If you’ve been in someone else’s shadow for years, it can be very difficult when the spotlight suddenly falls on you. In Gotham Knights, the four new Guardians of Gotham not only fight for their new status. Developer WB Games Montréal has also discovered that something like this requires trial and error.
It is almost impossible not to compare Gotham Knights with Arkham games. While the Arkham trilogy was primarily developed by sister studio Rocksteady Studios, WB Games Montréal developed the Arkham Origins collection. This studio is also closely related to these legendary superhero games. However, Gotham Knights is not a continuation of the Arkhamverse, but rather offers its own unique story. Without Batman.
At least: Caped Crusader of course plays Gotham Knights. At the start of the game, Bates was killed and now it’s up to his four companions to continue his work. Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin and Red Hood collaborate on a case involving the world’s greatest detective at the time. They set up headquarters in the old clock tower, fighting crime in Gotham from here every night. They track down the Court of Owls, a secret society that has been pulling strings behind the scenes of Gotham for centuries.
This seems like fertile ground for an interesting plot with some enemies other than the standard Joker or Two-Face, but the Gotham Knights never know how to surprise. The game obediently follows the standard style of a superhero story, so despite a few memorable moments, you see the most important discoveries coming from afar. That in and of itself isn’t a disaster, as the story essentially provides a reason to hit a lot of enemies in the nose.
After all, that’s what you do most: knock enemies at each other. Gotham Knights’ combat system is very simple and has no blocking or counter mechanics. It’s all about attacking and dribbling and it seems a bit primitive. The The much discussed frame rate is 30fps not the basis for it; After all, Arkham games played as smoothly as an eel in a bucket of WD-40 even on PlayStation 3. Without counters, everything flows less smoothly.
As a result, a certain grinding process quickly creeps into the fights. Many enemies look the same and you can defeat them with the same tactics. For variety, you can choose a different superhero for each mission, but don’t expect to suddenly play a completely different game after changing the night clock. The various fighting styles are mainly cosmetic; In the end they all have roughly the same attacks. For example, where the Red Hood shoots with his (non-lethal) pistols, the Batgirl throws a Batarang.
The biggest challenge is created in a cheap way by the level system. The enemies later in the game are still quite similar, but due to their higher level it takes longer before they go down. How basic do you want it to be?
It’s especially frustrating that the level system puts so much pressure on the game’s progression. Some side missions play well in their own story line with their own villain, but you have to play them in a nearly consistent order in between. Otherwise, you will either be too weak for the main story or you will be too strong for the side quest if you pick it up later. Thus, the Gotham Knights progresses very chaotically – amazing boss fights, for example, are concentrated in the last hours of the game.
Together with this level system, the system of loot and useless crafts alike is suspended. You unlock new packs and weapons all the time, and the level system practically forces you to blindly choose your strongest gear. You can make something yourself using the countless raw materials you collect. But why, if you have to completely change after every mission?
Fortunately, your four heroes level up at the same time, so you don’t have to train them one by one. The main and side missions together also provide enough XP to continue, so you don’t have to grind in the city. The fun will be over soon
Activities in Gotham are as common as enemies. Crimes take place in different places in the city, such as robberies, hostage taking and organ trafficking. The Four Guardians can solve those crimes by – yes – punching everyone in the nose. Every now and then you can also start a chase, but Batmoped feels relatively slow and stops at the slightest misdirection. Therefore it is preferable to leave these pursuits to the left.
The city can be pretty cool, but only under specific circumstances. When the clouds open and the silver moonlight of the humid streets merges with the red and purple neon of nightclubs and billboards, ray tracing, volumetric lighting and 4K resolution come together in harmony. At times like these, Gotham Knights is understood to be locked at 30 frames per second. Gotham City would likely have had a lower climate if surrendered on another level.
Despite this, the city remains empty and desolate. From the point of view of the story, it makes sense that the people of Gotham would not dare walk the streets at night, but what is the added value of an open world? Also noteworthy: With each transition to and from the open world, we (briefly) have to deal with a traditional loading screen. We don’t see that much since the PS5 and Xbox Series came out.
Even when the game appears positive, there always seems to be a poorly thought-out development option. In a number of missions, the game surprises by assigning dialogues or even parts of the gameplay to the hero you are controlling at that moment. Then you want to be able to replay such a mission as another hero, but that’s not an option. The game encourages you to switch, but then gives each hero his own story. This doesn’t work together, so you always get bits of everyone’s story.
Gotham Knights certainly have some highlights, but they often play as one sausage. Co-op mode can’t change that either. There are no surprise special attacks for players; It remains the same monotonous fighting game, but with two superheroes in the picture. Perhaps it would have been better if the Honorary Gotham Knights could truly stand on their own two feet. In a single player game, without a co-op mode, without an open world and especially without a level system, they are all pulled like ballast. The game might have been ‘only’ running at 60fps.
Gotham Knights is now available for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, S and PC.
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