Batman descends into Old Gotham to look for Ra’s Al Ghul. Well, I guess this is Old Old Gotham, since Arkham City itself is already built from Old Gotham. The city is a bit young to have this many archaeological layers, but comic book gonna comic book.
There’s some puzzles and travel and combat and other tomfoolery. At the end Batman is barely holding it together. The toxins are catching up with him.
Batman was dosed with Titan formula at the end of the last game and came out unscathed. Joker has endured this stuff in his blood for months and only now is it really getting to him. Batman got a diluted dose via Joker’s blood a few hours ago and already he’s in worse shape than Joker.
There’s actually an explanation for why the toxin seems to be so inconsistent. The explanation is, “It’s a videogame based on a comic book.”
The Joker Toxin has been wearing him down over the past hour or so. The game even lowers Batman’s max health. I’m glad his weakness is reflected in gameplay and not confined to cutscenes. Also, this is a good way to gently increase the difficulty without needing to introduce new foes. Remember that this is a game where it’s possible to get through an entire fight without taking a scratch. The game is just being a little less forgiving about how many mistakes you can make in a fight.
Mom? Dad? I don`t want to be rude, but I think you two really need to give me some space.
When Batman reaches the gates of Ra’s Al Ghul’s underground fortress, he collapses face-down on the cobblestones. He sees his parents, because God forbid we get through a Batman story without seeing those two idiots. They beckon him to “come towards the light”, pretty much explicitly calling him to the afterlife. Then Batman snaps out of it and struggles to his feet again.
I’m not a doctor, but I feel safe in saying that if you’re face-down on the cobblestones and having a near-death experience where dead relatives are beckoning you to come into the light, then I think you’re no longer conscious.
Times Batman has been knocked unconscious so far this evening: 5
Batman reaches the end and meets Talia Al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s. Earlier I complained that the game did a poor job of giving us some context for the Batman and Robin relationship, but this exchange with Talia is a pretty good example of the right way to handle things. She references “The one night” they spent together in Metropolis. She know’s he’s Bruce WayneSo does Ra’s, for what it’s worth. and they haven’t talked since then.
We get it. They’re really hot for each other, but their vastly different lives prevent them from forming a stable relationship. The whole exchange takes about half a minute, and it tells us everything we need to know to understand where these two stand. It’s not an expensive thing, and I’m baffled that they couldn’t give Robin a similar setup.
Ra’s actually has a cool gimmick. He thinks he’s the good guy, and he keeps trying to recruit Batman. Ra’s wants to retire from the League of Assassins and let Batman take over.
Hugo Strange: I want to take Batman’s job.
Ra’s Al Ghul: I want Batman to take my job.
The problem is that Ra’s is a big believer in the death penalty and not so much a fan of due process. Batman has refused the job before, but now he’s here under the pretense of having a change of heart. What he really needs is a sample of Ra’s’s blood. While he’s here, I’m hoping he can discover how in the hell you’re supposed to make the name “Ra’s” possessive without creating the grammatical abomination I left in the previous sentence.
To prove you are a worthy successor, I require you to... FLY OVER ALL THIS RANDOM SHIT. Also the floor is lava.
Ra’s is skeptical, but he’s willing to play along. He gives Batman a shot of Lazarus juice to keep him alive for a couple more hours. I thought the Lazarus pit was topical use only, but apparently it’s also drinkable? I don’t know what would happen if I drank from an old man’s glowing Jacuzzi that hadn’t been cleaned out in six hundred years, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get more healthy.
Batman chugs the Lazarus and goes all Fear and Loathing in Old Gotham. He has a psychedelic trip to Boss Fight City. Faceless mooks made of clay appear out of nowhere and Batman has to bash them up.
In movies, visions and dreams can exist entirely in the character’s head. Even if the protagonist gets in what appears to be a life-and-death struggle, once they wake up it’s clear the it was all a dream and the danger was never real. But in a videogame, the “hallucinations” can kill you. If you screw up this encounter, Batman drops dead and you get sent back to the last checkpoint.
Here Talia is urging Batman to kill her father so the two of them can rule the League of Assassins together. He doesn`t. I imagine conversation will be awkward around the Al Ghul breakfast table in the morning.
So what kills him? Several of these fights take place while Batman is locked, all alone, in a room the size of a closet. How does that work? Who is he punching? What does this fight represent? Is he punching the assassins? Thin air? Is this supposed to represent his symbolic struggle against the corruption of the Lazarus juice? Sure, Ra’s is here and some of the damage might be coming from him, but it’s clear that Ra’s isn’t the only thing attacking Batman.
(The answer, of course, is “Videogame”.)
Batman gets his head straight and swipes some blood from Ra’s using the blood extractor he keeps on his belt. Yes, all the time. Of course he does, don’t give me that look. You know how he is. He keeps it between the can opener and the FireWire adapter.
Save Us, Batman!
Here is a screenshot of Robin`s final contribution to the story: He phones Batman up, talks nonsense, and then Oracle jumps in and takes over the exposition duties.
Batman was in radio blackout while in Ra’s’ lair. When he comes out, he gets a report from Robin. One hospital has about 30 people infected with Joker toxin. Another hospital has 50. Then Oracle jumps in and says that according to her simulation, “That number is expected to climb to 2,000 by morning.”
This makes it sound like the number of infections is climbing, which is confusing. Is the hospital continuing to give out Joker’s infected blood? I guess this is supposed to mean they’re discovering new cases, not creating new cases, but it’s confusingly worded. In any case, this poison / disease / whatever the writer says it is supposedly kills people in one day. How did 2,000 people become infected all at once? Why is this the first we’re hearing about it? Why is the city performing 2,000 blood transfusions in one 24 hour period? More importantly, how in the hell did Joker donate enough blood to infect 2,000?! Was he the only donor in the entire city? How did he keep them from giving out his blood until now?
This is just nonsense.
Worst of all, none of it matters. With 2,000 innocent people on the line, this problem should be the #1 priority for Batman. Instead this entire plot thread dies here and he’ll make no further effort to save those people or even find out how they’re doing later.
Mayor May I?
If Batman ever needs to interrogate someone that isn`t afraid of heights, he is SO screwed.
When Batman returns to the surface, he finds out the mayor – who approved the construction of Arkham City – has been thrown into Arkham City. Batman saves the mayor from the goons waiting to kill him. Then he interrogates the mayor by way of hanging him over a ledge, which I think Batman is contractually obligated to do to someone at least once per story.
It turns out the mayor’s election was paid for by Hugo Strange, who is in turn backed by some secret (at this point in the story) power. They put mayor Quincy SharpHe was the warden of Arkham Asylum in the previous game. in power specifically to get Arkham City approved and built.
I’ll bet you forgot all about stupid Hugo Strange by this point, didn’t you? We haven’t seen him since the opening credits.
The Batman Who Knew Too Little
TELL ME WHERE I CAN FIND THE RIDDLER! Or some of his trophies. Or Joker. Or the cure. Anything really. I`ll be honest, I`m pretty lost tonight.
Later we’ll learn that Ra’s Al Ghul was the real mastermind of Arkham City. He was the hidden power hiding behind Hugo Strange. Since Batman has always refused the position, Strange is being given a shot at it. The game doesn’t reveal this until the very end, so at the time it felt like Ra’s was just another secondary supervillain to round out the collection of random boss fights and fan service.
This means the previous chapter had to be really odd from the perspective of Ra’s. He’s sitting in his fortress, patiently waiting for updates from Hugo Strange to see how Protocol 10 turns out. This is the big night for him. He’s been bankrolling Hugo Strange, Mayor Quincy Sharp, and Arkham City for all these months. If the plan works, they’ll get to slaughter a bunch of criminals (always a win for Ra’s) and he’ll finally have the successor he’s always wanted. It’s just five more hours until every-
Suddenly Batman staggers in.
Oh shit. Batman has figured it out and he’s here to… no? He’s been poisoned and he finally wants to join? Well, I’ve kind of got my hands full tonight but… sure. What the hell?
And then Ra’s loses the fight. But Batman just takes some of his blood and leaves.
Apparently Batman is working on some totally unrelated bullshit? He’s not here to stop me? He doesn’t even KNOW? Okay then. I guess I’ll just put a cold compress on these bruises and get back to work.
 So does Ra’s, for what it’s worth.
 He was the warden of Arkham Asylum in the previous game.