Gotham Knights Added Multiplayer, but Divides Batman

A Bat-Lite Formula

Gotham Knights fell into the same position that Arkham Origins did — an attempt by another studio to create a Batman game while Rocksteady was working on one. The original release was met with a mix of frustration and anger about issues with the game. With those long since ironed out, I went through the game and found something with a solid foundation, but much like Marvel’s Avengers, highlights the issue of combining multiplayer with a singleplayer campaign.

Knight Fall

Our story doesn’t take place in the same universe as the Arkham games, but yet another different version. Batman is dead…spoiler warning for the first five minutes. With his passing, it’s up to Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin, and the Red Hood to come together to try and continue on and keep Gotham safe from everyone who now knows that there is no more Dark Knight.

As a concept, that is a very solid and interesting one to build a game around, and the developers did a good job of creating the abilities for the four. While each character has the basic move set that you know from the Arkham games, they are each fleshed out with special abilities and options for dealing with enemies. Batgirl has the best ways of dealing with enemy hardware and cameras, while Robin is the best character at stealth as some examples.

This version of Gotham is separated into various districts, each controlled by a different gang. Crimes are procedurally placed into the world as the player explores to stop them, along with sub quests and the major missions.

Where the game falls somewhat apart is that with each Batman game, the design moves further away from the solid pacing and structure of the action-adventure take of Arkham Asylum to now something that feels more like a Borderlands or Marvel’s Avengers.

Forced Friends

Instead of this being built around a contained and well-paced campaign structure, the game instead adopts the same “looter shooter” mechanics and progression seen in titles like the as-for-mentioned AvengersBorderlands, and The Division. You now have a dedicated level that goes up as you gain experience. The enemies all have levels of their own, and trying to fight something well above yours will lead to trouble. With each level comes gear that you can find or craft in different rarities. This is the same kind of basic loot table system seen in The Avengers and other games.

If you’re hoping that the gear will give you new ways of playing, it does not. The only major upgrades that come with the game are in the form of the skill trees for each character. There is far more grinding than just leveling up. Many cases and side content require you to clear the random crimes that show up each night. After you are finished with a night, you can return to the Belfry to switch characters, move the major plot points along, and personalize your characters.

All these elements are there to pad out the game’s length and make it more akin to an ARPG, more specifically, one that you are supposed to play with friends. Having a full group of people, each providing something different to help everyone, and doing the open-world exploration and combat is this game at its very best. But trying to play it solo, or with only two people, and the different RPG elements leave you with a game that wants you to spend far more time grinding and finding gear.

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Gotham Knight’s gameplay goes from poor to adequate, but that takes way too much time (source Steam)

The different content in the game is clearly set up to take advantage of certain characters at different times, but that means when you are playing not as the best character, some encounters feel more frustrating or go on a bit longer. I don’t know if the game scales content based on the number of players, but you will be fighting far larger waves of enemies than the previous games.

Speaking of the most depressing issue is that instead of giving four players the power of Batman’s arsenal and skills from the previous game, everything has been severely reduced.

We Have Batman at Home

If this game delivered the quality and variety of content seen in the Arkham trilogy with multiplayer, it could have easily been one of the best games of 2022, but to make the multiplayer and the new RPG elements fit, all aspects of the gameplay don’t work as well. The major villain missions when you assault an area to then have a fight with the big bad are the best parts of the game, but everything else feels like it comes up short. Doing the procedurally generated crime events just feel like busy work. To make matters worse, crimes are organized based on the gang that is committing them and the type. Many of the side quests require you to complete specific crime types against specific crime members or they won’t count.

There is, for lack of a better term, a sense of floatiness to the combat. There are plenty of times that I go to use a character’s special move and the enemy attacks while I’m in mid-swing, canceling the attack and wasting the energy. It is far harder to perform advanced maneuvers or use your gadgets during combat. The AI and general stealth areas are a huge step down from previous games. Even the act of exploring the city feels hollow. The developers seem insistent on trying to remove the ability to glide around the map like in Arkham City. Instead, you start off with a bat-related vehicle that also makes it impossible to spot collectibles and such that are on rooftops. You need to do certain quests at the start to unlock the transversal powers.

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Multiplayer coop works best when either everyone is equal, or everyone is completely different (source Author)

Again, everything about Gotham Knight feels like a downgrade from the original source. Nothing here I would say is outright bad or ruins the game, but it just feels like a lesser experience if you played any of the original trilogy of games. The game is only at its best if you have friends to play it with coop, but as a singleplayer-driven game, it just doesn’t work as well as it could. This is another case of a game that feels like it forced into a live service design to try and sell more copies.

This kind of design is the nail in the coffin for many live service games like Marvel’s AvengersSuicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, and Redfall. The problem is that people want to play as cool characters, not play as a quarter of a cool character.

Gotham Knights is an example like all the others of a game with a great concept that felt sanded down in the pursuit of making a multiplayer game. It, along with the examples I mentioned are cases in point why if you want to do a great singleplayer game, or a great multiplayer one, you need to pick a lane and stay with it. Part of the problem with these designs is that it always feels bad to play them alone. You may say “then why don’t you play them with other people?” But if the base game is frustrating, most consumers are not going to drag their friends in to “fix” it.

I honestly don’t think any one of these split-character multiplayer designs has actually worked, if you can think of one let me know in the comments or on social media. What we’ve seen is that people want to play multiplayer that either everyone is on the same page and contributing, or each player has a unique role and specialty that makes the team better as a whole.

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