Even though it went gold just over a month ago and released within a few weeks, we’ve only just had our first chance to get our hands on Gotham Knights, Warner Bros. Games Montreal’s upcoming action game. Set in the DC Universe version of Batman’s slaying, the story revolves around the four disciples of the Caped Crusader who step forward to defend Gotham City from evil criminal overlords, hoping to take over the fictional metropolis, All while unraveling the actual mysteries surrounding how the world‘s greatest detective ushered in his ill-timed end.
For those of you who don’t know much about this game, it’s not a continuation or spin-off of the Arkham franchise developed by Rocksteady. Rather, it’s something new and fresh, even though Batman and DC obviously only have so much creative freedom because a lot of it feels and looks familiar. Gotham City is still dark, damp, dreary, and grim, and the characters all have similar personalities and designs – even if they’re still unique. I bring this up because you might mistake the title for being part of the Arkham universe, because it does feel like it belongs there.
At least until you actually study the gameplay. In similar Arkham games, Batman’s fighting and playstyle is almost superhuman and godly (though Bruce Wayne is just a man). You can face hordes of enemies and take them all down in a short amount of time, use a combination of martial arts skills, see Batman dump himself in battle, do 720 spin roundhouse kicks to the skulls of hapless criminals . It’s funny, but almost unreasonable for a mere mortal. In Gotham Knights, the knights feel more grounded and authentic, and fight like well-trained people. Combat is slower, more organized, and more strategic, and you need to consider your moves, and whether it’s the right move to throw a punch or dodge an attack. This does make combat feel more sluggish at times, but it also brings a level of fluidity that fits perfectly into the momentum ability system.
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This is a new feature where you will be rewarded with landing attacks and perfectly evading attacks. Each action adds a bit to the bar in the lower right corner of the HUD, and when sections of the bar fill up, you can use one of the many unlockable momentum skills that are essentially fancy attacks. For Batgirl, this can be a powerful surprise move, while for Nightwing, you can jump on enemies and knock them out. Of course, this is all on top of the regular light and heavy attacks, dodges, and ranged attacks, and you can even aim by entering an over-the-shoulder view for each character (even though that does work best for Red Hood and his twin pistol).
But one of the main points about Gotham Knights is how you fight in a way that suits you and the Knight you’re playing. If you like diving headfirst into danger and letting your fists do the talking, you can, though it’s better to do something like a well-armed Batgirl or a brawl-type red hood. If you prefer a more stealthy approach and want to use shadows to your advantage, this is one of the options Robin excels at. The combination of stealth and brawl games is still there, again like in the Arkham series.
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For those wondering how Gotham Knight’s multi-protagonist design works, it’s simple and effective. Essentially, each of these four characters, while unique in every way, all play similarly, meaning you can switch between them in the center of the clock tower and still be indifferent to dealing with quest objectives feel comfortable. There’s also no real differentiating factor in the way a character changes missions, it’s just small dialogue and story beats that make a character’s cutscenes or moments unique as the rest remain the same. It’s also a similar progression story, as each character shares skill points, which are earned by defeating enemies in battle and completing world events. In theory, you could play the entire game as Robin, then switch to Batgirl at the last minute, and have a ton of skill points to spend and specialize the character as you see fit. It’s all very intuitive and straightforward.
I’ll say that the exploratory and open-world nature of Gotham City has yet to wow me. It feels very large and spacious, but also quite empty and barren. Of course, there are criminals to find and beat, there are crimes to prevent (it’s the basic activity, the task is to defeat waves of enemies, etc.), and obviously there are side quests and collectibles to earn. But I can’t help but feel that this version of Metropolis will lack some of the gravity and personality that makes Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Gotham City so fun to explore, especially since the Knights aren’t as capable as Batman in the open travel in the world. You still have a grapple gun and glide mechanic, but this is slower and more grounded (combat-like), which means you can’t just zoom in on the side of a building at Mach 10 and fly into the night like a cruise missile. Do not. Now you have to rely on the Batcycle to get around, and while it does do the trick, it’s a slower form of travel and I can see fast travel becoming a highly used feature.
However, despite my skepticism about open worlds, I love the way the Montreal World serves the protagonist. It’s a conflicted and rather dysfunctional family, forced to work together, and you can feel the friction between the heroes at times, but still see how they care and depend on each other. I was worried that having so many protagonists would confuse the narrative and let it trip itself, but it seems WB Montreal has found the answer here. It’s a villain-like story in that you might be concerned that having so many menacing enemies in one game might be too hard to swallow, but the story seems to address each main villain one at a time (at least from what I’ve seen) ). I confronted Harley Quinn, and while I would say she’s very familiar with Arkham’s version (and pretty much every version of the character I’ve ever seen), she’s a charming and interesting threat, There was even a decent challenge in the boss fight, where the knights took her down and foiled her plot.
Looking back on my time with Gotham Knights, I can’t say it will surprise players and offer something truly unique beyond what we’ve already seen in the action brawler genre. But if you love Arkham games, if you’re a DC fan and looking for your chance to get back to Gotham City, there’s a lot to look forward to here. None of this talks about striking graphics or how the suiting kit works because I haven’t fully explored that. It’s going to be a fun and entertaining game, and you’ll even be able to team up with friends to face the dark side of Gotham City, so I’m going to be excited and eager for release day on October 21st.