A Roguelike Gallery: Batman – Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight [official site] won’t be released until June but I already feel like I’m involved in a turbulent relationship with Rocksteady’s latest. After the disappointment of Arkham’s Oranges, I was relieved to hear the makers of Asylum and City were back on the case. That relief was soon replaced by doubt – much as I liked City, I felt it went too big and the addition of the Batmobile seems like it’ll steer the game even further away from the original’s tight design. The Batmobile trailer seemed to confirm my worst fears, like one of Scarecrow’s guffs, but now there’s another trailer. And I’m happy. Happier. Conflicted.

I might end up filing divorce papers before the bloody thing has been released.

If you were to wander into Rocksteady’s offices and politely suggest that “less is more”, six hundred supervillains would immediately jump out of an exploding filing cabinet and duff you up. “More is more”, they’d say as they dragged you across the city, occasionally stopping to create random scenes of chaos or to perform elaborate obstacle-based time trials.

When the trailer hit the internet a couple of days ago (yes, I spent 48 hours thinking about Batman before deciding this was worth posting – I’m a rubbish nerd) my Twitter feed exploded with cries of “TOO MANY VILLAINS”, which I interpret as cries of “TOO MANY BOSS FIGHTS”. I’d prefer a Batman game that focused on two villains with lots of screentime but I think the action-focused Arkham games suit the type of story that traps Batman in a room/building/city with everyone who has ever wanted to punch him. I’d love a World’s Greatest Detective game that concentrated on crime-solving and investigations, but the Arkham mould is No Man’s Land – isolation and action in a compressed timeframe.

In fact, the Arkham games remind me of 24. Every day is the worst day ever, as the odds against the protagonist pile up, and there’s no time to have a nap or do a wee (the batsuit almost certainly has internal waste disposal pockets). I predict the Arkham Knight will reveal that he has some connection to Wayne’s past mid-way through the game and his extreme methods will force one or more villains to team up with Bats. Uneasy alliances, sleeping with the enemy and Mad Hatter riding shotgun in the Batmobile.

Current mood: intrigued.

Relationship status: grudgingly willing to give it another shot. Expecting some electricity and occasional awkward silences interrupted by exploding tanks.

54 Comments

  1. Kempston Wiggler says:

    Just as long as I don’t have to wander past 15 million Riddler challenges (He’d have needed to put in effort on an Industrial scale to fill Arkham City with all those bloody challenges), I think I’m okay with whatever Rocksteady want to provide by way of Bat-playground. “Tight Design” may have become a journalistic short-hand for everything the first game did right but Batman’s adventures have always been larger than wandering around one building complex slap-biffing the baddies.

    • Cochise779 says:

      I agree. The sheer number of Riddler challenges just exhausts me and probably why I never went full completionist on any Arkham games.

      The open world design to the Batman games really lets it expand outward. Think City where you had those side stories like Zsasz that were happening in the City without needing to be part of the core story. Yet, it was still a Batman adventure. I also didn’t mind Origins that much as just more fun Batman playtime, but I guess I wasn’t expecting complete innovation.

      I think this is what happens sometimes to video game franchises: we all see different promise in the first game and that leaves people disappointed when sequels don’t realize their vision. Assassin’s Creed is a perfect example of disillusionment for failing to achieve some players’ vision.

      • nearly says:

        I actually found Asylum really manageable and it is one of the only games I’ve ever actually gone for the 100% completion in. I had something like 80 or 90% by the end of the game, there wasn’t the obnoxious emphasis on unnecessarily upgraded gadgets, and a good deal were actual riddles.

        My larger gripe with City is that the story was flat and anticlimactic, the tone was disturbing (Film Crit Hulk has an excellent breakdown of the sexism), and the whole “Arkham City” thing was absurdly unbelievable on a number of levels–and this is in a game in which I can accept that a billionaire is dressing up like a bat and beating up people with various magical powers and abnormalities.

    • Kefren says:

      I only recently played Batman Arkham Asylum. After all the hype I’d expected something amazing. As it was I felt gently entertained but after a while I kept hoping I was near the end of the story. That had Riddler trophies or something (glowing green question marks)? I ignored them as immersion-breaking distractions and wished I could have toggled them on or off in the settings. It didn’t feel like a supervillain toying with me, it felt like I was in a game which was being crammed with unnecessary stuff.

  2. Viroso says:

    I dunno why people flip out with boss fights. They’re not bad, they’re cool. This all started after DeusEx HR. It’s all HR’s fault.

    Boss fights are awesome. They’re a chance to come up with an interesting challenge and create really climatic moments. Traversing a level or fighting a ton of enemies lacks the focus a good boss fight has. They’re also a chance to do something completely different, take the player by surprise. A boss fight doesn’t need to be like a final exam you know.

    Just look at MGS, Shadow of the Colossus or Devil May Cry games as examples. Even Arkham games, they had great boss fights, specially City.

    • Zallgrin says:

      There is a big problem with boss fights that have a very, very specific and narrow way to defeat the boss. Such restrictive design is just frustrating, as you need to perform some action you may not even be aware of.

      Dark Souls never pulled this shit and that’s why I liked the boss fights there. World of Warcraft and Diablo have great bosses, with unique mechanics and consistent design. But especially shooters and action-games lately really suffer in the boss design department.

    • Xocrates says:

      HR was just yet another game with horrible boss fights. The boss fight problem predates it by years, if not decades.

      Boss fights are awesome when done well, but annoying when done poorly, which isn’t helped by many games feeling the need to have boss fights when they really shouldn’t.

      Can’t really comment on the Batman games, since I’ve only played Asylum.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I remember boss fights fondly from the time when games were supposed to be a challenge. Bad design’s bad though. Deus Ex HD Barrett was easy if you skilled in typhoon early and that’s bad design.
      Zelda had cool boss fights and mega man and castlevania and all those old console games.

      The last game that made me sweat and pause before a boss battle was Dark Souls because the risk of a punishing death was high. Usually in modern games you would just reload then the third time you select a cheesy tactic nowadays. If you even die the game is considered difficult.

      • Xocrates says:

        Difficulty has nothing to do with it. Bad design is bad design regardless of difficulty. As an example, the hardest boss on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was boring and annoying as fuck.

    • epeternally says:

      I don’t have a problem, conceptually, with boss fights, it’s just that 90% of them fall into one of two pitfalls – badly designed, or requiring completely different skills than what the rest of the game has been training you to do. Or, in some particularly egregious cases, both of the above. There are some really good boss fights in games – Arkham City and Sonic CD come to mind – they’re just massively overshadowed by the sheer number of bad ones to the point where it gives the entire concept a bad rep.

      • Viroso says:

        I’m totally okay with asking different skills, or at least asking you to use your skills in completely new ways. Isn’t it okay for the game to continue challenging you with new stuff? MGS bosses often have you doing unexpected things or forcing you to be creative with what you have, and they work out super fine.

        I think it’s boring when a boss is like a final exam.

    • Urthman says:

      Mr. Freeze in Arkham City is one of the best boss fights I’ve ever played, so I’m cautiously optimistic about Rocksteady delivering on the opportunity to make fighting the villains even more fun than beating up mobs of thugs.

  3. UnholySmoke says:

    I soldiered through City recently and it really felt more like work than play by the end. The trailers for this look very pretty indeed but I’m convinced they’re moving in the wrong direction. Open-world 3rd-person will invite comparisons to Shadow of Morder and the recent AssCreeds, which won’t come off well. Agreeing with Adam here – this series is most fun when it’s at its most linear and structured. So, the first game.

    • ffordesoon says:

      “Good soldier.”

    • epeternally says:

      Shadow of Mordor was heavily inspired by Arkham City. Comparing an Arkham game to it would be like comparing Mario to Crash Bandicoot rather than the other way around.

      • welverin says:

        Not when the following game improves on the original.

        Further more, your analogy is poor, because in this case it’s not Arkham City being compared to Shadow of Mordor, it’s a sequel to it. If AK fails to improve on the formula or improves upon it less than SoM it’s entirely fair and reasonable to compare them.

        • Stardog says:

          SoM is poor compared to Batman. It’s more like Assassin’s Creed which has always been “meh”.

    • fish99 says:

      Personally I only did the story missions in City (which took 17 hrs total) and loved it.

    • welverin says:

      It’s nice to see others share my view on City, and Knight. And, really, games in general. I cringe a little inside whenever a developer goes on about how they’re made the sequel bigger, as if that’s automatically a good thing.

  4. Scrote says:

    Well I for one am excited about the game, but can we talk about the incredibly shit website they have to promote it?

    I’m sick of these awkwardly designed junk piles that make it so hard to know what you’re doing. Example: check out the ‘Media’ page, try to download a wallpaper in a different size. Can’t do it! Watch one of their movies and try to rewatch a particular scene, or skip ahead/behind. Can’t do it! One page asks me to enter a code. Why? What? Why?

    Not exactly a tragedy, but it’s something that gets on my nerves. By all means make websites rich and expressive, but not at the expense of usability! I thought we’d evolved beyond this bullshit but I guess not!

  5. D70CW6 says:

    Delicious sweet bat-oranges

  6. Eight Rooks says:

    Weirdly I finished Origins not long ago and it’s easily my favourite in the franchise. City was unmitigated tedium by the end, and I think it’s partly that I could hardly have cared any less about anything that was going on, whereas for some reason Origins’ narrative just really, really grabbed me. It’s the only game with a Joker who felt genuinely unhinged, an actual threat rather than a silly cartoon – “Sionis” unmasked actually shocked me, and the Red Hood cutscene was absolutely brilliant, miles above anything in City or Asylum – creepy and artful and wryly self-mocking all at once. It clearly was a rushed cashgrab – bugs, glitches, invisible walls et al – and yet it clicked with me where both the Rocksteady games didn’t. They’re wildly talented developers and I don’t doubt they love Batman but they’re not good writers at all, and their work just strikes me as pretty soulless as a result. If Arkham Knight was another WB Montreal game I’d probably have pre-ordered it by now – as it is, not so much.

  7. jonahcutter says:

    Great trailer. But there’s no more showcasing of the bat-tank vs robot-tank stuff, that’s for sure.

    So gameplay-wise, will it be a minor, annoying hoop to jump through to get back to the satisfying predatoring and fisticuffing? Or an obnoxious, major miscalculation that they’ve now swept under the rug until release?

  8. EhexT says:

    Well, maybe spoilers, but that’s clearly the voice actor for the founder of arkham from the first game. And he looks undead. So that’s either literally that guy, or the pre-Strange Arkham Aslyum director who went insane and thought he was possessed by the first guy.

    Maybe less obvious villains and less total villains for the next game, WB.

    • Creeping Death says:

      Actually that voice actor is the amazing John Noble (Walter Bishop in Fringe, currently Henry Parish in Sleepy Hollow). He hasn’t been in any of the other Batman games, but I’m really enjoying him as Scarecrow in the trailer.

      • Jalan says:

        Beat me to it (though don’t forget he was also Denethor, a steward of Gondor in Return of the King and the voice of Brainiac in Superman Unbound). I’m stunned there’s no news chatter over his participation in this game (both now and at the time when we first heard him doing voiceover in one of the earlier trailers) but I suppose it’s possible that will come closer to the time it is released.

  9. RaoulDuke says:

    Arkham Asylum had FIVE [5] villains who you have boss fights with.
    Arkham City had… *drum roll* FIVE [5] villains who you have boss fights with.

    So how was Asylum more focused? Because it was linear as hell? Why is that better? Please don’t tell me that the city and exploration of it, takes you out of the time-limited story and makes it contrived/less-exciting.

    HOW LONG have you been playing computer games now? Games aren’t in real-time because that would be annoying as hell. I don’t care if he says he’ll die in 10 minutes without the cure and then I proceed to mess around for 2 hours before heading to the “cure”. IT’S FUN! It’s meant to be fun, NOT REALISTIC.

    MOARRRRRR Side-Quests + MOARRRRR Riddler Challenges/Trophy, right now, that’s as close as we are gonna get to crime-solving/investigation – puzzles.

    • nearly says:

      There was no city exploration in City. There was a big empty place filled with random people fighting each other and an over-abundance of Riddler trophies which you can’t access because they’re on the other side of a chainlink fence and you don’t have that one upgraded gadget.

      Like Dark Souls, Asylum let you explore an intricately crafted facility with hints and nods to all sorts of things hidden throughout. City just plopped you in an unbelievable and unnatural cityscape and said “now you have to go here, also there’s a thing over there.” More Devil May Cry 4 than Dark Souls level design.

    • Zekiel says:

      I don’t understand. Boss fights don’t really have anything to do with how focused the game was. I love Arkham City (even more than Asylum) but it is definitely less focused. In Asylum there was only one thing to distract you from the main plot – the Riddler challenges. Whereas in City you had far more Riddler challenges, plus a whole bunch of sidequests, and the ability to free roam around the city. Plus switching to Catwoman occasionally for no great benefit to the story. So it is definitely less focused. Personally I didn’t mind (though I could have done with fewer Riddler challenges).

  10. w0bbl3r says:

    To be fair, most boss fights in the arkham games so far have been decent enough.
    Still boss fight-y, but enjoyable, even if only just.
    Only ones such as croc and ivy in asylum were truly awful. And croc wasn’t that long really, because you were just escaping him.
    Scarecrow was excellent, Joker was good in City but bad in asylum (but again, not long really, so not terrible), penguin was fine, because it was just head to him and punch him. Grundy wasn’t too bad, if repetetive.
    The worst, I have to say, was origins. It had some boring, some repetetive, and some stupidly hard boss fights that just grated.
    But origins wasn’t rocksteady, so I will keep an open mind for this game. Especially since everything except the batmobile so far looks incredible

  11. Stardog says:

    The reaction to this game from journo’s has been embarrassing. They all jumped on this “1st trailer comfirms my worst fears” bullshit for some reason. You mean Base Batman Gameplay + Bigger City + Car was your worst fear??

    Beyond ridiculous. I’d have to assume it was an opinion delivered to you via Reddit/Twitter rather than your actual thoughts, considering the amount of journo’s saying the same thing.

  12. Stevostin says:

    Yeah but where is the joker ? There is no Batman without the joker. Something *has* to happen. Really.

    • Creeping Death says:

      Spoiler – he’s dead.

      • seroto9 says:

        The Joker can’t die until Bruce is in his grave. The last one who died was…another double? A clone? A guy in a mask?

        I’d be surprised if he doesn’t turn up in this one.

        • BatmanBaggins says:

          This one features Scarecrow pretty prominently, right? Wouldn’t surprise me if the Joker appeared as a drug-induced hallucination to really mess with Bruce’s head.

  13. Mechorpheus says:

    I’m beginning to think I’m alone in actually really quite liking Arkham Origins. So long as you went in expecting ‘more of the same’, then that was what it provided, and it did so with some nice touches. Although it remains very strange how the technology involved seems to regress between that and Asylum, but that’s always the case with prequals I guess.

    I’m still pretty excited for Knight, even if its because Iove the gameplay in these titles and no one quite does it quite the same (although Shadow of Mordor does a VERY good impersonation job). While I quite like the darker tone they’re going for as evidenced by that trailer, and the (very much appreciated) return of Scarecrow, I hope they don’t go overboard and turn it into the 3rd Nolan film.

    • MuscleHorse says:

      Agreed – it was a great return to the series and didn’t pretend to be offering anything new. If you enjoyed the previous two (and how couldn’t you) then it was a lot of fun.

      • nearly says:

        Started it recently and I don’t hate it but I’m incredibly frustrated by the waypoint / travel system. I don’t understand why it needs to be so complex and require so much input when the other games were just fine.

    • BatmanBaggins says:

      At worst it was merely “good”, where the other two were mostly pretty great.

  14. ffordesoon says:

    If the Arkham Knight is Hush (or Hush-but-not-quite), I will punch things. If he’s the Joker, I will punch things. If he’s the Villain-Sue he seems to be, I will punch things.

    Looking forward to the game!

    • ffordesoon says:

      Oh, and the headline made me think they were doing some kind of roguelike mode I hadn’t heard about yet. I are sad now.

      • Monkeh says:

        Same here. Still don’t fully understand why the word ‘roguelike’ is in the title to begin with..

  15. HopperUK says:

    Scarecrow is my favourite and this makes me happy.

  16. Axeman89 says:

    Wait, if things have gotten to the point where Gotham is being evacuated, where’s the military in all this? Surely Batman wouldn’t be the only good guy rolling around in a tank with access to a gas mask?

  17. Gordon Shock says:

    Casting John Noble as the Scarecrow?

    Bloody stroke of genius if you ask me, Rocksteady I salute you!

  18. Imakandi says:

    I’m a little disappointed this isn’t actually a roguelike Batman game. That sounds pretty interesting.

    • Jalan says:

      A game where, every time you die, you begin anew as a different version of Batman.

      I’m sold. Where do I pre-order ten copies?

      • ffordesoon says:

        “Batman roguelike” is on the list of word juxtapositions that could cause me to involuntarily reach for my wallet and dump everything out of it.

  19. welverin says:

    “the batsuit almost certainly has internal waste disposal pockets”

    If you think Bruce never read Dune and made the batsuit into a stillsuit, you sir, are a fool.

  20. Fontan says:

    Is it just me or are the villains all different from the previous games? I mean their actual faces, they look like other people. Why would they change that?

    • Jalan says:

      Probably to show that the art team has evolved their style a bit. Most characters don’t look that different though, with rare exception going to Scarecrow and Harley Quinn. Harley’s change in look makes sense somewhat, since outside of Batman: The Animated Series she has been prone to outfit changes (her New 52 look just makes me weep though, what with it being oversexualized to a ludicrous degree). With the Scarecrow’s shift to central villain, I guess the shift to make his actual face visible beneath his cloth hood allows for them to showcase the character’s emotional range better than it would if he were just the same spooky gas mask wearing nightmare master last seen in Asylum.

      • Jalan says:

        Eh, once that goes through moderation approval, I regret not saying “I guess the decision” instead of “I guess the shift” to avoid overusing “shift” so much. (Oh shift, I’m doing it again!)

        Edit function, please come back. Commenterville is a mess without you.

  21. LennyLeonardo says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if this game used Mordor’s nemesis/badguy polititcs system?