Batman is dead, Gotham is in peril, iconic villains are on the loose and a war is brewing with our grieving knights coming to terms with the death of their father figure. This is the premise of Gotham Knights, and I cannot deny that the opening cutscene, ability to use four exceptional heroes and first few hours sets up what seems to be a wild ride. Unfortunately, after these opening hours, it quickly becomes apparent that WB Games Montreal have got some aspects wrong with the obvious quantity over quality approach. I did encounter highlights in my 20-hour playthrough such as a fun story, unique fighting styles and great cooperative play, but is this enough to resurrect the Dark Knight?
Once again, Batman aka Bruce Wayne is dead and due to the Dark Knight’s absence, gangs, thugs, and villains are beginning to realise that Gotham is going unpatrolled, and crime is on the rise. Along with Batman gone, so is Jim Gordan and in comes a new commissioner who has a hard stance on vigilantes. In amongst all this, a fabled secret society, the Court of Owls, have come out of the shadows to ‘protect’ Gotham using nefarious means. Batman’s death has drawn his proteges together who are not just on the hunt for answers on Batman’s death, but also patrol the city, take down returning villains and shut down the Court of Owls. The story can be predictable, with twists being easily spotted before the reveal, but it is fun. Our four heroes are well written, and each interaction had this Batman fanboy smiling as I loved seeing these characters in the spotlight.
Since Gotham Knights was announced, it has had constant comparisons to the Arkham series. While it takes a few aspects of those games, this is not an Arkham game. This is an Action RPG with the focus being on combat, levelling up, managing and crafting gear, performing side quests and repetitive tasks that sadly sucks the fun out of the game. There are similarities such as using stealth gameplay, zipping and gliding around roof tops, some detective sections and great interactions between heroes and villains. These genre changes will take gamers by surprise, and if the player is after another Arkham entry, they will not find it here.
The combat is the core of the gameplay. It adopts a similar fighting mechanic to the Arkham series, with free-flowing combat through stringing combos together, using heavy attacks, ranged attacks, grabs and dodges. It does have some issues, with being unable to pull out of some combos, and the repetition sets in too quick when chipping down large enemies’ health who just repeat the same boring attacks. To change up this monotony, is the ability to change the players character before each nightly patrol and use each character’s distinctive fighting style. Each character also has several momentum (special) abilities that can be used to take enemies out quicker. While starting with only two momentum moves, players can unlock more by completing challenges and end up with eight moves each.
Other than fighting styles our crimefighters mix it up a lot. Nightwing is an acrobatic self-appointed leader/big brother brawler who can buff teammates in combat. Robin is a nimble, stealthy, witty, and crafty character that is great for infiltration missions and perfect side kick with cooperative play. Batgirl uses technology to blackout cameras, moves fluently and is a capable brawler. Redhood, my favourite, is a heavy brawler with strong grapples and the strongest ranged attack with his pistols. Why this hulk of a man does not have a block/counter button though is beyond me. Each protagonist can also hone their playstyle through upgrading their abilities when levelling up, for example Redhood can be a more gun totting ranged expert, while Robin becomes one with the shadows and completes objectives without anyone knowing he was there. I personally have had a great but tough time working out what style of hero I wanted for each character.
Levelling up in Gotham Knights is like most Action RPGs where progression unlocks more abilities and provides the player access to craft stronger suits and weapons, and even add elemental modifications to these that boost stats, power, health and even give damage to enemies over time. The great thing about levelling up in Gotham Knights is that all other characters not currently in use also level up and have their ability points ready to be used once the player changes their character. This stops the grind of levelling each character, however, the player still repeats the same crimes for other reasons. It is not long until the player realises that the grind is significant in Gotham Knights. More on crimes down below.
The customisation of each character is a highlight. At anytime the player can select one of each character’s 15 suit styles (once unlocked), use loot to create a one-off suit or fully customise their own suit, including colour, type of cowl, cape, bat logo and much more. The player can also customise their Batcycle.
Gotham City is large, and the biggest we have seen in a Batman game, and while it is very pretty it has not grabbed me like Batman Arkham Knight did 7 years ago. While the world is much more alive, the art style and building architecture is a step back from the past title. Traversal begins off with a grapple which sees players buzz around on roof tops. This is until the player completes Knighthood challenges and unlocks each characters gliding abilities. Sadly, completing Knighthood challenges, which adds more abilities and an ultimate momentum move, is a massive grind and the player must do this for each character, about an hour and half for each to get certain higher-level abilities and tech. For some characters, I just didn’t bother and used the grapple and the Batcycle to travel around to complete the game. The Batcycle is the quickest way to get around Gotham and the players needs to use it in completing some crimes and time trails, I just wish it was faster.
When entering the map each night, the player can select from doing the main mission of uncovering the secret of the Court of Owls, side missions that tackle the games stories of Harley Quinn, Mr Freeze and Clayface, meeting characters such as Lucius Fox and Renee Montoya who provide challenges, stopping premediated crimes, interrogate criminals to find more crimes, unlock quick travel points and more.
When tackling the main missions and some side missions, players are transported from the open world into indoor locations, use stealth, some detective skills and likely finish with brute force. The main and side missions are the best parts of the gameplay and the more I was not in the open area of Gotham the more I enjoyed it, it is just a pity the player keeps getting sent back to the open world and made to grind crimes for basically everything.
Crimes come in two forms, premeditated which are marked in red on the map found by interrogating criminals throughout the streets of Gotham, or opportunistic which are crimes located during the players traversal of the city. Crimes do vary somewhat, such as saving hostages strapped with a bomb, stopping robberies and Batcylce chases around the city. As mentioned, most things other than the main mission requires crimes to be completed. Want to earn your Knighthood, grind 10 crimes. Find Mr Freeze, grind 5 crimes. Level up so you can do the next main or side mission, grind more crimes. Need to do something for a NPC, grind crimes. Even challenges that require the player to beat enemies in certain ways, meaning the player must find more crimes. I know these are common tropes of the Action RPG genre but how much is enough? This repetitive filler makes getting to the best parts of the game tedious.
Gotham Knights feels like the whole title was made for cooperative play, and it is easily the best way to play. Also, with players being untethered it allows players to tackle those grindy crimes together, or split up on different areas of the map and complete different activities which drops that grind time significantly. In the main and side missions the stealth sections became a highlight here, as my cooperative player and I communicated as we ziplined around and carefully took out enemies one and two at a time. Boss fights which are mainly chip damage gauntlets became more bearable and did not last over 15-20 minutes of simple rinse and repeat gameplay like it did in single player. Gotham Knights is best with a friend.
Gotham Knights is a pretty game to look at, but we are not even close to see what the current generations can do. The voice acting is pretty good from all characters, while some writing is a little corny, it is a game based on a comic. Sound design is strong, and I love the crunch of the single and team up finishers. The loading times are very impressive and each time launching a new mission or night to patrol it is ready within 2 to 3 seconds. Unlike other outlets, I have had no real FPS issues except for a couple of times in massive brawls during open world crimes, although I did have my fair share of issues.
Gotham Knights crashed on me four times through my playthrough and one time I lost my progress more than an hour back. I have had issues logging in and at times had to put my Series X in offline mode to start the game and then go back online. Funnily, I have had no issues when I use quick resume. I have noticed a few glitches such as Batgirl having her cape on her front and in every cutscene that I use Redhood his hoodies drawstrings were stiff as a board and just pointed out in front of him, while breaking emersion it was always amusing. The issues are minor, and I am sure WB Games Montreal are aware of these issues and patches are coming.
Gotham Knights is not appropriate for younger children due to the violence, especially with blatant murder in some cutscenes and obscenities within some of the speech.