THE WASHINGTON POST – When Arkham Asylum dropped 11 years ago, it exceeded expectations of what a superhero game, let alone Batman, could be. It was a landmark release that became one of this century’s most influential titles.
Now Rocksteady Studios and WB Games Montreal are each releasing games branching out from that design philosophy. And they both have to live up to the Arkham legacy they built together. With two exciting trailers from the DC FanDome event recently, the studios are signalling a further move away from the original trilogy.
There’s a lot to be excited about – but also a few worries that crept into my head when watching the trailers. Much of this is speculation based on what little information was received, so this piece could also double as a wishlist from us at Launcher.
The player variety and multiplayer focus has a lot of potential. The game features Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing and Red Hood as the four protagonists. One of the few exciting features of the last Batman game, Arkham Knight, was the ‘Dual Play’ mechanic for its challenge rooms, which was locked only to a solo player with AI-controlled partners. But the Gotham Knights player shows that WB Montreal has incorporated those dual attacks into cooperative online play.
It’s not Rocksteady, the creators of the Arkham series, creating this. WB Montreal is mostly known for the ill-fated Arkham Origins, which was released in a famously buggy state in 2013, two years after the hit Arkham City. It was also meant to be a placeholder title between City and Rocksteady’s follow-up Arkham Knight.
The Gotham Knights trailer already showed Batgirl having some new moves, including the ability to run along and attack from walls, and new takedown abilities. I was a bit concerned that no ‘countering’ was shown, which was the core combat mechanic upon which the Arkham series was built. I’m wondering if it’s still in there, or has been replaced by something else. But still, Batgirl was able to hold one goon and set him up for Robin’s final devastating and thrilling flying kick.
Gotham Knights hasn’t indicated any of this yet, but in the gameplay walkthrough, WB Games Montreal said certain enemies will have new abilities depending on your level. My biggest hope is that Montreal takes some lessons from the mixed reaction to the Marvel’s Avengers beta, where critics felt underpowered as overpowered superheroes like the Incredible Hulk.
‘Balance’ is actually not as important as a rewarding feeling of progression, particularly since the developers promise this game to be focussed on a contained story. The context of the Gotham Knights story is that all four heroes are already established, career members of the Bat family, which means we want to feel as powerful and stealthy as Robin should. Superhero stories are power fantasies, let them run wild.
Also, the drift that Batgirl does on the Batcycle? I could do that all day. But please, no more of the vehicular environmental puzzles that plagued Arkham Knight. Nobody liked those.
Gotham Knights is scheduled for sometime in 2021.
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Even less is known about Rocksteady’s long-awaited follow-up game, since the DC FanDome news came with only a cinematic computer-generated trailer. It was a really fun trailer, featuring another four playable characters, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark and Boomerang.
There were rumours of the game possibly being a Games as a Service (GaaS) similar to Destiny or the upcoming Avengers game. But there’s no indication of that being true – yet. Instead, Rocksteady promises this to be a third-person cooperative shooter.
Sign me up on day one if that’s the case. And it might be? Each of the four protagonists have immense potential to operate as different classes. Deadshot could be your classic sniper, while Harley is an all-around foot soldier. King Shark could wield heavy weapons as a tank class, while Boomerang has the potential to be the most unique of them all, since his weapon is right in his name.
The game is scheduled for a 2022 release, so we’ve got a long way to go.
After four games of Batman, all of which prominently featured the Joker, it’s a nice change of pace to expand the Bat world, even if neither game picks up from the Arkham universe established by Rocksteady in 2009. It’s good to see the Bat brand grow in games. We can only hope it grows in the right directions.