Gotham Knights - Batgirl

Okay, so I just completed my New Game+ playthrough of Gotham Knights, and this is the one Platinum Trophy I’ve earned in 2022 (I don’t imagine that I’ll earn any more Plats this year). And, oof, this game is a mess. There’s so much wrong with it, including its disastrous crafting system, the confusing rollback of its leveling system, and plot decisions that I still don’t agree with.

Gotham Knights fails at being an RPG, and it mostly fails at being an open-world game. Having been through the game twice now, I’m pretty convinced that this game has about half the content of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which itself already didn’t feel like a full game when compared with its bulky older brother, Marvel’s Spider-Man.

But all of these mistakes — and there are even more mistakes that I haven’t mentioned — are piled on top of a really solid foundation. I honestly had a ton of fun with this game.

Gotham Knights

Most of this has to do with the combat system, which isn’t as complex as, say, the Arkham games — or the aforementioned Marvel’s Spider-Man — but I don’t have a problem with that. To be honest, I kind of hated the parry system of Arkham City, which Marvel’s Spider-Man borrowed from liberally. Sometimes, I just want to mash buttons and watch bad guys flop onto the pavement like that dead fish you forgot about in the back of your fridge until it got so rancid that part of it stuck to a piece of Tupperware, so when you pulled out your casserole to reheat it, the stupid, rancid fish just splattered onto the kitchen linoleum in front of the fridge, and then your dog threw up on your slippers because it all smelled so bad that not even Sir Barksly could be in the same room as it.

Okay, so that analogy got way out of hand. But sometimes I just want to mash square and watch my character zip around, performing all sorts of impossible acrobatics. It’s super relaxing to not have to deal with those exclamation points, or lightning bolts, or whatever that symbol was that signaled an enemy attack, which forced you to interrupt your smooth combo with the less-smooth triangle-button parry to break you out of your brainless flow state.

There’s enough randomness to crimes in Gotham that you can play and re-play your way through several nights without feeling too burned out. Even after completing every side story — and the main story twice — I still enjoy patrolling the city and punching criminals in their stupid faces. It just feels so satisfying to line up twelve Premeditated Crimes (which show up as warning symbols on your map), and then go through them one by one, cleaning up the city from top to bottom (or bottom to top, you absolute rebel).

I also really enjoyed the side stories. I admit that I’m not really a fan of Mr. Freeze, but I do get why he’s such a mainstay in the video games. He’s the Batman baddie who feels the most video-gamey, I think, and while he was my least favorite villain in this entire game, he did have a couple standout scenes that made his inclusion worthwhile.

Gotham Knights - Harley Quinn

But Harley Quinn? Her story was really fun. She’s become a TV celebrity who’s hawking debunked medical solutions to the citizenry of Gotham, which was a great role for her. I would maybe question the ease at which she’s able to pull off this deception, since I assume most Gothamites should be at least mildly familiar with her criminal past, but after witnessing the past five years of political discourse in the United States, there’s no level of pseudoscientific gullibility that seems implausible to me. Plus, Harley’s scenes have what I would argue are the best set pieces in the game.

Clayface’s side story is another standout, with a bizarre premise (he’s trying to make a movie about his battle with Batman) that turns surprisingly heartfelt and emotional. I honestly felt pity for the poor, globby mass of muck by the time I completed his case file.

I also really enjoyed Penguin’s role as this reformed gangster who still has no qualms about double-crossing his allies to protect his own skin. He makes for a much more compelling character in Gotham Knights than in any of the other Batman video games I’ve played (I do enjoy Penguin in the comics, admittedly).

Gotham Knights - Penguin

I was a bit nervous about what WB Games Montréal had planned for the Court of Owls, because I absolutely love them in the comics. While there’s definitely room for improvement, I think that the Court proved to be a compelling enough villain to drive the majority of Gotham Knights‘ story. And even though the League of Assassins comes in at the eleventh hour to attempt to steal the spotlight, it’s the Court that I feel was the more interesting batch of villains.

There is, of course, so much content that feels obviously omitted, and its absence is felt in every corner of Gotham. I do realize that WB Games Montréal wanted to keep this game Joker-less, because Joker tends to be such a showstopper, but where are mainstay villains like Riddler, Poison Ivy, the Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, and Two-Face (just to name a few off the top of my head)? And I also don’t understand the choice to have Jim Gordon be dead in this universe, because Gotham feels so much less Gotham-y without him brooding on the rooftop.

I do hope that at least some of these gaps can be filled in with DLC. Because the game is so short, I definitely feel like full-price buyers like myself are deserving of at least one more DLC story as a part of the package. But there’s still a ton of potential to grow this game in some really interesting directions, so long as WB Games Montréal doesn’t abandon it outright.

Gotham Knights

Even without all this content, though, Gotham City looks absolutely stunning, with damp streets and a moist fog that reflects the multicolored neon lights across the city. Just perching atop a gargoyle and looking out over the city is almost worth the price of admission. Almost.

And, come on, the Batcycle is way more fun to ride than I ever expected it to be (especially after the awkwardness of the Batmobile in Arkham Knight).

Are there things I would change about Gotham Knights if I were given the chance? Absolutely. I would have chosen a different version of Batgirl, for example, to preserve Barbara’s role as Oracle. I would have kept Jim Gordon alive. I would have sprinkled more of Gotham’s baddies — the essentials, as well as some of the less mainstream ones like Black Mask, Hush, and Calendar Man — into the side stories. I would have brought in characters like Damian Wayne and Jean-Paul Valley, or at least left the door open to explore more characters via DLC. I would have kept the one-character-at-a-time level system, and I’d at least try to do something to fix the crafting system.

But even with so much wrong with it, I did have a ton of fun with this messy little game. I enjoyed it enough to chase the Platinum Trophy, which is something I haven’t done in a while, and I still look forward to returning to the game if there’s any meaningful DLC added in the future — especially if that means more story content.

So even though Gotham Knights is far from a perfect game — in fact, I wouldn’t even call it a good one — there’s still a compelling experience here for Bat-Fam fans to enjoy. As someone who still has pictures of a four-year-old version of myself dressed up in a Batman costume and making punching gestures at the camera, I am pretty much the target audience for this game. While I can’t say I’m not disappointed, I also can’t say that I didn’t find something to love here.

Gotham Knights

The Court of Owls deserved better, and the Bat-Fam deserved better, but even so, there’s a decent amount of wham-boom-pow action packed into this sloppy little title, and it’s at least worth a playthrough if you happen to find it in a bargain bin (by which I mean a super-deep digital discount — I don’t know that video-game bargain bins even exist anymore).

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