly not what most Batman fans were looking forward too. Particularly, seeing mini health bars and numbers pop up above the enemies’ heads after every hit was extremely worrying.
Now, perhaps it’s unfair to judge it too harshly before playing or even seeing more ourselves, but I think the criticisms are still valid for what we know so far from Gotham Knights.
3. Enemy Levels and Skill Gaps
Again, this may be too early to judge, but the combination of a bigger emphasis on RPG elements and enemy scaling does not instil me with confidence.
For reference, the Batman Arkham franchise never included any form of hard leveling system, either for Batman or the enemies. What I mean by this is while there was a level that increased for Batman as you played, the level was more tied to upgrades that gave Batman different abilities and manoeuvres, which allowed you to tailor Batman to your playing style.
Enemies becoming easier or more difficult to defeat was due to your skill and accrued abilities, not an arbitrary leveling system. In fact, for the most part, abilities in the Batman Arkham games are entirely optional if you want a real challenge. Arkham’s skill gap involved how good you were at tackling different types of enemies at the same time and combining all of your skills and abilities to get huge combos.
This is what makes Gotham Knight’s leveling system appear stiff in comparison. The enemies do in fact scale with you, which means that no enemies will be impossible to defeat, and no locations locked off by your low level. But I have to ask, what is the point of having damage/health stats if the enemies scale anyway? While no doubt Gotham Knights will have plenty of interesting abilities, I fear that WB Montreal’s focus on leveling and RPG elements could be to their detriment.
Reasons to Be Positive (Final Words)
All of these points are not to say that I’m completely down on Gotham Knights, as I think there’s plenty of things that look fantastic.
While Batman’s not being available to play as is disappointing to me, having the different play styles of the other members of the Bat-family are sure to bring heaps of replayability and variation to the gameplay. The Gotham Knights reveal was also far more exciting in comparison to Square Enix’s Avengers, which looks generic and money-grabbing in comparison.
The graphics also look fantastic, with a comic-book aesthetic combining with realistic environments that are going to look stunning on next-gen hardware. The lighting and particle effects especially looked impressive.
While Arkham Origins was not as good as Rocksteady’s entries, it was still a fantastic game in its own right, which gives me some hope that WB Montreal can quash my skepticisms and produce another incredible DC experience.