June 13, 2024

Gotham Knights’ Batfamily is far more important than its equipment

Earlier this week, game developer Warner Bros. Montreal a new take on their upcoming superhero action RPG, Gotham Knights. While the game’s 2020 debut featured footage focused on Tim Drake’s Robin and Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl, this 13-minute presentation was about the game’s other two protagonists, acrobatic Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, and once-dead Robin Jason Todd, now Red Hood. With Batman seemingly over, it’s up to Dick, Jason, Tim, and Barbara to protect Gotham from villains who want to take advantage of the Dark Knight’s absence, including the Court of Owls.

The images of Knights didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know in 2020 – it’s a third-person superhero game in 2022, so of course, it will have RPG elements, gear, and flashy combos. Whether Knights is intended to be a live-service game or has a fixed ending, WB Montreal doesn’t need to sell gamers on the game’s combat or loot system. If you’ve played a western RPG in the last five years, you already know how Knights’ RPG mechanics will go, including a combat and stealth system similar to Rocksteady’s Arkham games. What will make or break the game, and what more needs to be showcased, are the titular Gotham Knights and the dynamics they have with each other.

Batman probably has one of the strongest supporting casts of DC’s great heroes. In addition to Grayson and Gordon, heroes like future Batgirls Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown had beloved runs in the 90s and 2000s, and even non-powered players like Renee Montoya have become popular. Whether or not you’re a fan of Batman, chances are you love at least two members of the ever-growing ‘Bat family’. But for much of the past decade, Batfamily fans have been left behind: If their favorite Gotham character wasn’t mysteriously absent during DC’s “New 52” era, chances are the character was controversially reworked or captured and Sat in a comic, readers straight up no dislike. Outside of the comics, things weren’t much better. Nolan’s movies weren’t interested in setting the stage for future Bat heroes until the last moments, and Ben Affleck’s DCEU Batman was on his knees before he could go looking For a new child soldier in his crusade.

In the games, the Bat family had to have fun. Injustice brought in several members of Batman’s entourage, and those who weren’t killed casually were fun to play or see show up. Most notably, Arkham City and Knight had DLC chapters focused on characters like Nightwing, Robin, and Harley Quinn. Knight had a mechanic that allowed players to switch between Batman and another of his teammates. But narratively, Rocksteady’s saga was so focused on selling Batman’s power fantasy that it forgot that Mr. Vengeance has never worked alone.

For Batfamily fans, things have come a long way in recent years. Former missing family members in the comics now have ample time to shine in solo and team books or in the anthology comic Batman: Urban Legends. In the Wayne Family Adventures webcomic, the Bat-family feels like a real family in the context of life, unlike anything DC has ever officially released, and it’s been a joy since it first appeared in 2021. Family members like Harley, Batgirl, and Cass have starred or will soon star in their movies, and the CW’s Gotham Knights TV show (unrelated to the game) is also expected to take shape. And with Matt Reeves’ Batman, it feels like Robert Pattinson’s version of the character is just hopeful (and stupid) enough to take a kid under his wing and teach him to fight crime using his wits and a bo staff.

More than selling the power fantasy of being a disciple of Batman, WB Montreal will have to deal with the idea that Dick, Jason, Tim, and Barbara are a family with complicated feelings for each other and the man who inspired them to commit crimes. To fight. It’s that dynamism that has made the Bat-family compelling to read over the decades, and Knights are in a unique position to convey that in a way that’s different from the comics that have come before it. Since it’s explicitly not set in Rocksteady’s Arkham universe, Gotham Knighthaveas a fair has amount of freedom in establishing the heroes’ relationship with each other and their father figure before the game starts. Dialogue and chatter during missions are good, but the game can’t rely on that to convey the history and tension between the four main lines.

Some games have managed to make relationships as important as their battles, such as Hades or Scarlet Nexus. Both games approach this in different ways; Nexus has its two leaders give gifts to their party members and spend one-on-one time with them in isolated, one-off episodes that benefit gameplay. Hades conducts extended conversations between Zagreus and the many inhabitants of the Underworld, who help him grow as a person and make the House of Hades just that little bit more bearable.

Even in the space of superhero games, we see relationships explored in different, interesting ways. Last year’s surprisingly excellent Guardians of he Galaxy game made the relationship between the titular a-holes meaningful with decisions. Insomniac’s Spider-Man games feel great to capture the dynamics of Peter Parker and Miles Morales exciting and vital in a new way with next year’s Spider-Man 2. Injustice 2’s pre-match banter makes DC’s roster, and guest fighters feel like their fights are small, emotionally charged stories right now. Marvel’s upcoming tactical game Midnight Suns follows in the footsteps of those games and the Atlus’ Persona series in that you’ll need to bond with each Avenger to gain additional skills and gear.

Gotham Knights probably won’t let its characters exchange gifts, but even something as simple as the characters having a snack or sparring in their base in the middle of the day would give the game a little more life. The fun of having superheroes has always been to see how they interact with each other when they’re not hitting bad guys. There’s no doubt that Knights will deliver the mix of combat and stealth that the Arkham games nailed so perfectly. But all the flashy co-op punches and gear in the world will mean nothing if the game’s four heroes – and whoever else gets to appear down the line via DLC – don’t feel like they’re all in this together.

Gotham Knights are out October 25 on Xbox Series consoles, PlayStation 5, and PC.

Want more Gizmodo news? See when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Editor’s Note: The release dates in this article are based in the US but will be updated with local Australian dates as we learn more.

Louise J. Robertson

I've been blogging for over ten years now and have found that writing is one of the best ways to express my thoughts and feelings on various topics. I am a passionate blogger who writes about topics like health and wellness, personal finance, cooking, tech, beauty and fashion, food and cooking, and other lifestyle topics. I love blogging because it's so easy and flexible; I can write anytime and anywhere I want!

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