Gotham Knights Will Need to Overcome One Big Problem
It’s been a long time since a proper Batman game has released, but WB Montreal is changing things up with Gotham Knights. Rather than players becoming the caped crusader, Gotham Knights puts players in the shoes of the extended Bat-Family, as in the wake of Bruce Wayne’s death, Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood will take up the mantle of responsibility over protecting Gotham City. Each is a unique playable character throughout the adventure, with a friend able to join in online with two player co-op.
With the wealth of playable characters coming to Gotham Knights, this character dynamic presents a potential problem. In a largely co-op experience, with players juggling four members of the Bat-Family throughout, it becomes much more difficult to balance them together. Some characters could get more screen time than others, or are just in general more-or-less relevant to the general events of the story. Not to mention the different personalities between them, and how these characters will react to the Gotham Knights narrative.
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Balancing the Bat-Family in Gotham Knights
Divvying up screen time between the four protagonists is going to be the main concern for players. Specifically, how each character interweaves with the game’s story hasn’t been clarified. It’s unclear if each character will receive their own individual stories with co-op crossover as needed, or if it’s all one uniform story where players can choose whichever character they like the most. Either way could potentially be problematic if one of these characters doesn’t get the time they deserve, considering how iconic each of the Gotham Knights is.
The likely scenario would be that each character has their own individual story, and that any of the remaining three characters would be available via co-op. This would make a lot of sense, as it doesn’t require re-reading lines and/or crafting different reactions from each characters to the same story beats. At the same time, juggling the relevancy of all four journeys into one cohesive adventure could result in one character’s narrative receiving the short-end of the stick. Granted the alternative would be one central narrative that any character can be part of, but that means each character needs to have their own unique reactions, justifications, feelings, etc. for every moment.
How Batman’s Mission Structure Has Changed
Four characters also means having flexible environment and mission design. Previous Batman: Arkham games have excelled in creating set-pieces and unique scenarios, whether it was solving the Cold Call Killer quest in Arkham City or Riddler’s Revenge in Arkham Knight. Now missions will need to be centered on the idea of two characters being present at all times, even though the game is entirely playable solo. Missions now run the risk of attempting to balance scenarios between one to two playable characters at any given time, which could result in incredibly easy or incredibly difficult levels.
Theoretically this is solved with the inclusion of AI companions, but even that could be problematic depending on the capabilities of the computer-controlled teammates. Enemy density and difficulty could theoretically scale as well. Based on the gameplay demo shown at DC FanDome, it seems like the storylines will be centered on the villains’ actions throughout the game, so it’s very possible that any character will be able to participate in the main story. Each character does bring unique abilities and equipment to the table, so it should be interesting to see how they all meld together into the gameplay.
Free-form Characters, Potentially Less Immersive Story
We’ll have to wait and see how the story plays out for all four of the Gotham Knights. Right now it seems likely the game will be entirely playable as any of the four main characters. The Mr. Freeze mission shown during DC FanDome doesn’t appear to be inherently tied to either Batgirl’s or Robin’s storyline. Much of the character banter is ambiguous as well, likely to account for players picking any character for the quest. Character choice may not heavily influence or adapt Gotham Knights narrative, which could be to the game’s detriment. Anything that doesn’t emphasize the player’s choice of character in game makes for a less immersive gameplay experience.
Then again, it is a classic action game reminiscent of Rocksteady’s Arkham games, so perhaps the story will take a back seat to the gameplay. Each character in Gotham Knights has their own unique fighting style and weapons, so perhaps combat mechanics and boss fights will be the main focus of the game. Either way, hopefully having multiple characters doesn’t detract from the experience Gotham Knights is promising.
Gotham Knights is set to release in 2021 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
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