Are the side quests as good as in previous games? Not really. There are a few stand outs, the quest to catch a serial killer at large probably being the best one in my opinion, but most of them feel like open-world filler. I would have preferred less ‘destroy the mines around Gotham’ style missions, and more ‘investigate this crime scene and track down the killer’ style quests. But to me, the most glaring omission is the overall lack of challenge map content. Asylum, City and Origins all launched with more challenge content than the last, yet Knight has launched with the least amount of the entire series. While I feel that there was potentially too much content in Origins, I think City had the most balanced amount of content you could realistically get through. Not only that, but each challenge could be undertaken by any unlocked character – also not true in Knight. Some characters can’t even be used in the challenge maps, despite being in the main game, which is incredibly strange and, in my opinion, a really stupid oversight.
Challenge Maps have been confirmed to be in the Season Pass, but really, it’s pretty unacceptable to be expected to pay extra to play as characters that appear in the main game. Red Hood and Harley Quinn, I would understand, as they are already DLC characters, but why aren’t there any challenges for Robin or Catwoman?The music in the game is incredible, as it has been in the preceding titles. The satisfying instrumental score that serves as the backdrop to the game’s predator encounters is beautifully realized, and always kicks in and fades out at the right moments. Audio glitches aside, the game sounds great, with many hilarious lines of dialogue from random thugs and some truly great voice acting by some of the main characters – I still think the Riddler is one of the best voiced characters in video games.And now, we come to the story. For those of you who still wish to remain unspoiled, feel free to scroll down past the text below: I’ll leave spoilers out of the final paragraph where I’ll post up my final thoughts. For those of you who have finished the game, or just don’t care, read on.
I think, when compared to Arkham City, Knight’s story stands out in some ways as far better, and in some ways as far worse. The fact that it is centered mainly on 3 villains, with the occasional appearance by another being a short diversion, or serving to more fully flesh out those main 3, is a welcome change as it allows you to really focus your efforts on defeating these enemies and makes the main narrative thread far easier to follow.
This main story thread is certainly the most ambitious Rocksteady has attempted, particularly the areas where Gotham is bathed in fear gas, and you view it from both above and below the noxious cloud. This moment is amazing, as it shows you how serious Scarecrow is in his mission, when compared to the villains of the previous games who never really achieved anything quite as horrible. I found the ending that, essentially, all the mental and physical issues that Batman had been struggling through the entire game suddenly don’t matter and he can just will his way through them to be pretty disappointing. I’d just spent 20 hours watching Batman, little by little, eroded away in front of me, so for him to just decide that everything he feared no longer scared him was a bit of a cop out.
Moving on, the moment Barbara Gordon was killed off had a huge amount of emotional weight. Seeing Batman kneeling down before her corpse was striking, and set the tone for what I thought was to be a far more brutal game going forward. Instead, the story backpedals on this move a few hours later, showing that even in a self-contained comic book universe main characters will never die: Except for Joker, of course.
I can’t stress how great it was that Joker didn’t get magically revived somehow, though the concept that his blood is somehow infecting a few people – Batman included – slowly turning them into him is one of the goofier things I’ve ever seen. Some cool scenes came out of it, but ultimately it was a pretty stupid idea.
Where I believe the game has it’s biggest story misstep, however, is with the side quests. Considering there are so many opportunities to tell interesting stories about the other villains of Gotham who have apparently joined forces against the Batman (I can’t remember a single moment where this alliance was important or noticeable in the game), it is disappointing how the majority of these side missions play out. Most of them have to be unlocked organically across the city as you play, a great idea in theory that gets bogged down with you, realizing how hard it is to find a single building with a flaming bat atop it, or a random murder victim crucified on the side of a different one.
Penguin and Two Face have pretty meaty side quests, with one focusing on combat and the other stealth, but for some reason these super villains never collaborate. Why couldn’t there have been one side quest, where each stage jumps from combat to predator, and you are hunting down the united criminals and dealing with their combined forces? Instead, you get to hear them have a few lines of dialogue together after you’ve already brought them both to the GCPD, which essentially amounts too saying ‘I never should have trusted you’ to one another for the rest of time. A wasted opportunity, yes, but that is nothing compared to how disappointing Hush is.
In City, Hush was easily the most interesting part of the entire game: A maniacal serial killer who has stolen Bruce Wayne’s face in order to enact some kind of revenge against him? Awesome. Waiting years to find out what kind of huge plan he had in store was excruciating, and that it turned out to be ‘walk into Wayne Enterprises, beat up the CEO and take him hostage while trying to rob them’ is just… what? For someone who, in the comics, was a criminal mastermind to have a one part quest where you literally talk to him, and hit a single QTE was a terrible choice by Rocksteady, in my opinion.
One last thing: The Arkham Knight’s identity is telegraphed for hours before the reveal, which was a let down for me. I think Jason Todd is an awesome character, and would have been fine with the Knight being him, if only he didn’t take off his mask and then whine for the entirety of his ‘boss fight’, only to change his mind and not want to kill Batman anymore after an entire game where that is all he will talk about. Comic-book logic, I guess, but there are so many ways this character could have been handled better.
END OF SPOILERS
In the end, I really want to like Arkham Knight more than I do. It brings a lot of new things to the Arkhamverse, which is great, even when some of them don’t work 100% of the time. The overuse of tank battles in lieu of actual fist fights is frustrating, especially considering how polished the combat and predator sections of the game are. The lack of challenge maps sting right now, and I think it’s unfair to ask people to pay extra for something that has been a series staple until now.
However, there is a lot to like in this game, and after a few patches it’ll probably be even better. The combat is tight, soaring through Gotham feels fantastic, and hunting down criminals from atop a gargoyle is still one of my favourite things to do. It’s just a shame that between those parts there are many, many tank missions.