Surprise, surprise, we’re getting a new next-gen exclusive Arkham game this year! I’ll admit, the first trailer for Batman: Arkham Knight got me feeling all tingly, but as much as I’ve enjoyed the Arkham games, they’re not flawless. After Batman: Arkham Origins more or less stuck to the status quo, I really hope Rocksteady pushes the Arkham series in its final entry.
But the Arkham titles are pretty much perfect Batman games, right? What kind of improvements are needed? Well…
Make Gotham Deeper, Not Just Bigger
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my general pet peeves are open worlds that focus merely on size instead of depth and interactivity. Rocksteady is promising a Gotham large enough that you need a Batmobile to get around it for Arkham Knight, but I also want greater depth. I want to be able to infiltrate almost every building I grapple on. I want to be able to sneak into the GCPD and rifle through their files and evidence locker. I want a fully explorable Wayne Enterprises building. I want to be able to sneak into Commissioner Gordon’s house and leave bat-shaped mints on his pillows.
Population of Gotham — 100,000 goons, and one lady in a catsuit who’s already taken by the one guy in a bat suit. No wonder everyone’s so cranky.
Let Gotham Have Some Citizens Who Aren’t Criminals or Cops
Continuing on with this idea of a realer, deeper Gotham, I don’t want Gotham to be solely populated by thugs and the occasional cop or lady in a catsuit anymore. I want NPCs. I want Gotham to feel like a populated, lived-in city in need of defending, not a wasteland beyond all hope.
Let Me Leave My Mark
Finally, I want my crime busting to actually have some sort of appreciable effect on the city. If I take out a criminal gang in one neighbourhood, I want to see citizens returning to the now-safe streets. I want to see public opinion turn in my favor the more good deeds I do until their erecting statues in my honor.
The Riddler, former designer of N64 Rare games.
Cool It On The Riddler Stuff
Okay, if there’s one kind of depth I can do without, it’s overload of Riddler collectibles. I don’t want to finish the game’s story and find I’ve only completed 10% of the game because there’s 500 Riddler trinkets left to collect. The Riddler stuff in Arkham Asylum was fun enough because it was pretty low key, but it was expanded to the point of tedium in City and Origins. Not only are the Riddler trophies not that fun to collect, but they detract from the verisimilitude of the games by essentially turning Gotham into a Banjo-Kazooie level.
Give Me Some Actual Mysteries To Solve
Past Arkham games have contained glancing nods to Batman’s detective skills, but none of the “mysteries” in those games were particularly mysterious. Most just involved pushing the scan button and following a clearly marked trail. I want a mystery that requires a bit of deductive reasoning and actual puzzle solving. If Rocksteady is afraid this would slow the game down too much, they can make them strictly side missions. This is what they should do with The Riddler — make catching him a complex, Phoenix Wright-like adventure game sidequest as opposed to a dry collect-a-thon.
More of this please.
Less Thugs, More Mr. Freeze
Yes, the Arkham games have a pretty damn good combat system, but that said, the games tend to overemphasize goon punching. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy punching the occasional goon, but I find the non-stop thug pummelling gets to be a drag by the end of most Arkham games.
Remember that part of Arkham City where you fight Mr. Freeze? You know, the part everyone loves? I think part of the reason that section of the game resonated so well, is that there were no thugs. Instead you just fought a very resilient, resourceful Mr. Freeze. How much time does Batman actually spend fighting thugs and street level guys in the comics? A page here and there, because honestly, it’s not that interesting. Far more time is devoted to elaborate showdowns with the main villains. I want more of Arkham Knight to consist of epic, lengthy face-offs with iconic villains, and less time spent on fisticuffs with the same four or five types of goons over and over.
Note to Gotham City criminals — never take your eyes off the gargoyles.
Expand the Stealth Game
Dropping from a gargoyle to silently take a guy down in Arkham Asylum was kind of mind blowing — so mind blowing it seems the guys behind the Arkham games think the system is perfect and never needs to be improved. It isn’t.
The whole gargoyle thing work’s fine when you’re on the gargoyles, but heaven help you if you end up on the ground. Regular walking around Batman is a bumbling oaf. I want a Batman that’s as stealthy on the ground as he is on a gargoyle — also, you know, maybe give us something other than gargoyles to cling and climb on.
Enough With The Attempts To Be Edgy
The world of Batman has always been dark and fairly violent, but it rarely takes things too far. You can tell the makers of the Arkham games really wish they were making M-rated games though, since they pack the dialogue with constant use of the words “bitch” and “asshole”, push the violence just a little too far and sex the female characters up as much as possible. In a series that usually gets Batman very right, this is the one note the rings wrong. Batman is awesome enough without the excessive use of cool rad cussin’ an’ boobz an’ blood.
How will they end the game now?
Improve The Writing
The Arkham games have all been “well written” in the sense that Batman, his villains and Gotham itself all feel right. Arkham Asylum, City (and to a lesser extent, Origins) all felt like folks that knew their Batman wrote them. That said, the actual plots of the games have been pretty lousy.
All three games are very surface-level, let’s pack in as many villains as possible, “event” storylines, with little to no emotional impact. Batman fights a random daisy chain of villains, there’s an underwhelming twist or two near the end and then you fight The Joker last, because who else would you fight last?
You have your own Bat universe you can do whatever you want with guys — be a little more gutsy. Try to make Dark Knight Returns instead of a b-grade Hush (that is to say, even more b-grade than the original).
So those are my ideas for how to make the perfect Batman games even more perfect. It may be too late for some of these to be implemented in Batman: Arkham Knight, but let’s be real here — Arkham Knight is not the last Batman game Rocksteady is making, so I’ll keep on dreaming. What about you folks? Anything about the Arkham series you’d like to see improved? Hit the comments and discuss.