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Batman: Arkham Design Analysis (Part 2)

by Stanislav Costiuc on 10/22/18 09:38:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Link to Part 1

The following are Design-specific excerpts from my Batman: Arkham Origins and Arkham Knight YouTube videos, which I thought would be the sections of most interest for discussion on this site. If you want to listen more about Context, Aesthetics, Cohesion and Emotions feel free to watch the full videos.

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

"--One of the biggest criticisms that Arkham Origins usually faces is that it doesn’t add anything considerably new to the series and what it does add is not really game changing. And, you know, as far as that point is concerned that much is pretty true. Arkham Origins is heavily based on Arkham City, even going as far as reusing and repurposing the world from the previous game as part of its own world, and as such is really similar to the previous game. I wouldn’t say that it’s a bad thing in and of itself, though.

And despite the game similarities, I think Origins does some things better than Arkham City. For example, the new Detective Mode. In previous games detective mode was essentially a simple hidden object mechanic, and it is pretty much that in Origins as well, but the newly-added reconstruction aspect of the scene where you need to rewind back and forth to find things that you’ve missed adds a pretty interesting layer to the activity and also allows us to hear more of Batman’s detective mindset.

I also think that in general the interior locations are actually better and more memorable than those of Arkham City. They’re more expansive and more varied, with locations like GCPD, the Royal Hotel or Blackgate Prison providing some pretty big chunks of interesting gameplay.

That said, some things don’t work that well. For example, and everybody who knows Origins probably saw this coming, the shock gloves. They create an absolutely dominant strategy in a fight and kinda devalue the intricacies of the combat system. There are also a couple little details that are absent from Arkham City combat flow. For example, in City, when you were doing a beatdown, only counterable enemies would try to hit you so you could get out of the beatdown with a counter and continue the flow. In Origins however, even enemies with unblockable shield attacks will try to break your beatdown and it’s really uncomfortable to evade that attack.

One addition I do like is a deeper rating system that assigns a score and rank depending on how well you have done a combat or predator encounter. The game doesn’t punish you if you don’t get a legendary vigilante or apex predator ratings… but it’s still a nice encouragement to get those kinds of perfect runs.

Arkham Origins also has the Dark Knight Challenges, which are essentially in-game achievements that will reward you with different skills. I don’t mind them in principle, but it’s very annoying that you have to complete them in a particular order and they’re not retroactive. 

Side missions face the same problems as City. There are a couple pretty interesting ones, but most of them are pretty repetitive and not that exciting. And boss battles are… well, fine. Again, a lot of elements are reused from the previous game which had really good boss battles.

So, in the end, Arkham Origins is a game that does some things better than its predecessor, some things worse, and some things just the same, and I believe that even though there are no new big additions in comparison to City, it’s still overall a well-designed, though somewhat flawed, game.--"

 

Batman: Arkham Knight

"--There’s not much to say regarding the core combat and stealth gameplay in addition to what I have talked about before already with previous Rocksteady’s Batman titles. This is probably the best iteration of those, since in addition to what made the two systems great we got introduced to environmental takedowns, fear takedowns and remote hacking, which add just a couple more options to the pool without overcomplicating the systems.

One big new addition that Arkham Knight introduces is the Batmobile. And from gameplay perspective, the Batmobile is great. The controls are tight, there is a definite sense of speed and even weight to the car, the tank mode gives way not only to new combat encounter types but also provides a sometimes much needed better degree of precision when controlling the car. But still, even though the Batmobile feels amazing, it’s one of the biggest issues that Batman: Arkham Knight has.

And the reason for that is how Batmobile is utilized in missions, main ones especially. The game really likes to put Batman in situations where he needs to keep getting out of the Batmobile to open up pathways for the Batmobile to go further. And it’s really flow-breaking, even though the Batmobile does have a remote control mechanism. It doesn’t help that in previous games a lot of issues that are ‘fixed’ by the Batmobile, Batman could successfully tackle without it.

Also there’s just so. Many. Tank battles in this game, especially if you’re trying to complete the side content. To the point that when closer to the end of the main storyline there’s a huge tank assault that you have to defend against, instead of feeling epic the battle feels like a chore by that time.

The side content in Arkham Knight has the same flaws of being very repetitive like in City and Origins, but only now there’s a LOT MORE of repetitive things. And I have criticized previous Arkham games for this, but there’s one thing the side quest lines had going for them there: even if a quest line featured a bunch of repetitive tasks, at the end you would usually get a unique mission to close everything all off. There was a fitting payoff. In Arkham Knight the ratio is the opposite - most of the time you don’t get any special mission at the end, you have the same kind of scenario that just ends the questline.

The last mission to catch Firefly is pretty much the same as the first two ones, only after you catch him instead of escaping, Firefly is subdued. The last mission to catch Harvey Dent is the same kind of bank predator encounter like all the bank heists before, just this one has Harvey join the party at the end and you have to deal with him too. And so on.

My favorite part in the entire game probably has got to be the Stagg blimp section. It’s quintessential, incredibly polished Arkham gameplay that varies navigation with cute physics puzzles, combat scenarios and stealth sections, and also a couple setpieces that advance the plot forward. It’s absolutely amazing. When Arkham Knight works, it really works.

However, Arkham Knight doesn’t always work. Too many riddler trophies with a weird focus on racing, lots of repetitive side content with little variation (which you have to 100% if you want to get the REAL ending), strange game pacing, Batmobile a lot of times feeling forced. The best way I can personally describe Arkham Knight is that it’s a wonderful mess. There’s so much care and polish that is put into the core gameplay and that you can see in different parts of the game there and there, but everything is connected together with a very shaky substance. --"

Thank you all for reading. A special thank you goes to my Patreon supporters. If you'd like, feel free to support my campaign at www.patreon.com/farlands

Farlands has a Discord server focused on gathering people interesting in talking about games and game design. Feel free to join!


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