Before we begin let us get my personal bias out of the way. I loved Batman: Arkham Asylum, loathed Arkham City, and did not even bother to play Batman: Arkham Origins. With that in mind, Batman: Arkham Knight has me hopeful. Current-Gen hardware is still something of a mystery in terms of what is possible. Rocksteady could create a living world, full of secrets and joy. They could also create a stark wasteland, full of meaningless collectables and even more meaningless fetch quests.
To that end I have made a list of changes I would love to see happen to the Arkham formula. Given that I am one of the few people that disliked Arkham City, it is likely that most will disagree with these proposed changes. However, if Warner Bros. wants to pull money from me, this is how they could do it.
Ditch the DLC – Arkham Knight was not able to garner excitement for more than two minutes before a preorder bonus was announced. Preorder the game, play as Harley Quinn. This bonus does not even qualify for the “Did they cut this DLC from the main game?” debate. It is (assumingly) being developed alongside the game and then being held tauntingly above your head. This industry depends on preorders, that is understood, but this transgression is a gross one. This is not a bonus, it is a punishment for those who can not, or refuse to, pony up money before a game’s value is even established.
Of course, you could always ignore the preorder bonus as it is not likely to be meaningful in any way. None of the other playable characters in the Arkham series have been as fun as Batman so I can assume this will be no different. So instead of creating extra gameplay that loses all its value simply by its nature as a “bonus,” why not create more substantial content for the game’s namesake, Batman? This is a Batman game and I want to play as Batman.
Give baddies more screen time – Arkham City had a large problem with “Too many, too little” especially when it came to the villains. They would show up just to grimmace at Batman then mosey on their way. In Arkham Knight I would love to see Harvey Dent get more screen time than some weird S&M acid scene. A villain making a thirty second cameo may work for Calendar Man but Two-Face deserves a little more than he has been given.
Gleaming what little we can from the trailer, we can see Two-Face already being relegated to the “driver.” I genuinely hope this was just an easy way to put him in the trailer and not alluding to the way you defeat him in the main game. Please, Rocksteady, do not make me race Two-Face in the Batmobile. Please.
The best bit of news, concerning villains, is that Scarecrow is back. Arkham Asylum surprised me every turn with Scarecrow and I would love to experience something akin to that again.
Cut the combat fat – Arkham City had one major issue with its combat, it was bloated. Between Arkham Asylum and Arkham City the combat system had like a billion new items added to it. By the end of the game every button had a single and double tap option and more combination presses than were useful. Add to that, several enemies that transformed the puzzle-combat into avoid-this-guy-at-all-costs-combat. The only addition to the combat system, that did not feel as tacked on as a third arm, was the ability to counter two enemies at once. Lets keep that one.
Arkham Knight needs a complete overhaul of the combat. While Freeflow is probably one of the best fighting systems in gaming, Batman is not just about punching lots of dudes. What pulled me into the first game’s challenge rooms was the unique scenarios it placed me in that were not just a test of my reflexes. Giving me a limited tool set forced me to think about the proper juggling of enemies, rather than how to get my meter up faster so I can take out the red guy. In this scenario Batman’s greatest tool was his mind, not his fists, or Batarang, or Ice Grenades, or Raygun.
Dispose of the AR missions – There is most likely a group of people who worked their hands to their respective bones making AR missions for Arkham City and Origins. To those people I would like to say that your segments were well constructed and featured no notable problems. That being said, flying through glowing rings is painfully boring.
As I see it there are only two options with AR missions. Cut them entirely, or make them crazy. Not crazy as in difficult, rather crazy as in “Batman gets sucked into the matrix and has to fight Cyber Thugs” crazy. Maybe start a mission off as if Batman is going to fly through some rings when suddenly The Calculator rips into his cowl’s computer and next thing you know, you are fighting techno vikings in space.
More purposeful exploration, less open and empty space – Arkham Asylum probably had the best overall narrative that was also driven by its world. There was a purpose for every item and each new area. Arkham City featured very little of this, giving up the Metroidvania style of gameplay in favor of a barren open world. Well, barren may not be apt, is was filled with Riddler Trophies.
It has already been reported that Arkham Knight is five times larger than Arkham City. My sincere hope is that it has one hundred times more things to do. The problem with making a world X times larger than X is that getting from A to B in X is usually a dull experience. (Hello, Grand Theft Auto 5.) Rather than fill it with millions of Riddler Trophies I would love to see a merging of the Metroidvania and Open World gametypes.
The city could be quardened off based on whatever crime boss is dominant within it. To get into Dr.Freeze’s section of the map you would need a special Batsuit that could withstand the immense cold in that area. Or even more intense would be a section controlled by Scarecrow that turns the game into a nightmare simulator if you go there without a special Bat-Gasmask.
Forcing the player to explore an area, rather than drag them from A to B, gives them a greater appreciation for it in the end. By the end of Arkham Asylum I was happy to know every square inch of that island and its secrets. By the end of Arkham City I just wanted to go home.
Those are the ways, I feel, that Rocksteady could bring the Arkham series back from the proverbial abyss. As it stands, the Arkham games are one step away from becoming nothing more than several challenge maps strung together by audio logs. I would like a bit more from a Batman game, thank you.
Also, you may notice that three of the five suggested cutting content, good job you can count. Cutting out that fat assumes that the resources used in their potential creation would be used for more substantial parts of the game, like giving villains more purpose.
What do you think? Are these changes way off base? Are the Arkham games perfect already? Do they need any changes? What would you want changed? Let us know in the comments.