A look at how Warner can approach its open-world co-op action game
It’s been a weird few years for Marvel games. We've had two critically and commercially adored Spider-Man releases from Insomniac Games, a Guardians of the Galaxy game that came out of absolutely nowhere to storm 2021 game of the year lists from Eidos-Montreal - and we have a strategy-based release from Firaxis next year entitled Midnight Suns.
None of these releases have been as fascinating, nor as mixed as Marvel’s Avengers however. The live service game was released in 2020 by Square Enix, developed by Crystal Dynamics, and while it had a mixed reception initially, it’s slowly but surely been building up a reputation as a reliably fun game. I’m not here to talk about Marvel’s Avengers in an deep examination today however.
I’d like to discuss the biggest mistakes, and indeed the best things, that the game did and apply them to the upcoming release of a DC game. That DC game? Gotham Knights.
A constant stream of content
Before the release of Marvel’s Avengers, we were told that the game would be given a long stream of content, with new characters being added constantly. A leak from the game revealed a huge swathe of characters such as Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man and more.
The thing is, thanks to the pandemic and various other development issues, we don’t have any of those characters. As of the time I’m writing this, we’ve had Kate Bishop, Hawkeye, Black Panther and Spider-Man for PS4/PS5 owners.
In order to keep the attention of your player base, and in order to make sure that you don’t lose them rather quickly, you need to either constantly add new content or have enough content at launch that you’ll garner a lot of attention.
Gotham Knights promises a ton of villains across the entirety of Gotham City at launch, along with the ability to play through a full campaign with friends. One query that I have about the game, and something that’s not been addressed by any gameplay we’ve seen, is that they’ll gate content.
We know there’s a level system, so it's more of an RPG than previous Batman titles, but will that mean you can’t fight certain villains until you reach a certain level? More to the point, will it be gated behind a pay-to-win scenario? These are all important things that need answering before release.
A variety of villains
Batman (and the larger Bat-Family) has one of the greatest and most well-known rogue’s galleries in comics. Two-Face, Harley Quinn, Mr Freeze, Clayface, Manbat, The Penguin, Killer Croc, Joker, the list goes on and on.
Having the ability to fight a large portion of Batman’s rogue’s gallery alongside your friends would make for a fun time, but you'd need to make sure they felt different. A large issue with Marvel’s Avengers at launch was that there was only really two major villains you could fight (The Abomination and M.O.D.O.K) and all the smaller enemies felt the same to fight against.
Largely this issue has been rectified with the DLC released for the game, but in a game like Gotham Knights you need to make sure the major villains especially feel different to fight. As an example, remember the Mr Freeze fight in Batman: Arkham City? That fight is often hailed as one of the greatest boss fights in a video game thanks to how the A.I of Mr Freeze adapts based upon how you approach him.
If you manage to get a hit on him using a vent, then he’ll freeze all the vents to prevent you from ever using them again. Something like this in Gotham Knights, but for all the major villains would go a long way towards making the game fun.
Manbat could have an airborne fight, in which you have to glide around to attack him. Deathstroke could have a much more strategic fight than any other, reflecting his skill as a mercenary and the fact that he can go toe-to-toe with even Batman in a fight.
Killer Croc would be akin to the Killer Croc boss fight in Batman: Arkham Asylum where you’re forced to be quiet and careful, since you’re being stalked by a deadly predator. There’s just a plethora of options here, and taking any of them would make the game as memorable and as well received as possible.
The Bat-Family needs to feel different
In any video game with multiple playable characters, it’s important to make sure each playable character feels different. This is completely regardless of what game you’re discussing.
Take Marvel’s Avengers as an example, each character feels different even if only to a small degree. Thor plays like Kratos in certain ways, with his hammer being able to be thrown and recalled just like Kratos’s axe in God Of War (2018).
Iron Man flies around the place, able to blast at his opponents from the skies above and rain fire. For all the complaints people had about Marvel’s Avengers, it didn’t slack when it came to making the characters all play like you’d imagine them to play, which is something Gotham Knights needs to take and iterate upon.
The Bat-Family in Gotham Knights is made up of Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Robin (Tim Drake), Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Red Hood (Jason Todd). If we’re talking comic book versions of the characters, then Batgirl would be the brains of the operation, Robin is the detective of the group, Nightwing is a strategist and much more upbeat than a lot of the other members of the Bat-Family and Red Hood is a mercenary, much more violent than his brethren and wiling to kill.
It’s important for the gameplay to reflect this, even if only in small ways. Make it so that Red Hood kills criminals, and make it so that Nightwing is able to plan out his moves before he does them.
It’d go a long way to make this family feel like they’ve not all carbon copies of the same person, and judging by the trailer, they’re planning on implementing that in various ways (we see what looks to be Tim Drake Robin teleport in the initial reveal trailer for Gotham Knights).
Gotham Knights is a game I’ve been excited for since it was revealed. I’ve never wanted anything more than to play as the members of the Bat-Family alongside my friends, the ability to defeat and take down criminals with a friend is just so exciting to me.
I just hope it manages to meet my expectations and avoid the potential pitfalls it could fall into, or I’ll be greatly disappointed.
Article by Ryan Easby