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."
As inexcusable as its launch state was, “Origins” is underrated in the series. WB Games Montreal expanded Batman’s actions and enemy types to give the series its most robust hand-to-hand moveset, rivaling that of even “Arkham Knight.” And yes, it did once again feature the Joker as the antagonist, but it was a charming and thematically strong first meeting of the two ill-fated, star-crossed adversaries. The Canada-based studio also created the downloadable add-ons for “Arkham Knight,” which all released in a fine state, so it looks like they’ve honed their developing chops.
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 I’m wondering if it’s still in there, or has been replaced by something else.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.
My brow furrowed, though, when I saw damage meters, damage numbers and a “Level 10” indicator above a goon’s head. It’s unfair to make too harsh of a judgment on this new “level” system without knowing much more about it. So, I’ll just express my hope that it doesn’t mirror the “level gating” of “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey."
Level gating is when a game purposefully blocks off playing large sections of the game, or having the ability to competently fight enemies, without grinding up to the required level first. This meant the “side quests” of Ubisoft’s open-world game weren’t side quests at all, they were necessary to continue the story.
“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 focused 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.
‘Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League’
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 rumors 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.
Lots of comparisons have been made to “Sunset Overdrive,” the Xbox One launch console exclusive that flew under the radar of too many folks. Insomniac Games made it before becoming a Sony studio, and before its PlayStation 4 hit “Spider-Man." In “Sunset Overdrive,” you’re essentially a create-your-own superhero with lots of zany guns, grinding across power lines and the city like a cross between Deadpool and Tony Hawk.
Sign me up on Day 1 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.
There is some fatigue among DC Comics fans of seeing Superman being portrayed once again as a villain. The concept was already mined thoroughly in the “Injustice” fighting game series, and the Zach Snyder movies insist on painting the purest superhero into some sort of morally ambiguous demi-god. It’s a cruel tease for Supes fans who have been waiting for a decent Superman game for decades. And as I wrote in my review for “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot,” overthinking Superman isn’t necessary when all we want to do is fly and fight as the Big Blue Boy Scout.
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.