Who comes to the aid of Gotham City when Batman is no longer around? Get your grapple guns ready cause WB Games Montreal is taking us to the rooftops with Gotham Knights. Nine years after their previous game, Batman Arkham Origins, comes a new action-inspired take with such new features like RPG elements and a highly requested co-op multiplayer experience. Is this new chapter better? Find out in our Gotham Knights review.
Co-op greatness aside, what helps separate Gotham Knights from the Arkham games is the fact that it decides to take the narrative focus on a brand new untold story (at least in the games) with heroes such as Nightwing, Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl (aka the bat-family). Our time with this title gave us lots to enjoy like drop-in-drop-out multiplayer fun but unfortunately had its uh-oh moments like random frame drops and questionable UI choices. Nevertheless, the game does feature a fresh new take on Gotham City with a host of new playable heroes.
Nightwing, Robin, Red Hood, and Batgirl return to Gotham City in the wake of catastrophic news that Batman is dead. Corruption has once again seeped through the streets of Gotham without a caped crusader around and infamous villains like Mr. Freeze and Harley Quinn are back again to capitalize on the void in power. The former sidekicks must once again work together as they solve the mystery regarding Batman’s death and a final case connecting to a secret organization, known at one point to simply be a myth.
If there’s one type of game Arkham fans have strongly wished upon, it’s an Arkham-style Batman title that lets you and a friend knockout crooks and solve crimes. Gotham Knights not only delivers on this wish, but does not restrict this feature at all, being an untethered multiplayer connection. Players will get to free roam the open-world streets of Gotham City with a friend however they choose, whether that’s one player taking to the streets as Robin while the other takes to the rooftops as Nightwing. The co-op action doesn’t stop there, not only can you do various team attacks but depending on which duo is working together it can lead to different conversation interactions and even some unique touching cutscenes.
As Gotham Knights shifts the narrative focus on the reunited bat family, it does an excellent job digging into not only the relationships with one another, but also seeing the connections each have shared with Batman. As the game progresses, you’ll see the internal conflicts each character faces with the pressure of Batman being gone and a hero needing to rise in the place where the caped crusader once stood.
The art direction for Gotham Knights will take a bit of adjusting, especially coming from the cruel realism of the Arkham games, since it adopts a more vibrant comic book-style approach. The sound design is about what you’d expect from an action game, at least up until you hear “Livin La Vida Loca” in one of the levels. While, for some, that might feel like a completely random moment, for us it was a reminder that we’re indeed playing a kinda cheesy comic book video game.
The open-world sandbox-style Gotham City is decent, but also tends to lack the depth we’ve seen in previous Batman games. Scouring the city for collectibles, like the batarangs, was fun for the first few hours, but after a while it was difficult to not miss meatier collectibles like the riddler clue puzzles from the Arkham series. It does take a while for the map to fill up with more to do but the amount of content to consume in the open world is nothing to write home about. Most of the time I was underwhelmed with how few surprises were in store, with a setting as chaotic as Gotham City.
Where the tables start to turn however is when the RPG elements come into play. For some, this might be where Gotham Knights loses its appeal, when compared with the action-heavy Arkham games. Players will be reminded that they need to reach certain levels, before trying to take on certain missions. You’ll need to not only level up your character but also to decide where you wish to allocate ability points from the three different skill trees unique to each hero. While Knights features a crafting system for weapons and armor, what’s eye-catching are the various armor designs that you can sport when playing as your character. While this might add a bit of complexity (it is an RPG after all!) this allows you to tailor your character to your playstyle and have fun with the various abilities that do contribute to a bit of variety from the dull recycled free-form combat.
While it is fair to say Gotham Knights has its charm, I definitely did not feel that way about its odd UI decisions. The batcomputer main menu option looks like it was ripped directly from a mobile game with the crafting icons and text looking like something out of a mid-2000’s MMORPG. Pair that with random frame drops during crime missions and weird visual glitches like Jason Todd’s sweater strings awkwardly pointing outwards. Enough evidence to show that this is a product that obviously needed a bit more time in the oven.
It’s essential to remember Gotham Knights is trying to set itself apart from the Arkham games. This is an action RPG and it does include all the ingredients you’d expect one to have in 2022. While it has its faults, the core experience makes up for it with the dozens of solid hours you’ll have dropping into Gotham City with friends clearing out missions, and taking out iconic Gotham City villains. Is this a day-one purchase? Absolutely not, but with the holiday season just around the corner and a possible drop in price, then you might want to open up your wallet and take a stroll back into Gotham.
Gotham Knights: Gotham Knights is certainly no worthy successor to the Arkham series, but it is fair to say WB Games Montreal took a stab at delivering something new. When you can forget about the frame drops and funky glitches, a group of new heroes to play is refreshing and, when paired with co-op, offers up some of the most fun moments you’ll have in Gotham City. – JaredL