With Saint’s Row four released, I started to think about some of my favorite open world games which is a bit different as I’m not a huge fan of the open world genre. And yes, that includes Saint’s Row the Third that didn’t do much for me.
To make me interested in an open world game, the moment to moment gameplay has to be spot on, which we’ll talk about over the next five days starting with everyone’s favorite Dark Crusader.
Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were two of my favorite games to be released this generation. From Rocksteady Studios, they were able to pull off what was once thought to be impossible: Create a great Batman game.
Asylum while featuring an open gamespace was limited to more of a hub with progression tied to finding new gadgets, Metroid style. Arkham City was a lot more ambitious and gave us a landscape full of side quests, collectibles and random thugs to beat up.
Like the first game, the combat system rewarded players who kept mixing up attacks and Batman’s gadgets. With the city-scape, the designers opened up the player’s movement with more grappling and the ability to glide using Batman’s cape. And there was a thrill with gliding around waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting criminal.
The side quests and collectibles were expanded on as well, with cases involving the minor villains of the Batman mythos with the riddler trophies expanded into puzzles and such.
As with the first game, the voice acting was great and besides the standouts of Conroy and Hamil, I thought Nolan North did an amazing job as the penguin.
The boss fights were more defined this time around with the Mr. Freeze fight arguably one of the best examples of how to have a boss fight with stealth I’ve seen in a game.
Now, despite being a great Batman game, there are a few reasons why it doesn’t rank higher on my list of open world games. First was that despite the open world setting, Arkham City was on the short side in terms of exploration. The most exciting moments happened during the linear situations and it wasn’t like other open world games where you could really make your own fun.
You were still being guided around by the linear story, while good, ultimately made the experience constrained. As for the gliding and grapple hooks, once you got enough upgrades you could pretty much just hold in the general direction and eventually glide over there. Playing through Arkham City, the game felt more like a linear game built into an open ended gamespace, as opposed to an open world game with a story added in.
Please don’t take that as me condemning the game, as Rocksteady’s work on Batman have been some of the best games we’ve seen for the property in a long time.
As for tomorrow’s game, there is no doubt that this was an open world game and any pretense of the story getting in the way was shot out of the window almost immediately.
Up Next: Island Hopping