Gotham Knights: Hero works are a phenomenon in film and TV, but have not yet established themselves as a trend in games. Interactive adaptations of comic books have not yet dominated the mainstream as they have in other media, even though they have proven to be a huge success for decades. Back in the day, the Batman: Arkham series demonstrated this potential.
The saga developed by Rocksteady brought a very dark version of the Batman world, borrowing from the tone of Christopher Nolan’s films, and was highly praised for its great combat and gripping plot. Now, seven years after the conclusion in Arkham Knight, WB Games Montréal is attempting to revive and modernize this franchise with Gotham Knights – in an effort that, oddly enough, feels more dated than anything that has come before in the series.
It is worth clarifying that this is not Arkham proper. Not only is the plot not even set in the same universe, but there is an even bigger difference: here, Batman is dead. The story shows the last moments of Batman’s life, the victim of an attack by Ra’s Al-Ghul. It is up to the hero’s disciples – Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin, and Red Hood – to take on the responsibility of protecting Gotham from the various villains and bandits roaming the streets.
Still, Gotham Knights is inseparable from Rocksteady’s games. Firstly, WB Games Montréal has experience from having developed the derivative Batman: Arkham Origins, and secondly, because clearly the whole premise of the new game is to rescue the footprint of the series in the form of a co-op and online experience.
The problem lies precisely in the junction between what consecrated the franchise before with modern trends. In this combination, the elements seem to contradict each other: the plot, which could be very well explored in a more focused campaign, is overshadowed by an attempt at expansive design, but which is only shallow and irritating.
Narratively, the game could be a full plate for Batfamily fans, especially as it gets more and more intriguing at the rate that hidden forces are revealed. The heroes investigate a case left by Batman, and quickly uncover a conspiracy involving the war between the Court of Owls and the League of Shadows.
In addition, the heroes themselves go through personal hells. The game understands that each character had a different relationship with Batman, so each deals with grief in his or her own way, whether it is Batgirl who also regrets losing her father Jim Gordon, or all the internalized hatred of the Red Hood, who seeks more aggressive solutions to Gotham’s rising crime.
Unfortunately, enjoying the great plot requires patience. While Rocksteady’s trilogy increasingly embraced open-world design without losing the focus of the main journey, Gotham Knights places great emphasis on doing tedious, repetitive activities in order to advance the campaign. Much of this is in a Destiny-like vein, where you have to “patrol” Gotham City to stop crimes, level up, and unlock new abilities.
The inspiration in Bungie’s work is visible in everything in Gotham Knights. Events and activities take place in various parts of the city, and you must ride through the streets with a motorcycle in search of objectives to complete. In addition to everything is designed to be enjoyed with up to two players online, the characters have their own levels and skill trees, and you can find loot throughout the stages, such as new equipment and parts for making new weapons and costumes.
Does this add anything to the experience? No. It’s just an artificial way to extend the game time that, unlike Destiny, doesn’t speak to the game’s proposition or gameplay at all. It’s a shame, because its version of Gotham City, filled with pedestrians, lights, and chaos, is perhaps the best of the franchise – only to be wasted with unnecessary RPG systems and a map packed with tiresome objectives to patrol.
Even those who just want to complete the main missions will eventually need to stop and do secondary activities, because they are not on the same level as their opponents. And even the primary activities are tedious, short, and lack any kind of depth beyond getting somewhere, defeating a small group of enemies, and scanning some objects in the scenery.
One could argue that Batman: Arkham was exactly the same, of course. But Rocksteady’s works had the distinction of an excellent combat system, which allowed the player to prepare to fight against hordes of varied opponents, and which conveyed the weight of each punch and dodge. The fighting in Gotham Knights is inferior, far less satisfying, without as many options, and with truncated mechanics.
You have to hone each character individually, but even their full skill trees don’t bring that much change to the standard combat, done with weak, strong, and distance attacks. There is little variation between each of the characters as well – even the Red Hood, who is a lout armed with two pistols, faces opponents in much the same way as the agile Batgirl and her two sticks.
Punching exchanges lack impact, and there’s also no good crowd control or abilities that encourage advance planning, especially since there’s little variety of opponents with unique attacks. This, coupled with a camera that gets lost during fights, and the lack of being able to lock aim on a single enemy, create a pretty mediocre combat experience. It’s a step backwards from the biggest hit of the predecessors.
In fact, this is what defines Gotham Knights as a whole. It’s definitely not a terrible game, but the lack of outstanding qualities or differentials create a static and tiring experience. It is to be expected, since the intention was no other than to create yet another game-as-a-service to try to hook the audience beyond a single-player campaign, but it is still a bit frustrating.
With so many options, it is difficult to fit even more into a game that asks for long-term commitment of time and effort – especially one as shallow as this, which barely hides serving only to ride a wave. Unfortunately, Gotham Knights demonstrates the problem with treating everything by numbers: there is no point in an avalanche of content if it is so repetitive and artificial.
Gotham Knights is available now for Xbox Series X | S, PC, and PlayStation 5. The review is based on the Xbox Series X version, with code provided by the press office.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage leaked new images ahead of today’s unveiling
Call of Duty Warzone Mobile is officially announced
The Last of Us Part 1 reveals a new secret about Joel and Tommy
Cobra Kai Season 5 Release Date and Time on Netflix
Battlefield turns 20 and needs to remember its roots