The DC universe finally returns to PC and consoles with the new title of the authors of Arkham Origins, but in this case Batman is not there: we tried Gotham Knights.
There is no doubt that the management of licenses related to DC characters at Warner Bros. is a chaotic moment: beyond the extraordinary messes on a cinematic level, even on the video game front the situation is not exciting. In fact, more than seven years have passed since the release of the splendid Batman: Arkham Knight and still today the Dark Knight, a character that everyone knows and who generally sells even just for the name, is sensationally absent from PC and console.
There’s more: instead of continuing the Arkhamverse “prequel” timeline inaugurated with the excellent Arkham Origins, the guys from WB Games Montreal they thought it was a good idea to create a separate narrative universe, therefore different from the one we will find in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, but with one element in common: here too Batman is dead and it is his pupils who have to take on the burden to protect Gotham.
But let’s put aside for a moment the perplexities we have towards this narrative approach, because we have tried Gotham Knights for a few hours and we got a pretty clear idea of what this new action RPG can offer to the many fans of DC heroes.
We have just mentioned it: the incipit of Gotham Knights is represented by Batman’s death, probably at the hands of the deadly Talons of the Court of Owls. Before disappearing from the scene, however, Bruce Wayne has time to send a message to his pupils, officially investing them with the role of protectors of the city, now that he is gone.
Nightwing (Dick Grayson, the first Robin), Red Hood (Jason Todd, the second Robin), Robin (Tim Drake, Batman’s last sidekick) e Batgirl (Barbara Gordon, here in great shape and not confined to a wheelchair) can not help but accept the task and therefore decide to work together using the Gotham Bell Tower as headquarters.
The newly formed Gotham Knights team aims to find out first what really happened to Batman, but to succeed in the enterprise, the four heroes will have to follow different tracks and face some of the best known and most dangerous villains in the DC universe, namely Harley Quinn, Mr Freeze, Clayface, the Penguin and finally the aforementioned Court of Owls.
During our rehearsal we were able to dedicate ourselves to some of the missions related to the narrative vein of Harley Quinnstarting from the first assignments and investigations related to a series of heinous murders to then get to the confrontation with the famous criminal, who apparently wishes to take advantage of Batman’s absence to launch his own attack on Gotham.
Let’s start by saying that those who somehow expect an experience firmly linked to the Batman: Arkham saga will not be disappointed. Although in fact the developers have opted for a gameplay purely action RPG, therefore with the numerical representation of the damage inflicted with each hit and a multifaceted system of upgrades and customization based on unlockable objects, the freeflow is always there to cheer our fist fights.
Let’s talk about a combat system which over the years has changed the face of the action genre and which, not surprisingly, Insomniac Games wanted to appropriate for the exciting Marvel’s Spider-Man. In the case of Gotham Knights, however, the tolerances are the same as those of the Rocksteady games, so the flow of beatings does not stop if an opponent is that extra meter away: our character will shoot automatically and hit him anyway.
During the test we appreciated the performance of the impacts, with the inevitable slow-motion emphasis on the shot that concludes the clash, while feeling the lack of counterattacks, which however could also be included in the repertoire of the protagonists once the right enhancement is unlocked, for what we know. Very good instead skillswhich act as a characterizing trait for each of the playable characters, allow you to create builds with a different approach and provide attacks that are as spectacular as they are effective, capable of changing the fate of a fight that maybe was getting bad.
Phases stealth are integrated into the gameplay, in the sense that it is possible to move silently and catch opponents from behind to knock them out in a discreet or striking way, while it is not yet clear if and what can be done from the holds: it is a mechanic that both Batman: Arkham as much as Marvel’s Spider-Man have exploited thoroughly and in a very funny way, so it would be a shame to deprive yourself of it.
To deepen the investigative aspectswhich rely on Detective Mode for finding and analyzing tracks, as well as solving some puzzles.
Clearly the Gotham Knights experience is not limited to the fighting, which is also the core of the product. The setting open world provides the entire city of Gotham in a freely explorable version, divided into different zones and as usual full of criminals on the loose, with which we can interact at any time while we travel aboard the Batcycle, we pass from a hold to a ‘more with the grappling hook or we use the extra maneuvers for movement in the map.
Nightwing, for example, can recall his glider on the fly, while Red Hood “bounces” on energy barriers that come from his mystical background: tools that allow you to move even for long stretches, but rather slowly. In short, in the event that you have to reach the other part of the city, it is better to rely on the motorcycle or the fast movements, which are unlocked after completing certain activities.
Speaking of fast movements, reaching the Bell Tower at any time in the campaign will give us the opportunity to interact with what remains of Batman’s equipment and use it to discover new possible upgrades: an interesting solution also on a narrative level, when the pupils of the Dark Knight they find that their missing mentor can still teach them something. In the headquarters we will also have the opportunity to freely change character and try our hand at some tutorials needed to learn certain moves.
During our test we mainly used Batgirl and Nightwing, appreciating the balance of the two heroes in dealing with any type of situation and their special abilities. Red Hood and Robin seemed to us instead more focused respectively on action and stealth, but we hope to be able to better investigate these aspects in the review phase and find out if the protagonists are actually well differentiated.
Gotham Knights looks promising and has the potential to engage all fans of DC heroes in a new, spectacular adventure. True, all the perplexities of the case remain for the choice of having two different videogame universes under the same publisher, both without Batman, but let’s imagine that Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin and Red Hood have all the credentials to do well and carve out its own space.
The open world that is the basis for the game is of a traditional type, with random events on the streets (for example chases and robberies) with which we can decide to try our hand or not, and in the same way secondary quests, even fairly demanding ones that enrich a list of missions that promises to be quite substantial. Of course, even the actual validity of the scenario will be checked more calmly and not all the solutions for moving around the map appear exciting.
There is therefore a large portion of gameplay that we have not had the opportunity to fully explore, but what we have been able to experience about the combat system works very well and also bodes well as regards all the features that the moment seem to be missing and could still find their own space.
Artistically very interesting, Gotham Knights boasts a remarkable technical sector and the version we tried already had the dubbing in Italianwhich can count on a cast of undoubtedly very good actors, although the tone of certain dialogues sometimes leaves us perplexed: perhaps it is the usual problem of blind interpretation, but even here there will be a way to deepen.
Gotham Knights could be the tie-in that the many Batman: Arkham fans have been waiting for, although the game deliberately does without the most prized and fascinating character of the DC house, using his death as a stimulus for the evolution of the various Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood and Robin. Our test was very pleasant, the combat system is solid and both from a technical and structural point of view as well as from an artistic one, the game boasts enormous potential: will it be able to fully express it?
- Solid and fun freeflow combat system
- Traditional open world but apparently dense and interesting
- Technically excellent, well dubbed in Italian
- Gotham Knights are not Batman, there is little to do
- Some mechanics still to be verified
- The management is not surprising for the moment