Gotham City rot he was waiting for Batman’s departure to sink his claws back into the heart of the city that never sleeps. The disappearance of the Dark Knight has left an apparently unbridgeable void in the streets, torn and oppressed by a crazy and rampant crime. But four horsemen are ready to rise from the ashes of their pain for embrace the legacy of your mentor. Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin and Red Hood are the Gotham Knights, the paladins who will continue the Batman mission to fight evil and get answers about their master’s death. And we, just a few weeks away from launch, got our hands on a demo of the Warner Bros Games game. Now we’re finally ready to tell you our first impressions of the DC Comics-inspired adventure.
The build we tested gave us the opportunity to live some of the first missions in which players will have to embark on an action adventure set in the Batman universe. It should first be specified that our test was dedicated entirely to the single player mode of Gotham Knights. As many fans will know, in fact, the title will enjoy a multiplayer sector in which users will be able to join forces by impersonating two of the four heroes, but the entire campaign will still be available for a solo experience, which will allow you to select from time to time turn the character with whom to complete the story and the various secondary tasks.
We were first called upon to choose one of the four vigilantes. It must also be specified that the protagonist can be changed before each quest, and that the plot it will not undergo particular variations depending on the member of the Batfamiglia who will take the field. To change, at most, will be the lines of dialogue that the character will exchange with the other supporting actors of the story, without any particular influence – at least according to what we have seen – on the supporting script. We then left with Barbara Gordon, with the aim of exploring a university center to look for clues about a recent murder.
The purpose of the four knights of Gotham is in fact to continue the investigations that the Dark Knight had started before he died: the traces lead our heroes to unmask a criminal faction called the Freaks and made up of numerous minions loyal to the insane Harley Quinn. What in all likelihood, from the beginning of the adventure, will prove to be the first official mission of the group has allowed us to become familiar with the controls and above all with the role-playing soul of Gotham Knights. The new Warner Bros title, in fact, almost completely abandons the trappings that characterized the previous Arkham saga, proposing a playful mixture based mainly on the progression of the four main characters and on the constant strengthening of their statistics. We will focus shortly on all the elements that make up the gameplay of Gotham Knights.
Returning to the story, we know that the role of villain should be played by the fearsome Court of Owls (you can read our special on the Court of Owls in Batman to find out more), but the mysterious secret society that threatens to upset the equilibrium of Gotham by plotting in the dark does not seem to find space in the first part of the campaign, centered mostly on the formation of the group after the disappearance of the bat man and on the profound differences between the various components.
After the initial events, the knights can do nothing but contact an old acquaintance of theirs, who could be in possession of information that is invaluable to say the least for the continuation of the investigation: Harley Quinn. However, Joker’s former partner enjoys wreaking havoc within the walls of Gotham’s maximum security prison, Blackgate, and it was obviously our job to put her henchmen back in line and convince her to provide us with the clues we needed. . The discoveries of Dick, Barbara, Tim and Jason, finally lead them to the Iceberg Lounge, the criminal court of the Penguin, but it is precisely on this point of history that unfortunately our Gotham Knights test was interrupted. Not before, however, between the initial quest and Harley Quinn’s mission, to have spent a few minutes exploring the city to carry out some collateral tasks such as robberies, kidnappings and various attacks by the Freaks, candidates – at least for now – to represent the main threat on the streets of Gotham.
From Gotham to the Belfry
On a purely structural level, the world of Gotham Knights does not differ too much from the idea of an open world in a “Batmanian” sauce already proposed by Rocksteady: Gotham City is a hodgepodge of activitydifferent movements and places of interest, while some key buildings of the gloomy metropolis (the university, the hospital, the prison, the police station and so on) are the scene of different junctions of the main storyline.
Unlike the titles belonging to the Arkham franchise, however, we are not simply in an area of the city limited to the presence of only criminals, nor in a single night in which the streets are cleared of civilians afraid of a criminal coup. . The adventure is marked by the day-night cycle, but everything we are allowed to do in the light of the sun is planning the next night patrols.
When you go down the street, darkness automatically falls, but the four members of the Batfamiglia will still have to move in an ecosystem made up of citizens (who on more than one occasion will exclaim astonishment as we pass), criminals and even policemen who are not exactly happy with our activities. as a vigilante. In this regard, we have not yet been able to fully test the range of secondary missions, but an interlude between one main quest and the other has allowed us to understand how street crimes will be structured: during the raids among the skyscrapers and in the alleys blinds will have to rescue groups of hostages, defuse bombs, or foiling armored truck robberies loads of money. The movement can take place from one roof to another, using the now iconic system of grapples or imaginative gliding tricks (Batgirl inherited the wing cape from Batman, Nightwing uses a particular drone to cling to, the others we will let you discover ), or on the street, riding the Bat-moto. The driving phases, however, did not particularly impress us: the movement system of the vehicle seemed to us a little too plastered and road holding is not exactly satisfactory. A step back, for now, with respect to the management, physics and possibilities offered by the portentous Arkham Knight Batmobile (our review of Batman Arkham Knight is within reach of Batarang).
The fundamental place for the purposes of the narrative advancement is instead the Belfry: the mighty clock tower of Gotham, once a strategic base for Batman and his allies and now real den instead of the Batcaveis the central hub from which Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin and Red Hood will conduct their operations, rest, power up and interface with the main ally of their crusade, the austere Alfred Pennyworth.
Inside the Belfry some of the most important and useful activities for the progression of the group take place: from here it is possible to change characters to your liking before a patrol and access the Bat-computer to improve their skills. Furthermore, from time to time, each of the protagonists will be able to give life to some optional video sequences, in which we see him interacting with another of the companions and giving life to dialogues. imbued with nostalgia and fanservice. Among these moments, fans will certainly not struggle to identify interesting references to the DC universe or to other historical characters from the Batman comics and appreciate the unveiling of many background on the plot.
In light of the almost three hours spent in the company of the Gotham Knights, it must be admitted that the contents offered within the adventure promise to satisfy even the palates of the most demanding comic readers. Net of a lot (and well managed) fanservice, however, it is the feeling pad in hand that leaves some mixed sensations. Starting from the action frame of the product, which leaves behind the now inflated Arkham free-flow in favor of a less dynamic and fluid combat systemmore focused on calculating stats and alternating between normal attacks and reloadable special shots.
It is here that Gotham Knights’ preponderant role-playing scaffolding emerges. Everything from the power of your enemies to the quality of your gear is governed by level progression and the amount of damage taken or dealt. Surviving in the world of Gotham Knights without taking into account the progression of the four protagonists is simply impossible: every hero has in fact available a basic skill tree, thanks to which it is possible to increase its range of moves, as well as the extension or the complicity of the combos. To embellish this aspect there is also the absence of the counterattack, replaced by a simple dodge.
Batgirl and associates also have some special attacks available that can inflict considerable blows: these “super” obviously have a reload time, quantifiable with a bar called “Momentum” which can be charged by hitting one combo after another. Momentum Attacks reflect each character’s unique abilities for good or bad: Nightwing’s, for example, allow you to take advantage of Grayson’s athletic abilities, while Red Hood’s leverage all of Jason Todd’s impetuousness and physical power.
Gotham Knights’ RPG soul also emerges in the customization of weapons, which can be enriched with elemental upgrades capable of electrocuting opponents or inflicting additional malevolent states to turn the clashes to their advantage. In addition, each protagonist has his own personal throwing object, but whether it is a batarang, a dart or a bullet, the result does not change: the command set up to shoot the support accessories basically serves to give us a little breathing space during the most demanding fights, before returning to punch in the fray.
It goes without saying that even the equipment is subservient to the role-playing soul of Gotham Knights: during this long hands-on we could see a handful of armor, costumes and outfits, all quite different from an aesthetic point of view and with quite varied effects and statistic variations. However, this is an element on which we reserve the right to express a more exhaustive opinion during the review, as well as how much the RPG approach actually affects the experience. For now, however, the feeling is that the GDR drift embarked on by Warner Bros Games is not entirely convincing, the daughter of a school production philosophy and focused on quantity rather than quality. We found the combat system, for example, far more cumbersome than Arkham’s adrenaline-pumping free-flowand even in the stealth phases we found a decisive impoverishment of the options devoted to stealth: now it is simply possible, while remaining stationed on ledges above, to perform silent KOs approaching unsuspecting enemies, but we do not exclude that the progression system of our four heroes does not give the possibility to expand this type of mechanics.
It must be said, however, that each protagonist seemed to us well characterized: if Barbara mostly uses attacks focused on martial arts, Dick uses his batons to land quick and lightning-fast blows; Tim Drake, for his part, makes use of medium range combos thanks to his effective stick, and finally Red Hood adopts a much more violent style, taking advantage of the help of his infallible guns. The movements of the four characters are then embellished with spectacular and well choreographed animationsespecially when – following a more elaborate combination or a hold after having sufficiently weakened an enemy – it is necessary to perform a daring coup de grace.