Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: November 9, 2022
On the surface, one might assume Gotham Knights to be trying to follow too closely to its predecessor, the acclaimed Arkham series. However, the reality is that it is, in fact, an entirely unique experience, and does it’s best to branch off in a meaningful way from those brooding, dark entries by striking a more fun tone, despite its grim premise. And, in my opinion, it accomplishes a lot more than most reviewers have given it credit for, successfully creating a game with so many great systems and new ideas that it really does stand apart from — and sometimes above — it’s predecessor. But, for everything Gotham Knights does well, there is another it fumbles, creating one of the most interesting games to examine that I’ve seen in quite some time.
And I believe that in order to truly get to the bottom of whether Gotham Knights lives up to those acclaimed games of yore, we will need to fully and completely examine it, as a full package. We will look at everything from the gameplay systems, to the story, to the now-infamous technical hitches in order to determine where Gotham Knights deserves to rank, fairly, among the pantheon of super-powered brawlers. Without further ado, let’s dissect Gotham.
Let’s work from the inside-out, and start at the system that makes up the core of Gotham Knights: its combat. Thankfully, this shines in Gotham Knights. What looks on the surface to be little more than a redux of the counter-centric Arkham system that found its way into countless games of the era is, instead, a complex, rich, and dynamic combat system. While there are similarities to be drawn to Arkham – you are still a Gotham vigilante, beating up thugs using your superhuman martial prowess – the fact of the matter is that Gotham Knights’ combat is an improvement in almost every way from those games, though some of the secondary systems still leave a lot to be desired.
Arkham Again? Not Quite, For Better or Worse – Core Combat
Your hits maintain their brutality from those games, but the unique characters each have more unique “flair” in how they dispatch their foes than Batman ever did. Your character still moves fluidity, but you no longer zip at mach-speed across a battlefield to land a punch – instead, your movement around a fight feels quick, but realistic. You are still playing a game of countering and punishing enemies, but the dodge mechanic adds a simple-but-necessary layer of complexity to that, as opposed to the old “press Counter to win” mechanic that the Arkham games relied upon.
All of this combines into a combat system which feels like an evolution to the Arkham formula, turning the now-stale system into something fresh and challenging. It isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it is improving on an existing wheel. The result is combat that feels adapted straight from a comic book, even more so than other recent superhero games like 2018’s Spider-Man and 2021’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
What really makes the combat work is a combination of a surprisingly in-depth combo mechanic, the excellent new dodges, and the powerful momentum abilities, all tailored to each vigilante.
The combo mechanic is simple: you can attack using light and heavy attacks, and stringing together a varying amount of those light attacks (from one to four) and then performing a heavy attack will result in a different combo-ender (which does lead into a different move to flow into the next combo). These combos always do heavy damage, and look fantastic and character-appropriate. While this might not sound like much, I found myself engaging much more fully with these different combos than I ever did Arkham, and they all look so good that I never grew tired of my move set.
How dodging works in Gotham Knights is also excellent. Dodge is the mechanic which replaced the “press button to win” counter system from the Arkham games, and it adds so much to the game. So long as you dodge from an attack, you will avoid being hit. But, if you want to counter, you can’t just dodge away from any attack. No, instead you will have to dodge away from the last attack in their combo, as signified when the attack marker around their weapon turns jagged. Do this at the perfect time, and you can follow up with a perfect attack, dealing extra damage and knocking down whoever you hit. Even if you don’t get a perfect hit, though, you will still be able to counter at the end of an enemies combo, punishing them. This system kept Gotham Knight’s combat fun and engaging through the entire game, unlike how combat became predictable and easy once you got understood how it worked in the Arkham titles.
Finally, the last element of the trifecta which makes Gotham Knights’ core combat special is the Momentum Abilities. While I have some issues with how they are unlocked, every single one of them feels excellent, looks great, and makes you feel like you are taking full advantage of the unique talents of the character you are playing as. These momentum abilities can be activated once you fill a “momentum bar” on the bottom of the screen (filled by striking and defeating enemies), which always felt it filled at a perfect rate to allow me to use my incredibly powerful abilities often, but not so often that they make the game too easy. Whether it be Batgirl’s Bat Swarm or Red Hood’s Mystical Rounds, using these abilities tactically lets you unleash the true might of your hero, to truly cinematic effect.
Difficulty Like a Shower Knob – Difficulty
For everything that worked with combat, though, there is one thing that just never evened out for me: difficulty. Frankly, the difference between difficulties is absolutely absurd. When I started the game, I ramped the difficulty straight up to “Very Hard” (as I always do, until a game forces me to do otherwise). And on Very Hard, enemies have so much health that it is not so much difficult to fight them as it is boring as hell. Combine this with the fact that you take so much damage per attack at this difficulty, and it led to me playing through my first few hours frustrated, and thankful for the generous autosave system. Seriously, enemies are just absurdly tanky on those higher difficulties, making them dull and frustrating rather than challenging,
Well, a few hours in (during my first fight with a Drone Master, more on them later), I decided to make it easier on myself. I was trying to finish the game in a reasonable amount of time, after all. So, I switched the difficulty straight down to “Medium”, thinking that it would probably be easy for me, but hopefully not ridiculously so. Well, let me say: the difference in difficulty was ridiculous. Suddenly, I was defeating enemies in one or two hits, I was completing entire missions without healing once, and my Momentum Abilities were wiping out entire encounters with the push of a button.
But I had switched the difficulty two notches down, so perhaps “Hard” would be the Goldilocks Zone! I switched over to “Hard” and… Ended up feeling like it was hardly any better than “Very Hard” when it came to the tankiness of the enemies. Suddenly, combat was dragging again. Not harder so much as more frustrating. With a resigned sigh, I switched it back to Medium, preferring to be somewhat overpowered in quick, fun combat, rather than bogged down by attacking enemies with wet noodles. Suffice to say: this was not ideal.
The issues here are twofold: firstly, that the gulf between “Medium” and “Hard” is ridiculous. On Medium, if you are properly upgrading your gear, you will probably never die, and will clear every encounter with ease. On Hard, you will spend minutes in any enemy encounter featuring a miniboss, regular mooks will decimate your health, and you will die simply because of the length of these encounters compared to the scarcity of health pick-ups. Not only is the distance between these modes severe, but the other issue is the lazy way in which Gotham Knights handles difficulty: by adjusting health and damage. That is it. Strong enemies don’t develop new moves, new effects aren’t strewn throughout battles, and there isn’t even a change in the amount of enemies. No; all difficulty does in Gotham Knights is make it so that you deal less damage, while the enemy deals more. In short, difficulty changes don’t actually make combat harder, they just make it more frustrating and time-consuming. For as much as I love the combat in Gotham Knights, it’s difficulty slider does the whole thing a disservice.
Hiding from the Blind – Stealth
Difficulty isn’t the only thing that feels like it was done lazily. When you think of Batman games (or, I suppose, Bat-family games), you probably imagine there being two primary approaches to each encounter. While Batman & Company might be expert brawlers, they are probably even more famous for their ability to strike from the shadows. That’s right: I’m talking about stealth. And, unfortunately given the game’s heritage, there is woefully little to talk about…
While stealth is technically an option, it relies on you getting “stealth takedowns” on enemies, which you can do by attacking them from behind or from above (and you better be directly above them, or else you’ll just do a non-takedown aerial attack). You can also do these takedowns from the front, if you initiate them the moment you are seen (and you better do it that millisecond, or else you’ll just do a piddly ranged attack). The stealth takedowns take a while, so you have to plan out exactly who you use them on and where, to make sure you aren’t caught by enemies, and they only work on regular enemies (and you better not try it against minibosses, or else you’ll do… absolutely nothing). If my parentheticals didn’t make it clear, your ability to use stealth in Gotham Knights is severely hampered by how finnicky the system is.
In fact, it would be entirely unusable as a mechanic, if it weren’t for the fact that enemies are absolute morons (perhaps Batman, rest in peace, hit them on the head too many times?). In order to see you, enemies have to be able 2 feet away and staring exactly at you, and their cones of vision are practically straight lines. Their pathfinding is woeful, and they never, ever figure out how to look up. You can even get away from them in the middle of combat, using one of your smoke grenades, putting you in position to wait until they get bored, at which point you can once again begin taking them out with your slow, finnicky stealth takedowns.
Overall, then, stealth is an absolute mess in this game. It is clear that the developers did not spend much time on it, and so your best use of stealth ends up being to simply use it to initiative combat or take out whoever you can before combat begins, and then fight everyone hand-to-hand using the much more engaging, fun combat mechanics. In a normal game, this would be disappointing. In a game where you play as the bat-family? It’s practically upsetting.
But, beating up baddies only makes up about half of the core systems of games like this. You also have to move between groups of baddies. Which is why I’m sad to report that Gotham Knights might have some of the weakest, jankiest movement systems I’ve seen in a superhero game since the many early 2000s Spider-Man games (not counting Spider-Man 2). There are three main methods of movement in Gotham Knights: grappling and gliding over Gotham, driving around Gotham’s streets with the Batcycle, and running around Gotham on-foot. And all three of these methods of locomotion (I’m leaving out fast travel on purpose) have one thing in common: they all suck.
A Malfunctioning Grappling Hook – Grappling and Movement Abilities
Let’s start with the worst of these systems, and the most common: grappling and using your movement abilities. Frankly, the state of it is unacceptable. For starters, the grappling hook is inconsistent, and will sometimes launch you in unexpected directions. This was especially noticeable when I was grappling from on-foot, when my vigilante would seemingly decide at random whether their facing or my camera’s would determine where they would grapple. But even in the air, I found myself constantly fixating on the little “grapple” icon to make sure Batgirl didn’t decide that a sudden sharp-right turn was in order. The only saving grace for this method of movement was in Nightwing’s acrobatics, allowing him to leap in the air after each grapple (farther than the other characters, at least) and maneuver while in it. If the entire grappling system had been modeled off of his movement, perhaps it could’ve felt good, but it was not.
And even Nightwing isn’t safe from the pitfalls of the Movement Abilities. The ability to do so is unlocked after completing the Knighthood challenge for each vigilante. Each one has a unique Movement Ability, like Robin’s teleport and Batgirl’s glide. In concept, this is very cool, giving each character a unique way of traversing Gotham. Unfortunately, all of the movement options, from Nightwing’s hovercraft to Red Hood’s leap, feel sluggish and dull. There is nothing to engage with while using these underwhelming powers, and so each venture to the air feels more like a peaceful airborne tour over Gotham than an exciting gameplay option. For as much as you will be using these abilities, especially while traversing Gotham on your nightly patrols, it seems that shockingly little thought was put into them.
And perhaps I’d be more lenient, more willing to overlook this subpar system… If it weren’t for the fact that this exact mechanic has already been done perfectly. The Arkham games, especially Arkham Knight, had insanely fun, responsive, and frankly beautiful gliding mechanics. Arkham’s glides were slick and fast, and made traversing the city an absolute blast, whereas Gotham’s makes it into a finicky chore. And I’m not the only one saying this, as demonstrated by the glut of comparison videos between the two games, highlighting the stark difference in quality between Gotham Knights’ and its 8-year-old predecessor. Safe to say, Gotham Knights fumbled its grappling hook and aerial movement severely. But what about it’s other two methods of transportation?
Bat-Family on Wheels – Batcycle
Well, the Batcycle only fares a little better. You can call the Batcycle from anywhere in the Gotham City, so long as you are near a road, not in the air, and haven’t recently upset the union of nanobots that create it every time by facing 6 degrees to far away from Bruce’s grave. Once you (slowly) mount it, the controls are simple. There is a zoom button, a drift button, and a wheelie button, and everything else doesn’t matter. It isn’t exactly complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to get you places fast.
And it fails. It goes faster in a straight line than your grappling hook will, sure, but it still feels slow compared to how fast the Batcycle should. I mean, it’s the freakin’ Batcycle for God’s sake. And yet, it drives like my dad’s 40-year-old Harley-Davidson that he swears he is going to get around to tuning up “any day now.” And that would be forgiven, if it wasn’t for the fact that it handles in a manner I can only describe as “sludgy,” like someone coated its wheels in sewage on it’s wheels. Drifting feels heavy and inaccurate, so that you almost always over- or undershoot compared to what you want to do. It is impossible to tell what obstacles you can break, what you can wheelie over, and what will stop you in your tracks. And, worst of all, sometimes the Batcycle will slam into nothing at all, simply stopping with a bunch of loud crashing sounds, forcing you to rev back up so you can slowly reaccelerate back to your top cruising speed of “slow enough that you grandma would honk.”
And, to round it all out, the Batcycle doesn’t just ruin travel, it also ruins game stability. When on the Batcycle, my framerate regularly nosedived to slideshow numbers, and my chances of having the game crash on me just about quadrupled. So, needless to say, I avoided the damn thing wherever possible. Which is a shame, because Batcycle.
But, there is one more place where Gotham Knight’s movement systems might be salvaged: the on-foot movement. After all, how hard can it be to make sure that characters can walk and run around correctly?
Well, thankfully, it must not have been too hard, because it is at least functional. While the vigilantes do move around a bit clunkily, as though their suits are weighing them down, they also move quick enough and with enough precision that it never became an issue. Contrasted against the excellent combat animations, out heroes’ walk and run animations are silly to look at, as none of them look like they actually know how to run. However, both of those issues are minor nitpicks, in truth. Overall, the standard movement is fine. While it isn’t original or especially well-tuned, it gets the job done without the jankiness of the other methods of locomotion, and that is enough for a game like this.
The final way you can move around the city is via fast travel, using one of Lucius Fox’s drones to take you to one of several pre-determined drop points. While the challenges to unlock these fast travel locations is a little bit tedious, and the drop points seem to be placed just far enough apart that you still end up just a bit bored getting wherever you need to go, there is ultimately very little I have to say about them. I’m glad they are there, even with the little issues they have. Though, I must say, I wish they didn’t cause a crash every other time I used them, but that is just something I got used to.
A Massive Rogue’s Gallery – Enemy Variety
If there is one way in which Gotham knights excels, it is in its absolutely HUGE enemy variety, which actually adds to the challenge level and engagement of the game as a whole. There are dozens of enemy types, each with unique movesets, powers, weaknesses, and looks. Each enemy is well-designed, with a clear silhouette and color scheme that makes it immediately obvious what you are facing off against at a moment’s glance, and their design makes it clear what their “deal” is while you are still getting to know them.
If that was all the enemy variety there was, it would already be plenty, vastly eclipsing the fairly lackluster enemy variety in the Arkham games. But it isn’t. Each enemy type also comes in three ranks: Regular, Veteran, and Champion, each one getting progressively more difficult to face. And, unlike the game difficulty, these enemy difficulties actually matter. Veteran and Champion enemies not only get more health, but they get more moves, more resistance, new designs. Even enemies recycled between factions, like the standard Brawlers and Shooters, have unique weapons, elemental interactions, and movesets depending on which faction they are in.
Because of this, encountering each faction feels like it poses a different, unique challenge, and you have to engage with the mechanics of individual enemies in order to excel in combat. The enemy variety in Gotham Knights might be one of its best parts, and it is a huge part of what makes the already-awesome combat system feel really dynamic and exciting.
Now Introducing… – Bosses
And, personally, I think the bosses follow this same pattern. Every single one of the boss fights in the game, except for one, has a unique gimmick or idea, and each pits you against an enemy or enemy which is truly a challenge to combat. Whether it be Clayface’s ability to go between grates and synchronize attacks with his minions, or Talia al Ghul’s tricky, clever use of teleportation and mystical weaponry, each boss fight will have you at the edge of your seat trying to win. The multiple stages of each boss often feel genuinely distinct from each other, and always escalate the combat in a fun way.
In short, the boss fights in this game — yes, even including Basher and Blazer, which many people find frustrating — are excellent. They are balanced, engaging, interesting, and perfectly character-appropriate. Also, one of them features Mr. Freeze in a giant mecha, so how could anyone dislike them?
My only gripe with the bosses is that there simply isn’t enough of them. In the entire rogue’s gallery of Batman baddies, there are hundreds of villains to brawl with, and so you’d expect there to be more than eight boss fights, with two of them pitting you against the same boss twice. While I can’t call such quality fights “lazy,” I can say that I really wish there were more of them, or that some of the “repeat fights” had been replaced with other villains. As it is, the villains on offer barely scratch the surface of Batman canon, and in such a unique world I really wish I could see more.
Though I do appreciate that they restrained themselves from even mentioning the Joker.
I only had a chance to play co-op for a very brief amount of time before writing this review. Perhaps that is for the worse, as the game was clearly designed with co-op in mind, but it is what it is.
From what I could tell, co-op added very little to the game, though it did make what was in the game cooler. Combat with an ally is a true blast, even if it makes encounters just a bit too easy, and the fat that your moves together synchronize makes it feel like you really are teaming up and contributing to each other’s success. There is no unique content for co-op play, so you aren’t missing out if you aren’t playing with it (No Dead Space 3 situation here). That said, it is a blast, and I wish I had more friends to play it with.
However, I have one huge nitpick about how co-op was handled in this game. It commits the cardinal sin:
Online Matchmaking is set to public by default, and the game never tells you this.
What this resulted in was me frantically trying to figure out how the hell I kick out “UmbrellaWasRight222” on the fly while I was trying to get screenshots for this very review. I don’t know how long he was there, or why he thought random matchmaking was a brilliant system to engage with in a game like but, but suddenly seeing a vibrantly-colored Batgirl zipping around the scenery invoked in me the same as when you realize that someone is watching you sing loudly to yourself in your car. Dreadful. Developers, please, please do not set matchmaking to public by default.
A Vibrant, Historied Gotham – World Design
I’ll just say it: Gotham has never been so lovingly detailed or historically rich, at least not in video game form, as it is in Gotham Knights. Not only is it filled with all sorts of references (including some deep cuts) to the storied history of the Caped Crusader, but it also feels surprisingly like a real city.
What I really couldn’t get enough of, even in my second and third playthroughs, was the attention paid to essentially every building in Gotham. You’d expect the Wayne Tower and the Iceberg Lounge to get the high-budget treatment (and they do), but that level of detail was not spared for the smaller buildings, even the ones the player will usually just pass on by. Storefronts, apartments, government buildings, churches, schools, monuments and more all add to a rich, real Gotham. I remember being blown away when a little animal shelter, which I never would’ve gone to if not for its landmark collectible, had a little cage attached to it (presumably for Ace the Bat-Hound). And then, across the street, in the window of one of the many burger joints that dots Gotham, was a sign I hadn’t seen anywhere else: “No Dogs Allowed.”
It is a shame that so many people have dismissed this game as lazy, when it has such obvious care and passion put into its world design to blow most “Open-World Cities” out of the water. This is a Gotham which has been touched by history, including (but not limited to) that of Batman, and it really feels like it. Gotham is always fun to explore. Which is good, because you’ll be doing a lot of it.
I Hope You Like Busywork – Tasks and Collectibles
The reason you’ll be seeing so much of Gotham, of course, is that it is filled will all manner of crimes, random tasks, and collectibles.
I will say immediately that the tasks and collectibles are nothing to write home about. The collectibles consist of finding plaques on monuments, glowing-blue batarangs around the city, or well-hidden occult pages tucked away in dark corners. The tasks, by a similar token, feature time trials and radiant “Contact” challenges, none of which are particular hard to complete. I’d have more to say about this sort of “fill the world with busywork” design if it wasn’t such a pastiche by this point, feeling just like any given modern Ubisoft game. Though the developer might be different, the experience is the same: you probably already know if you like this type of gameplay. If you like open-world collect-a-thons, you’ll like this. If you find them tedious, it will be tedious here, as well.
However, there is one type of task that isn’t just good, it’s fantastic: and that is how Gotham Knights handles crime. The random crimes are simple to deal with, and provide you with clues and informants to help you locate the much more fleshed-out “Premeditated Crimes,” which are randomly generated each night. These function similarly to Spider-Man (2018) or even Watch Dogs 2, which both had similar systems. As much as I love those other games, their crimes were a chore to deal with. In Gotham knights, however, these Premeditated Crimes are actually fun, engaging, and unique. Each has unique objectives, see you fighting different factions, and has varying levels of difficulty. And, because they almost all engage with the combat system in a different way, they are almost all fun, and there are enough of them that those more dull crimes are few and far between.
Patroling the Streets – Patrol System
These Crimes also tie into the truly brilliant Patrol system, which might just prove to be Gotham Knight’s best idea, and which I hope gets adopted into other games. The system is simple: each “night”, all the randomly generated crimes are reset, so that when you leave your home base, crime will dot the landscape once again. As you go through that night, you will clear out crimes, which stay gone until they are reset the next night. While you are doing this, you can also set out to complete your core story missions or other random tasks, each of which you can only complete some of each night.
What this amounts in is a truly great system, with two main effects. The more minor of these is that your nightly patrols actually seem like they are “clearing Gotham’s streets,” even if just for the night. Because the amount of crimes is limited during each patrol, it means that you actually can rid the streets of crime for that patrol, which just generates a much more tangible impact than, say, Spider-Man (2018) or the Arkham games, which see crime crop back up seemingly as soon as you’ve moved two city blocks away from any given area.
The more important of these effects, though, is that it the patrol system imposes a method of pacing which means that most players will engage with both the main story and the side content at the rate which the developers intended. Because you can only make so much progress you can do in the main mission per night, and because there is only a limited amount of side content you can do per night, it means that most players will progress at an ideal pace, neither over-leveling with side-content, nor skipping out on it entirely to beeline through the story. It also is perfectly thematically appropriate and natural, feeling perfectly in line with both the story being told, and with the game being presented.
It is a simple mechanic, yes, but I will say it again: it might be Gotham Knight‘s best mechanic.
The most interesting part of Gotham Knights, and also its key selling point, is the ability to play any one of four vigilantes in the wake of Batman’s death. The pitch, then, is that each of these four characters — Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood, and Robin — will have their own unique, complete stories and characters, each being a main character themselves. This is a monumental task, and it is asking a lot, since each cutscene and plot beat and piece of banter in the game now needs to work four times over.
Four Humorous, Herculean Heroes – Characters
And, somehow, the writers and voice actors made it work. While there are stumbles in the story, the fact of the matter is that each of the four vigilantes is a unique and interesting character, and that all the different variations that are caused by the divergent story weave together fantastically. The plot might have lots of holes, but the heart of this story is it’s characters, which are done amazingly well.
Each character speaks authentically to how they do in the comics but, whats more than that, each is interesting to watch in their own way. Robin is the young, plucky hero, and his story essentially follows the structure of a “coming-of-age” story. Batgirl is trying to cope with the death of her father, while also finding that that trauma might’ve resulted in her signature photographic memory becoming weaker. Red Hood, meanwhile, is grappling with redemption, having come back from both dying, and from breaking Batman’s “one rule”. Finally, Nightwing ties it all together by being the not-so-serious leader, who is trying to take up Batman’s mantle after his untimely demise. It’s all very… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and that just works.
The dialogue is fun and character-appropriate, and it really is a testament that I never, once, felt like the vigilantes were essentially mad-libbing in between pre-written dialog lines in order to make the four-pronged approach work. No, instead, the story really does seem tailored to fit all four of the vigilantes in, so that they each contribute meaningfully, and so that they are all, equally, main characters. And it does all of this while making every one of the main characters, and most of their supporting cast (like Alfred and the Penguin) likeable. As a writer, this is a masterclass in moment-to-moment writing for an ensemble.
So long as your banter tolerance is very high. Thankfully, I’m a big fan of cheesy one-liners and “witty sarcasm,” but if you are someone who thinks that mainstream media has been a bit too “Marvel-ified,” your mileage may vary. If your eyes roll anytime someone says a pun, especially, you might want to sit this one out.
Four Silly, Sincere Stories – Plot Beats
But, like everything in Gotham Knights, this isn’t perfect. While the characters, who make up the core of the story, are amazingly well-realized, the fact of the matter is that the plot itself is… Much less engaging. It is predictable, travels in familiar territory for a Batman story, and has some very strange pacing choices. Neither of the two main antagonists (both of whom are secret) are very active or threatening, and the tone for most of the story is bizarrely light for the gravity that Batman dying should merit.
While it is truly excellent to see a Gotham that has been changed by Batman (see my opinion piece on the matter) the fact is that it still exists in the Bats’ shadow. The villains have been changed by him, but they are still the same villains. The world has been altered by him, but it is still the same world. And the four main characters have been shaped by him, but they are still the same sidekicks. For as much meat there is to a “Batman’s Dead” story, Gotham Knights opts to play it incredibly safe, taking no risks and introducing no unique elements to the pot.
That isn’t to say the story is bad. Far from it, in fact. There are twists (which you might be able to see coming), interesting character moments, great monologues, and some campy, fun references. There is some bits of compelling narrative that should keep you awake, and no decision just ruins the whole thing. However, all of this is also what makes the story itself come off as a bit sterile and inoffensive. Batman might be dead, but this is still a Batman game, and it will do everything to make sure it doesn’t upset anything any fan knows about Batman. And, in an effort to appeal to everyone who likes Batman, it ends up appealing to no one in specific.
Though I will say, the final ending itself (not the twist reveal; the thing that happens after that) did surprise me. So there is a tiny bit of credit.
There is much else that could be said about Gotham Knights. It is a strange product, an obvious blend of both clear dedication to and appreciation of the source material, some genuinely great systems and ideas, and some obvious cynical pitfalls. This blend creates a product which is simultaneously worth studying to figure out what it did right, while it is also worth dissecting in order to avoid what it did wrong. It is, at least, not a boring game.
Because there is so much else to say, I will mention the following nitpicks or small compliments in rapid succession, just to point out how much deeper this rabbit hole goes. These are things that I couldn’t go without mentioning, but at the same time aren’t worth devoting entire sections to.
Upgrade Your Bat-Gear – Unlocks and Crafting
The way that both Skills and Momentum Abilites are unlocked is good and fair, and it contributes to that feeling of balanced progression. I felt like I was rewarded with new skills and abilities at a perfect rate throughout, and I was impressed by how impactful and effective they were.
At the same time, whoever decided this game needed a crafting menu should be forced to have a dinner conversation with the Riddler. Crafting in this game servers no purpose, and only reveals the apparent truth that Gotham Knights was originally intended as a “live service” title until the Avenger’s game from a few years ago took a nosedive. Nothing could make this clearer than the simultaneously barebones and cluttered “Mods” system, which is both incredibly confusing, and almost entirely useless and without depth. Whoever came up with that should be stuck with the Riddler in a log cabin for a week.
There could’ve been something interesting to gear, even crafting. But it’s not in this version of the game.
Made for Mobile? – Menus and UI
While the HUD elements of the game are all clear and useful, the same cannot be said of the Menu UI. Which… How can I put this lightly…
Well, the UI is just really dreadful. It’s like they mashed together everything that did and didn’t work from the new Assassin’s Creed games, God of War (2018), Arkham Knight, and who knows what else into a single game. The tabs have tabs, which have sections, which sometimes have collapsible menus, things look like children’s YouTube videos, and stuff like crafting and mods are confusing, to say the least. Figuring out how to engage in Villain Cases, which serve as this game’s side quests, will take almost as much time as it takes to figure out, for sure, that there is no way to respec skills. Does this paragraph feel like a mess? Probably. It’s half as confusing and messy as the actual menu system in this game is.
Freeze Isn’t Just a Villain… – Technical Gripes
This has been said a thousand times already, so I won’t belabor this point too terribly, but it must be said. The technical issues with this game are absolutely, completely, wholly unacceptable. From massive frame dips (that caused my very nice rig to dip into the low 10s, even with lower graphics settings), to random game-breaking crashes, to the privacy nightmare that is Denuvo DRM, this game is just a technical mess. Every platform has been flooding the developers with technical issues and complaints, and the fact of the matter is that this game simply does not run — in any way — as well as it ought to. As people have pointed out, this game looks worse and is less stable than any of the Arkham games, and the newest of those came out 7 years ago.
While I hope this is fixed with patches and updates soon, it truly is unacceptable that Gotham Knights was released in the state that it did.
In the end, there is a lot wrong with Gotham Knights. It is a flawed product, made at least somewhat cynically, and it shows in its myriad issues. From terrible UI, to unacceptable performance, to some frankly baffling design decisions, the list of “What Went Wrong” for Gotham Knights would not be a short one.
And yet… I find myself still loving it, even after more than 50 hours in the game. That’s because, for all it’s faults, its core systems are superb. Its combat is some of the best I’ve seen in this style of superhero brawler, and it’s four heroes feel distinct enough that a simple switch is often all I need to feel engaged. It’s writing is earnest and campy, but in such a classic “Comic Book” way that I can’t help but love it, and it is clear that the game loves the characters it is dealing with. There are some fantastic and unique systems, like the Patrol system, that make the game far more than a generic open-world collect-a-thon, even if there are elements of that, too. And Gotham itself has never been so fully and lovingly rendered in a video game (nor in any media outside of the comics themselves). In short, for all there is to dislike about Gotham Knights, there is all that and more which I can’t help but still enjoy.
Perhaps I am being generous, or perhaps it just happened to be “my kind of game,” but I can’t help but reward a game like this. I never grew bored playing it, and I’ll probably play it through a few more times. While it is far (and I mean very far) from perfect, the fact of the matter is that it is much better than it has been made out to be. If you are a fan of superhero brawlers, I’d recommend you pick this one up. Don’t listen to those looking for reasons to hate; you won’t regret it.