Experienced Points: Batman Needs Robin

By Shamus
on Jul 14, 2015
Filed under:
Column

My column this week is a little bit about why Robin is often overlooked in movies and games, and why now is a good time for the Arkham games to start using him.

I was really disappointed in how limited the team fights are in Arkham Knight. You team up with Catwoman in Riddler’s stuff, you team up with Nightwing to fight Penguin, and you very briefly team up with Robin somewhere in the middle of the story. That’s a trivial slice of the overall game. There are more predator encounters than team fights. More Ubisoft-style towers to clear than team fights. There’s way more tank fights, more Batmobile races, and more puzzles.

It’s a shame that the strongest and most promising feature in the game was left as sort of an afterthought.

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20209Feeling chatty? There are 49 comments.

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  1. Robyrt says:

    Ubisoft towers are cheap to develop and easy to understand. How do you get a view of your surroundings? Go up high and perch moodily on a gargoyle somewhere. Now replicate that exact scripted sequence 20 times, evenly spaced across the open world. Unlike quests, nobody will complain if the 18th tower panorama is identical to the 1st.

    By contrast, team fights are the most complex thing in the game. I had trouble remembering all of Batman’s gadgets in Arkham City, and now you want me to remember two different sets of gadgets and switch between them on the fly? The average customer probably feels overwhelmed. There’s lots of potential there, but you need to build up to it – maybe by having a whole section of the main story as Nightwing, so you can get used to it.

    • Neil D says:

      That’s a good point. I enjoyed the team fights but I kept to punching and blocking so I wasn’t getting the full experience.

      I actually really miss the predator challenge rooms and how running the same room with Robin or Nightwing gave you different objectives and changed the approach.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      And it would have clashed with the story of Batman trying to drive his partners away. Which is why they should have just skipped that part of the story.

      EDIT: Ok you won me over. I’d forgotten already how much I enjoyed the banter, especially with Nightwing. The game could have used more of that. Also, would have set up a nice dramatic opportunity for Nightwing to fall at some point in the story so that you can miss him which would have been reinforced by the sudden absence of banter and the lack of a teammate making the fights harder.

      This would then set up a moment of rejoicing when Batman is at his lowest and Nightwing shows up recovered, we get banter and the overwhelming fight turns in their favor.

      There’s a lot you could do with this.

    • This isn’t a critique of any POV about team fights, but for some reason, the discussion reminded me of both the Venture Bros. “Mecha Shiva” gag as well as the two-player fighting mechanic in the old Simpsons coin-op arcade game where one character could jump on another’s shoulders to temporarily become more powerful.

    • tzeneth says:

      On a slight tangent. I’m now imagining Batman and Spiderman meeting in the same city arguing over who gets to stand moodily on a particular gargoyle. “Hey this is my gargoyle until 9:30pm. You get him after that until 8am and then he’s free for whoever needs him until 6pm.”

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Batman needs Spiderman. They’d be like Cable and Deadpool for people who don’t like anti-heroes. And I’m not even talking about baman piderman which was its own brand of amazing.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyvZ04KKhFY

          I’d forgive everything if Rocksteady released a Baman skin based on Baman Piderman. I’d beg their forgiveness for everything mean I’ve said about them if they included an alternate Baman voice pack to replace all of Conroy’s* lines.

          *I love Conroy but having the option to have Baman’s voice for an entire playthrough would be worth every penny to me.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            This is … were those stories written by a 3-year old and animated by … don’t know, another 3-year-old? The “logic” looks like it but some of the concepts don’t.

            … love it :)

  2. Neil D says:

    As usual, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve always been a huge fan of the sidekicks (when handled well), Dick Grayson especially. So I was particularly irritated when in Arkham Knight he gets captured, twice, the second time within 60 seconds of being freed.

    There’s been some well-deserved criticism around the roles of the female characters in the game, but honestly the males didn’t fare any better. I think only Aaron Cash doesn’t wind up captured or sidelined at some point, and only because he’s smart enough to stay in the police station all night.

  3. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I’ve only read the title so far but thats exactly why Batman and Robin suddenly got gal pals in the 50’s.

    • Falterfire says:

      I thought that was (originally) because of fears that people were taking the jokes about what Robin & Batman did in their spare time together too seriously?

      “Here, they both have a love interest, stop making jokes about them being gay.”

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        That’s what I meant. As in “Batman Needs Robin.” That was the joke. Plus, I can’t be sure but I believe that particular attack came before people would have been comfortable joking about it.

        • Mike S. says:

          It was a dead serious warning about the warping effects of comics on developing minds in Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent (1954), which along with the Congressional hearings the same year were probably the peak of the moral panic over the medium in the US.

          (See chapter VII, “I Want to Be a Sex Maniac”, starting on p.174 of what I’m sure is a wholly authorized reprint. The discussion of Batman and Robin specifically starts on 189.)

  4. The Rocketeer says:

    As usual, my only exposure to Batcanon was Batman: The Animated Series, so my exposure to Robin was totally favorable, and I’ve never had the kind of stigma against the character that seems so prevalent otherwise.

    Those memories are getting pretty fuzzy, but I think I remember an episode where they were trapped in a simulated world by the Riddler, and they let on that Robin might be better at solving puzzles than Batman; Robin starts solving the puzzles too quickly, and Riddler gets mad and cheats to take out Robin. Then Batman absolutely wins by cheating.

    I should rewatch some of those episodes sometime.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      The Animated Series was my first introduction too, but from what I understand that is a very good thing. Most hardcore Bat-fans I know tend to say it was one of the best over all representations of Bat-canon.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        And (to be frank), it’s WAY better than it could/should/would have been. There’s a tremendous number of tiny touches that make the villains a little bit more more human and comprehensible (well, maybe except Joker, because he’s the Joker) and make Batman clearly a little less firmly in his right mind.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Not seen the show, but I’ve heard that Arkham Knight rather overexposes the Batcannon.

    • DanMan says:

      Now I am drawing from several years ago, but I believe the episode you are referring to involves Riddler drawing them into a sort of video game/matrix type world. The episode begins with the idea that Robin is wasting his time with these games and Bats wants to be all serious. Then Robin shows that it’s not a waste of time because look at how useful it is in this one specific scenario.

      And I don’t remember for certain, but I thought it was Robin’s idea to cheat on the Rubics Cube puzzle. Maybe I’m mixing memories, but I thought he wasn’t able to beat it, so he’d pull off all the stickers and re-arange them to “win”.

    • Jonathan says:

      I remember that.
      “I solved a Rubix cube in 37 seconds! Well, I used a sledgehammer and superglue.”

  5. Benjamin Hilton says:

    I snorted heavily at “he’s got that Bat-stick up his butt.

    As an aside this is actually another reason I like the animated series so much. Bruce is a very stoic person and takes his job seriously, but when he is with people he trusts/is comfortable around, he does have a sense of humor(albeit a dry one).

    In the very first episode people think Bat-man threw some security guard out a window. When they find evidence that proves otherwise Alfred says “oh that wasn’t you tossing guards out windows?” and Bruce replies with a completely dead-pan voice “No Alfred. I only toss Butlers.”

    I always remembered that joke because it was a perfect representation of how Bat-man could be a real human with a personality while not oing the route of Adam West.

  6. Groboclown says:

    There was one Batman game that got this right.

    Lego Batman

    (Well the first two, anyway. The third one was really a Justice League game, but WB execs think that only Batman can sell things, which might be true.)

    With the two-player action, or switching between characters if you don’t have a couch buddy, they had the Robin with the Bats, and it worked.

  7. Alex says:

    I agree with everything you said here. I’d also add that having open world content for the sidekicks like with Catwoman in Arkham City would be a joy. Imagine: you have a sidequest where you switch to Nightwing to go track down another of the Penguin’s hideouts. You find a gang you want to beat up. You press the “Call Batmobile” button and the Batmobile drives up, Batman leaps out, and you start another awesome tag team fight.

  8. James says:

    So in the comics Tim Drake, gets introduced under the idea that Batman needs a Robin, as someone to remind him of the victims of crime and not just the criminals. the human element of crime and not just vengeance and retribution, Tim also also a massive fucking fanboy. hell even when he became his own hero he became Red Robin and not something completely unique like Nightwing or Red Hood.

    Its kinda of sad that Robin has been somewhat excised from modern batman in the non-comic verse, but from what we’ve seen from BvS and Suicide Squad we might get some Robin action in the future, probably with Tim Drake, and maby the introduction of Jason as Red Hood as a villian in one of the new films. well i hope anyway

  9. Alan says:

    Important correction: Batman does not have a butt. He has a Bat-Cave.

    (sorrynotsorry.)

  10. Christopher says:

    I don’t think having sidekicks with you would really be appropriate for moving around on an island trying to solve riddles. It sounds fun for the fights, though. Letting you change weapons on the fly is a staple of cool beat ’em ups/brawlers.

  11. Dreadjaws says:

    So, Shamus, I’m curious. Since your opinion of Robin only improved on this game, I take it you didn’t play Arkham City’s DLC in which you play as him? Or were you all the time thinking “Man, I can’t wait until the game stops having this bufoon as the main character so I can come back to play as Batman!”?

    I mention this because Robin has some good characterization in that DLC. It’s brief, of course, since you not play only as him and it’s like a two-hour mission at most, but you don’t see him as the useless goof that pop culture will have you believe he is.

    Now, all we need is a good Aquaman game for this to happen to the King of the seas. Get on it, Rocksteady!

    • Shamus says:

      I think the DLC is when I started warming up to the idea. I really disliked the DLC (too linear, too many cutscenes, kinda got bored) but I really liked having a different hero to work with. It was actually a little sad when I switched back to Bats.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    One more thing that you could do with sidekicks,and that is very popular these days: Co-op multiplayer.Which makes it even stranger that they didnt go that route instead.

    • Vect says:

      They sort of did that in the multiplayer mode of Arkham Origins, which was a three-way battle between Bane’s gang, Joker’s gang and Batman & Robin. B&R’s goal is to incapacitate enough enemies to intimidate the gangs into quitting while the two gangs go at it.

  13. Mephane says:

    I haven’t played the game, but I can say from my general preference, that I would be torn about such a game mechanic. I enjoy decent banter amongst the team as much as anyone, and I can imagine team fights as described by Shamus to be really awesome, but there is one thing I can hardly ever accept: mandatory switching of characters. When I play the game I want to concentrate on the one character I play, which is preferrably a character I design (ideally not just how they look, but also their personality), but even when it is a pre-defined character about which I have no say at all, I want to focus my attention to this one character. It’s the very reason why I have no interest in playing GTA V myself, either.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      If I understand the mechanics correctly,its not mandatory.You can activate it during combat if your meter is high enough,or you can decide not to do it.Why would you have a problem with that option?

      • Mephane says:

        Okay, fair enough. The article sounded like control would switch around between characters automatically.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          If you preform a combo takedown,yes.The only thing Im unclear on is whether the combo takedown is separate from the regular takedown,or does it replace it at certain sections of the game.

          • Shamus says:

            For clarity: It’s a new, additional type of takedown. For people who haven’t played the games:

            * A combo takedown is available once the combo meter reaches a threshold. You can press some buttons and instantly take someone out of the fight. If you whiff a punch, get hit, or otherwise break the combo, you lose this opportunity until you fill the meter again.

            * A team takedown becomes available when you knock out N mooks. It’s not tied to the combo meter and you can’t “lose” it the way you can lose your combo. During the fight, you have the ability to switch between the two characters with the push of a button. It’s a little disorienting, but it’s available if you want. Once the team takedown is available, that button activates the team takedown instead. So, it still switches between characters, but now it does so with a little acrobatic show that removes 1 guy from the fight. If you don’t like controlling Nightwing, you could tap the button again to jump back to Bats.

            It sounds complex, but it’s actually pretty easy to intuit when you’re playing the game.

        • Vect says:

          You switch characters at the press of a button. Filling up the Dual Takedown gauge makes it so that when you switch, the two characters do a combo attack where the guy you’re switching from kicks the enemy towards the guy you’re switching to, who knocks them the hell out. It’s an automatic KO for most enemies and in the case of a boss (a really big dude) it’s sort of necessary to take him out.

  14. mwchase says:

    “Without Robin Batman is Nothing”

    “Batman Needs Robin”

    Is it just me, or did they kind of tone down the title this time around?

  15. Darren says:

    I’ll have to wait until I escape my work’s internet filter to read the full article, but on the topic of the dual fights I think they are very fun but also extremely easy. The dual takedowns have to build relatively fast if you want to do more than one before you and an AI partner take down all the mooks, but even if they didn’t a skilled player and a decent AI is just too much for the enemy to handle. The game already struggles to adequately challenge players who have up to three other games’ worth of experience with the system without adding frustrating or cheap enemy types, and the dual combat totally smashes through the whole thing. I can see how Rocksteady might have worried about overdoing it, to say nothing of the concern of watering down the gameplay with too much focus on character’s without Batman’s full suite of moves and gadgets.

    What would have been better is more dual hunter challenges, of which there is exactly one in the game. It would have been a great opportunity to further differentiate the other characters from Batman and create cool new setups that require both characters to pull off.

    Having said that, this is the feature of the game that I think is most damaged by the paucity of challenge maps. I don’t know if there was a problem with the development schedule, a desire for more DLC opportunities, or data showing that players didn’t spend much time on the challenge maps so it wasn’t worth the effort, but it’s a big blow to the game.

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