I've been in limbo since 2015, wondering what will become of Gotham City after Batman dies in Batman: Arkham Knight‘s Knightfall protocol. The question on my mind: what’s Gotham City without Batman? Will anyone ever be able to fill Batman's shoes? Surely, the city will devolve into chaos, so is there someone else powerful enough to instill the same “fear of the (K)night” in villainy's hearts, or at the very least, help us forget about the match made in heaven that is the Dark Knight and Gotham City?
Enter Gotham Knights, a new title in the Arkham series in which four DC Comics characters from the Bat-family step out of the shadows of the Dark Knight and attempt to fill his shoes. Of course, these are pretty big shoes to fill, which is likely why Rocksteady felt they needed to add up to four playable DC characters. Furthermore, the trailer reassured me that I had nothing to worry about; great things were on the way. So I clung on tight, anticipating yet another mind-blowing Arkham game.
And after a long wait, Gotham Knights is finally here, available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC from October 21st, 2022. If you feel unsure whether Gotham Knights is worth your money and time, we've got you covered with a thorough Gotham Knights review, so you know exactly what to expect to help you decide. Let’s get to it then.
An Untimely Death to Remember
At the premise, Gotham Knights kicks things off with the tragic death of Batman. That alone is enough to get anyone hooked, especially since the last Arkham game ended things abruptly with Batman dying. With such a specific connection from one game to the next, it makes you wonder whether Gotham Knights is a sequel to Batman: Arkham Knight.
The tragic death of Batman is one to remember, especially given how long it dragged out. Gotham Knights begins with a lengthy opening scene where Batman attempts to fight off Ra's al Ghul but is outmatched, and the Batcave comes crashing down on him. As the Gotham Knights – Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood, and Batgirl – stand over the rubble, grieving their mentor's death, they decide to stick around Gotham for a while, picking up where Batman left off and solving the mystery that led to his death.
Gotham Knights is Not a Sequel to Arkham Knight
Before we get too far, though, it’s important to note that Gotham Knights is, in fact, not a sequel to Arkham Knight. Sure. The Gotham Knights pick up where the Arkham Knights left off. However, the two games are set in an entirely different, somewhat parallel universe. Essentially, the Batman that died in Arkham Knight is not the same one who dies in Gotham Knights.
That said, it’s pretty easy to spot similarities between the two games, from the game design to the shared characters and villains to the freeflow combat, so much so that if you've played any of the games from the Arkham series, you’ll transition pretty smoothly into this one. I’m putting that disclaimer here because of how aggressive players are comparing Gotham Knights to the Arkham series, thus placing them on the same caliber of gaming.
And how can you not? Because no matter how dead the Dark Knight is, Gotham Knights still manages to lean quite heavily on his legacy, including similar villains, some of whom exist solely because Batman did. And since Gotham Knights uses the same old script from Rocksteady’s Arkham series, even though it holds great potential to set itself apart and be its own boss, I’ll go right ahead and compare it to the Arkham games.
A Lackluster Story
In the wake of the Dark Knight’s death, Gotham descends into chaos, with all sorts of villainy characters seeking to wield power. As you take down one power-hungry opponent after another, you’ll soon come to face the worst threat of them all, an ancient order called the Court of Owls that has been controlling Gotham’s leaders from the shadows.
It seems exciting to take down a secret society, doesn’t it? All the twists and turns you might expect from an order that controls every inch of Gotham for hundreds of years? Essentially, knowing everything that goes down? But sadly, when you come off the high of Batman’s demise, expecting the story to develop more interesting story arcs down the road is but a layman's wish that goes unfulfilled.
There’s nothing that throws you off your seat or makes you truly want to find out more. No twists or surprising turns you’d expect to come from the compelling takes on Batman’s adventures. Surely the four Gotham Knights can conjure up more interesting story arcs. Perhaps from their backgrounds?
It Gets Worse
There’s Red Hood (Jason Todd), who was a former Robin, kidnapped by the Joker, killed, and resurrected, which turned him into a vigilante out for blood. Later on, though, he was revived and got back to the good side. Nightwing (Dick Grayson), also a former Robin and Batman’s first protege, used to be a circus performer before his parents died.
Current in-game Robin (Tim Drake) is more detective-y, then there’s Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), who’s Police Commissioner Jim Gordon's daughter turned teen vigilante and tech wiz. None of these backstories are talked about to explain how they might affect the rest of the Gotham Knights. Instead, the game just drops you into a chaotic Gotham filled with nothing but pleasantries, solely focused on the missions at hand.
At its core, Gotham Knights is a patrol game about tracking down a string of villains, from Harley Quinn to Mr. Freeze, to Penguin, to Clayface, to Dr. Kirk Langston (who’s the villain Man-Bat from the comics), to the mysterious Court of Owls. If you happen to wonder who these people are, how important they are, whether they are working with the mysterious Court of Owls or whatever Lazarus Pits is.
It’s as if you’re expected to have read the comics or look clueless about whatever’s happening. Just throw me into absolute chaos, assuming I’ll figure it all out, will you?
Keep ‘em Busy, That’ll Fix Things
Hours into the game, you’ll probably realize it’s time to throw in the towel on the story ever getting juicier. So, you move on to moment-to-moment combat. After all, this is what you came for.
Gotham Knights is a co-op game that you can grind with a plus one. All four characters have their own unique skills, and you can choose to play either one at will. But we say grind because you will have to grind. Seriously.
Tracking down a string of the dodgiest Gotham villains isn’t a one-day job. You’ll be spending precious time jumping from one mission to the next, tracking down and bringing to justice one villain after the other. In the end, you’ll need to take down the Court of Owls. The core concept isn’t particularly bad. What’s most annoying is the repeated busy work you’ll have to do just to get to the finish line.
From the repetitive interrogations of villain factions to the side quests forcing you to go down to every part of the map looking for clues, scanning for drones, and pacing down Gotham aimlessly, all with restrictive gear and RPG elements that can only be upgraded by making it through to the next story mode. With time, it all gets painfully linear with no unique, exciting moments or reveals to keep you engaged.
Gotham Knights is a game that squeezes too many RPG elements, all to solve Batman’s death. Several mission locations are scattered all over the map. An entire roster of potential villains to investigate. A whole lot of gear stats, mods, effects, and rarities. The villains have their own loot too, from snipers to drones to big guns with shields.
Unfortunately, the end result is a disorganized, cluttered screen. But it’s the only way to level up: crafting stronger versions of the same gear to stay competitive with opponents. At some points, you’ll have to spend a few hours on side missions. Not because it’s exciting, but just so you can level up.
Each character unlocks their skills and levels up their gear individually too. So when you switch from Red Hood to Batgirl, for instance, you’ll have to start all over doing the same heavy busy work to get her up to speed.
Let’s Talk Combat
Especially when compared to the Arkham series, Gotham Knights’ combat is overly simplistic. It doesn’t nearly feel as satisfying or as in control as the Arkham series. At best, you’re relying on the same attack system, constantly waiting around for your skills meter to level up.
At least each of the four Gotham Knights has unique abilities. They all play differently, so you can always jump from one character to the next to keep things interesting.
- Batgirl's got her combo attacks and tech wizness for disabling security cameras and such.
- Nightwing's acrobatic skills and healing abilities.
- Red Hood’s muscle for tanking hits and crowd-control.
- Robin’s stealth game, pacing through Gotham when you don’t want to make a scene.
Still, you never really reach the level of the tank, support, and DPS from the Arkham series, which is disappointing considering how similar the combat is. Unless you’re willing to grind, earn XP rewards, level up your gear, and gain extra mods, you’ll always feel like you’re playing a watered-down version of Batman from Arkham.
Considering the Arkham series was released years ago, Gotham Knights ought to play much better on next-gen consoles. Unfortunately, the game has bugs, glitches, and framerate issues that run at low frame rates, dropping to 30 fps when it gets busier.
When frame drops kick in and the game crashes at the most opportune times, it makes the game a pain to play, or even unplayable on lesser hardware. It’s especially disappointing because the other technicalities: graphics, animations, and even the open world itself, look really good.
As much as Gotham Knights claims to be a standalone game, it leans heavily on its predecessor’s Arkham series, which we can’t help but feel is a disappointing entry attempting to follow in the footsteps of much greater Batman games.
Playing Gotham Knights with a friend can be fun, exploring the vast open world of Gotham as entirely different characters. However, the lackluster story, unsatisfying combat, and performance issues ultimately deem it an unworthy successor of both Arkham’s and Batman’s legacy.
Gotham Knights Review (Xbox Series X|S, PS5 & PC)
A Half-Baked Attempt at Reviving Batman’s Legacy
Gotham Knights is a standalone action RPG following Batgirl, Red Hood, Nightwing, and Robin as they unravel the mystery behind Batman’s death. While it seems unfair to compare it to the decade-plus of Batman games, Gotham Knights itself insists on this, hurting its chances at being a worthy successor to the Batman legacy.