Gotham Knights: Batman is Dead

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 1, 2020

Filed under: Column 139 comments

The trailer for the upcoming Gotham Knights dropped last week. It leads off with a video of Bruce Wayne saying, “If you’re watching this, I’m dead.” As of this writing, there are about 11,000 comments on that video and the vast majority of them are some variation of, “Yeah suuure he is. I’ll believe it when we see the body.”

But while I’m sure everyone is correct and the most profitable superhero of all time is still alive, I think it’s safe to say that the Batman I loved – The ARKHAM Batman – is super-dead.

Batman isn’t Dead, ARKHAM is Dead.

If you're watching this, it means I've faked my own death. Again.
If you're watching this, it means I've faked my own death. Again.

Because of this, I’m going to spend the rest of this article pointlessly arguing with the world. I don’t expect anything to come of this. This column isn’t analysis, it’s catharsisI hope, anyway. We’ll see how I feel when I get to the end.. It’s driving me completely crazy to hear the masses cheering as Warner Brothers takes all of the mistakes of Batman: Arkham Knight and multiplies them a hundred fold.

But Shamus! This isn’t an Arkham game! It’s not made by Rocksteady and it’s not connected to the Arkham storyline!

Yes, I know. I don’t actually care what timeline we’re in or which convoluted parallel Earth this thing takes place on. Whatever. I’m here for the gameplay, and what Gotham Knights showed us is a mockery of everything the Arkham games were trying to do in a mechanical sense.

Moreover, it’s not like Warner Brothers is going to maintain two competing Batman franchises at the same time. If they’re making this, then nobody is making anything along the lines of Arkham.

Shamus, didn’t you hear? Rocksteady is making a suicide Squad game! That’s the team that made the original Arkham games. You should be happy!

Man, this is a really weird reboot of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.
Man, this is a really weird reboot of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.

I suppose it’s theoretically possible that the Suicide Squad game could contain what I loved about Arkham. Based on the previews, Squad certainly looks more promising than Gotham Knights. But all we have to go on is a cinematic trailer, and all I learned from it is that it’s going to be a huge open world with tons of playable characters. One, I’m looking at how Marvel’s Avengers is shaping upI know it’s annoying when I link to a video. If I knew of a good reliable source for this sort of thing in prose, I’d link to that instead. If you have any suggestions for sites, please drop a link in the comments. to be an obnoxious, grasping, cynical, bland, lazy, duplicitousClaim: “New characters will be free!” Reality: New characters each have their OWN seasonal battlepass. That’s not “Free”. That’s ten bucks. Per character. Per season. This isn’t a consumer-friendly game for the fans, this is actually a new low., and repetitive. It’s a full-price AAA game with the monetization scheme of a lazy mobile title. Sure, it’s possible we’ll get a good game from Suicide Squad, but the exact opposite is also possible. Going by recent trends, the latter is more likely.

Also, I really despised what an unfocused, bloated mess Arkham Knight turned out to be. The world was too big, and covered in too many Ubisoft-style map markers. The huge cast of Suicide Squad is making me suspect that Rocksteady is going to be doubling down on all of their earlier mistakes.

But, ok. I grudgingly admit that there’s still a non-zero chance that Suicide could be great. But Gotham Knights? Barring some massive overhaul between now and release, this promises to be a grindy monstrosity.

Note that WB also released a gameplay demo with developer commentary:


Link (YouTube)

I’ll be referring back to this later on.

This is Not the “Arkham Combat”.

I tried to get crisp screenshots to show what I'm talking about, but between YouTube compression and the sodding motion blur, all of the action footage looks like this.
I tried to get crisp screenshots to show what I'm talking about, but between YouTube compression and the sodding motion blur, all of the action footage looks like this.

What set me off is the sheer number of people – critics and gamers alike – who looked at the footage and said, “Yay! The Arkham combat is back!”

It is NOT back.

This has always bothered me about the perception of this series. People dismiss it as “just a brawler”. But the thing that makes the game special for me is that it had the combo counter. That gave the game an enormously high skill ceiling. Sure, you don’t need to gain tons of skill to beat the game, and it’s possible to clumsily button-mash your way to victory, but the system is there. It lets you know you could have done better, and it lets you appraise your progress. It recognizes and rewards perfect play

On one extreme we have games like Dark Souls. There’s a stratospheric skill ceiling so you can get really, amazingly good at the game. On the other hand, it’s a pretty harsh teacher by modern standards and it can create a lot of frustration for the player.

At the other extreme we have the super-accessible games that have a low skill ceiling and don’t ask a lot of you. The game is eager to wipe away mistakes on a regular basis, so “barely getting by” is indistinguishable from “completely mastering the game”. You can get good if you want, but there’s no reward or even basic recognition for doing so.

Arkham kinda offered the best of both worlds. The game will give you a pat on the head for doing really well, but it’ll let you keep playing if you’re not. It’s like you’re playing on easy mode and hard mode at the same time, depending on what your goal is: Do you just want to survive? The game is very gentle. Do you want to master the combat systems and build huge combos using a large number of gadgets to dispatch a crowd of foes without anyone laying a hand on you? Now you’re playing hard mode.

Now, you could argue that the game didn’t do enough to draw attention to this system. Personally, I’d really like to see a post-fight grade that’ll encourage you to chase after S-ranks, with a little sound to let you know when you’ve performed really well. Sure it was understated, but that’s no reason to remove the feature entirely.

Now the critics are right. This Batman game IS just a button-mashing brawler. 

Leveling Mechanics? Are You MAD?

Floating numbers. In a brawler. Yuck.
Floating numbers. In a brawler. Yuck.

The demo footage shows Batgirl attacking goons that have hit points bars and level indicators over their heads. When she hits them, little damage floaties pop up like this is Borderlands or something.

In Borderlands this makes sense because the mechanics are built around you overcoming the leveling by acquiring better loot. Is Batgirl going to be finding random drops of Bat-gauntlets or Bat-nunchucks or whatever?

If this game is driven by random loot drops, then that’s both nonsensical and thematically inappropriate for a game about heroes that overcome their adversaries through rigorous lifelong training and one-of-a-kind technology upgrades. Batman’s strength comes from his training and his personal inventions, not because he got some +5 Batarangs from Penguin goon #547.

If this game is not driven by loot drops, then all of this stuff is just visual clutter. At no point did I ever look at Batman Arkham Whatever and think, “Man, this would be so much better with a bunch of World of Warcraft style interface noise”.

Thank goodness I don't need to prioritize or juggle foes anymore. All that gameplay was distracting me from Candy Crush.
Thank goodness I don't need to prioritize or juggle foes anymore. All that gameplay was distracting me from Candy Crush.

In the Arkham games you didn’t need hitpoint bars, because all foes went down in a few hits. The trick was that you couldn’t just focus down a single enemy, because then all the other mooks would get in behind you and punch you in the back. So you needed to bounce from one foe to the next to keep everyone stunned / knocked down until you could thin the crowd. Individual foes weren’t a challenge, because WHY WOULD A LONE MOOK BE A CHALLENGE FOR THE BATMAN? Instead, the challenge comes from the sheer number of foes. As a bonus, the result is that the fight ends up looking like a cool choreographed movie fight.

But no. In Gotham Knights your foes are obnoxious damage sponges that (judging by the footage) require so many punches that you need the progress bar over their heads to assure you that yes, this guy will EVENTUALLY fall over.

And now the crowd control aspect is gone, and you just need to focus people down one at a time. Yawn.

The one tiny silver lining is that maybe it’ll be interesting to mess around with the leveling mechanics. Can I slip back to the starting area and one-shot the goons? Can I take my level 5 Robin and sneak into a level 10 zone to see how far I can get? I mean, that doesn’t make any damn sense in a Batman game, but a least it’ll be sort of amusing.

Except…

Auto-Leveling? Are you serious?!?

I really hope that when the dev talks about playing solo, he doesn't mean playing with a bot. That would double the number of endlessly repeated combat taunts, and I don't think my sanity can take it.
I really hope that when the dev talks about playing solo, he doesn't mean playing with a bot. That would double the number of endlessly repeated combat taunts, and I don't think my sanity can take it.

Near the end of the presentation, the designer assures us that the foes will adjust to match your current level.

Don’t worry kids! We’ve saved you from the ravages of needing to think for yourself. Don’t worry about figuring out what challenge level you’re interested in. We’ve already decided what you like, and what everyone else likes, and we figure everyone has the same skill and likes exactly the same thing. So we’ve deliberately engineered the game to make sure you never escape the “intended experience”.

So they put in an obnoxious and wrongheaded leveling system, and then they implemented auto-leveling so we have all of the downsides and none of the advantages.

I hate this. I hate everything about it. Every single design decision seems to be precision-engineered to cause a mixture of boredom and annoyance. And we don’t even know if they’re going to turn this into some grasping live-service nightmare yet. As horrible as this is, it still has lots of room to get way worse.

Other Dumb Bullshit

Why glide over the city like a superhero when you can ride a motorcycle like an ordinary dipshit? Sorry. That's not fair. I'm still a bit unhinged over the incessant Batmobile in Batmobileman: Arkham Batmobile.
Why glide over the city like a superhero when you can ride a motorcycle like an ordinary dipshit? Sorry. That's not fair. I'm still a bit unhinged over the incessant Batmobile in Batmobileman: Arkham Batmobile.

You know what I really love about the Batman of the Arkham games? He didn’t feel the need to engage in banter. It’s going to be really grating to hear Batgirl yell “NO PRECISION!” at a bad guy for the infinityth time.

At one point the developer is talking about the gameplay footage we’re seeing when he says, “This mission takes place about halfway through the Mister Freeze storyline, and we’re about a dozen hours into Batgirl’s character progression”. Oh, we’re A DOZEN hours into the progression of one of the FOUR characters in the game? It sounds like this is a Witcher 3 sized game. Do they actually have Witcher 3 amounts of content, or are these dozens of hours filled with repetitive Ubisoft-style map markers to soak up the hours of your life?

The dev also adds, “Robin has learned how to access the Justice League satellite for short-range teleportation.” I kinda just hate this idea because it feels too magical for my tastes. I realize that technology levels are all over the place in the comic book world, but teleportation feels wrong for the versions of these characters I’m familiar with. 

Like I said above, it looks like Gotham Knights is embracing the horrendous Ubisoft formula of grindy open-world collect-a-thon time-hole. Those things sell really well for whatever reason, which means we’ll get a ton of sequels and the Arkham formula will be forgotten. Eventually people will dismiss it as “antiquated” because nobody makes them anymore.

In conclusion, fuck this game, its mechanics, and everything it represents.

But Shamus! This was just a preview. It’s not fair to judge it so harshly. You have no idea how it’ll turn out.

This is a preview. It’s specifically designed to get reactions from people and get us talking about it. Right now there are thousands of comments to the effect of, “Oh boy! The Arkham combat is back! TAKE MY MONEY!” If those people are allowed to praise the game without playing it first, then I’m allowed to crap all over it. Fair’s fair.

I’ll be delighted to be proven wrong, but the prevailing industry trends do not favor the optimists right now.

 

Footnotes:

[1] I hope, anyway. We’ll see how I feel when I get to the end.

[2] I know it’s annoying when I link to a video. If I knew of a good reliable source for this sort of thing in prose, I’d link to that instead. If you have any suggestions for sites, please drop a link in the comments.

[3] Claim: “New characters will be free!” Reality: New characters each have their OWN seasonal battlepass. That’s not “Free”. That’s ten bucks. Per character. Per season. This isn’t a consumer-friendly game for the fans, this is actually a new low.



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139 thoughts on “Gotham Knights: Batman is Dead

  1. ivan says:

    Whilst it certainly has some gameplay, 5 minutes of a 12 minute video was just trailers.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I almost didn’t watch the video; At first, I thought Shamus had linked the wrong one by mistake. By chance I felt like skipping forward a few times, to see if there was any gameplay.

  2. Lachlan the Sane says:

    Here’s my complaint about this game. According to the game website, this version of Batgirl is Barbara Gordon, who was shot by Joker and became Oracle as per The Killing Joke, but pulled herself out of her wheelchair to become Batgirl again after Batman “died”. On the one hand, the story of The Killing Joke really doesn’t hold up nowadays, and its material has been done to death by adaptation upon adaptation. On the other hand, Oracle is one of the most useful members of the Bat-family from both in-universe and out-of-universe perspectives. So the writers are basically trying to eat the Killing Joke cake and keep it too.

    And of course the website was using a lot of casually discriminatory language about Barbara’s paraplegia, saying that she was “bound” to her wheelchair and that she managed to “recover” with hard work and training, which is, uh, if you talk to an actual wheelchair user you’ll soon find out that they really don’t like that kind of language.

    1. Christopher Wolf says:

      In the new 52, I think, they retconned the paralysis to last about two years. So she did the Oracle stuff then went right back to being Batgirl. Cassandra Cain was shunted to the side…not as badly as she was done over in the Birds of Prey movie though, that was Cain in name only.

      1. Lachlan the Sane says:

        I would be okay with “Barbara’s paralysis was temporary and she’s now recovered enough to do Batgirl stuff, and she’s pulled out the old suit because Gotham needs her” — in fact, that’s a pretty dang fine story hook. But the description on the Gotham Knights website explicitly talks about her overcoming a disability that was thought to be permanent, which is not a good or positive way to portray a disabled character in fiction. (To my knowledge, disabled people very much prefer characters who work through their disability instead of characters who can shrug it off, because the latter is much closer to how they experience disability — there are a lot of people who will be completely medically incapable of ever leaving their wheelchairs no matter how hard they work, and those people would quite like to be represented in fiction too!)

        1. Jabrwock says:

          They could have even hand-waved it away with “she’s still disabled, but she has a chip implant in her spine”, and level progression is all about learning to fight because she has to re-learn all her moves now that she’s working through the equivalent of a prosthetic. It can even be a weakness, tasers would temporarily stun her because they’re overwhelming the chip. Or a villain hits her with some kind of ray that disables or impacts the chip, resulting in a tense situation where she’s helpless again.

          So many missed opportunities.

    2. N/A says:

      The sad thing is, Barbara has spent more time as Oracle and had bigger, better stories as Oracle than she has as Batgirl, and there are, what, three? other Batgirls who would all be perfectly acceptable successors. Barbara Gordon: Oracle has more cachet and narrative mileage in her than Barbara Gordon: Batgirl, but the latter is what the writers remember from when they were kids, so that’s what they keep thoughtlessly recreating. It’s the same deal as wrecking Peter Parker’s marriage to keep going back to the nostalgia well to try and recapture Spider Man’s most successful period.

      (Only, it’s actually even worse because in the process they’ve fused Barbara with Stephanie Brown by putting her in Steph’s suit and picked up more of Steph’s hip slacker teen attitude.)

      It’s just… Argh. I miss Oracle. Oracle was cool.

      1. Christopher Wolf says:

        Yes, having a character who basically developed the equivalent of a super power (aka mad haxor skillz) not despite of their disability, but because of how they adapted their disability, was an awesome character choice.

        It is sad that they had to drop that after years of the character straight up refusing the near magical cures that she had access to because she was a legit member of the Justice League.

    3. Alecw says:

      Firstly I would state I despise the idea that people need to be “represented” to feel art is applicable to them. That hasn’t been true for 50,000 years of humans making up stories to tell people about our shared experiences and it isn’t true now. How many of us are heroes of any sort ? Yet hero stories are applicable to us. I’m a guy who could totally relate to the teen life and metaphors of the very-female Buffy, and my girl cousin at almost the same age found a role model reflective of her personal life in the buff chiseled Angel . It’s a dumb, naive argument that demeans the art and the audience at the same time and it needs to go away NOW. It’s committing the great sin JRR Tolkien warned fiction writers against – writing allegory instead of applicable fiction.
      Anyway, about the disability thing in the comic story – the character story actually about overcoming disability WAS oracle. She did more, and more relevant things as oracle than she ever did as the physically agile Batgirl. That was apparent and applicable fiction (how many great people found they could do more good at something from a chair than out on the streets?).
      Them retconning it was stupid comics rehashing old characters more than it was the writers missing the point on an overcoming adversity tale.
      But, yeah all that said – it was still dumb and tone deaf and we can wish they hadn’t.

      1. N/A says:

        It’s easy to talk about how you don’t need art to represent you in order for it to feel applicable to you, when your identity has no lack of art that does represent you. The calculus feels very, very different to, say, a black lady looking at the narrow band of archetypes that she’s artistically typecast as. It’s similar to how if a story has only one disabled character they’re inevitably interpreted as The Disabled Woman, representative of the sum of that story’s opinions on disabled women, but if there’s two disabled women who are different characters, then they become just people. See all the stories who have The Black Guy and contrast Brooklyn Nine Nine’s Captain Holt and Terry Jeffords, for instance.

        1. Syal says:

          Horizon: Zero Dawn was the game that actually convinced me about the representation point. I dropped the game for a while because I hated all the characters, then came back to Sylens going “seriously though, shut up Aloy” and I was like “FINALLY we have someone expressing MY views”.

        2. DeadlyDark says:

          Depends on the writing, really

          Garrett in Extreme Ghostbusters wasn’t “the disabled one”, he was mainly “the extreme one”, with his daredevil attitude and hobbies. Same with other characters in the team

        3. Kathryn says:

          I also find it easy to talk about how art doesn’t need to represent me to feel applicable, and I belong to at least one group that is NOT represented in basically any fiction anywhere (on the rare occasion a character with my disability shows up, it will manifest completely differently in that character). This lack of representation has never bothered me. The character I related most closely to and “wanted to be” growing up was Geordi LaForge. We have nothing in common as “representation” measures it, but I’m an engineer now, and I admired (and still do) intelligence, resourcefulness, and problem solving skills.

          Certainly, I understand intellectually that other people feel differently, but I can’t empathize with their POV at all. It can’t understand any mindset where Counselor Troi represents me better than Geordi.

        4. Mokap says:

          But that’s only true if your main identity is “black woman” in that particular case, or any other combination of intractable characteristics. I have a boyfriend but I’ve never felt that stories involving straight couples didn’t “represent” me, because I can still empathise with people that aren’t exactly the same as me. Even for the couple games I’ve played with gay characters, I didn’t feel “represented” or that I could relate to them more. I wouldn’t even dream of saying “we need more gay people in games!” or anything of that sort, I’d much rather people are free to make their art as they please without interference.

          1. Taellosse says:

            This is one of those classic arguments where the 2 sides are talking past, rather than to, each other, presenting refutations of a straw man version of their opposition instead of engaging in any actual debate.

            No one is demanding that artists conform their expression to a “representation checklist” so every minority gets to feel included. That’s absurd.

            No one is asserting that being part of a given minority group means one is required to identify with characters who share that status. That’s riiculous.

            People are complicated. We form our identities from a variety of factors, drawing both from what feels important to us and from how others define us. Different aspects of those many factors will be more or less important for each person. No one can be summarized by any simple phrase like “black woman” or “disabled man”.

            But at the same time, when those phrases, or similar ones, DO play a significant role in forming the intersection of traits that form a person, and they go through life only ever seeing characters in fiction that share that trait being depicted as shallow, one-note caricatures and stereotypes, it can be quite a remarkable moment to finally see such a fictional character depicted with the nuance and depth that is accorded to other central characters. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t empathize or identify with any other character either before or after.

            Moreover, being pleased to see a greater diversity in core casts for various types of fiction isn’t restrictive, its good for everyone. One of the things fiction does – is FOR – is to help humans see the world from other points of view, to step outside our native perspectives a little bit, for a little while, and walk in someone else’s shoes (or ride on someone else’s wheels, as the case may be). Encouraging such stories to be told – and, at least as important, allowing those already being told to continue – doesn’t limit creative expression, it expands it.

            Nor does this apply only to Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle. I think one of the most harmful trends the superhero comics industry adheres to is the perennial move to return to status quo. Static characters are boring characters, and characters who go through an endless parade of madness that never really impacts them for long violate our instincts for story. Endlessly trying to retain – or worse, recapture – some imagined audience fueled solely by nostalgia is at least half the reason its been a shrinking industry for most of the last half century. In no other realm of fiction do the creators attempt to tell endless new stories with the same old characters – either they are content to tell the same stories over again, or they allow the old stories to end and begin new ones. Only supers comics try to tell new stories with old characters, then old stories with new characters, then go back to old stories with old characters and wonder why they can neither keep their old audience nor attract much of a new one.

      2. Christopher Wolf says:

        Representation is not required to enjoy art, but having it can have a huge impact on the psyche. For example, only white males got a positive boost to their self image in the study referenced in the linked article.

        https://www.cnn.com/2012/06/01/showbiz/tv/tv-kids-self-esteem/index.html

        1. Syal says:

          I like how they don’t link the study they’re talking about and then spend their time quoting a politician who had nothing to do with the study. Obviously the Public Policy Center knows the most about science. Correlation sounds much more likely than causation from what they’re saying.

  3. Zgred77 says:

    Heh, reading your take on it reminded me of playing Oblivion for the first time. Hope it’s not going to end this way too.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      At the very least, it’s unlikely in a superhero game that enemies become overpowered because you practiced basket weaving too much.

      1. Syal says:

        Then again, if any superhero is going to be mastering basket weaving, it’s Batman.

        1. Taellosse says:

          Only because he’s run out of other things to master.

        2. Daerian says:

          That’s only because Superman already mastered this skill.

          I’m not even joking, there was a story like that in Silver Age.

  4. Neil D says:

    I was so looking forward to this game. I loved the Arkham games (mostly), but my heart lies with the sidekicks who only started to get their due in the last game. So when I heard this game was going to focus on them I was really excited. Then I saw floating health bars and just groaned.

    They do show Robin taking out a mook from behind which is encouraging, but it doesn’t seem geared towards the predator-room stealth approach that made Arkham feel so Batman-ish.

    On the subject of the aforementioned mook – it looks like we’re getting female mooks in this one. I never thought about this until I saw it in this video. Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison aren’t male-only facilities. I suppose the Blackgate inmates would have been segregated and maybe the females got sent somewhere else. And I guess when villains are hiring muscle they’ll be looking for big bruiser types which would be a predominately male application pool (not to say there aren’t big strong women, but they’d be fewer and I would expect most villains to be somewhat sexist in their hiring practices). But then only men got sent to Arkham City? I guess on the one hand it would have been a little problematic having Batman going around slamming women to the ground and breaking their limbs, but on the other hand — equal rights?

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Yeah, female mooks are kind of a late 2010s thing in video games.

      Usually when older games (or really, most current games) have female mooks, they’ll be a special enemy type to justify the additional modeling cost (ninjas, snipers, assassins, etc).

      1. Neil D says:

        Now that you mention it, I did forget about the female League of Assassins members. So it isn’t entirely unprecedented.

    2. DeadlyDark says:

      For some reason, I remembered Thief The Metal Age and Deus Ex Mankind Divided. Both added female guards, compared to the previous games

    3. Christopher says:

      I think this came up in the Spidey retrospective. Spidey and Batman decking ladies in the schnozz is a visual I can imagine some devs having an issue with, but personally I always put it down to the combat system. The whole “rhytmic combat” thing is about locking you and the enemy into animations together. This is a bit hard for me to explain, but mercifully I’m sitting on a convenient clip. Getting those animations to line up properly with the cinematic approach they’re going for is probably a lot of work on top of all the open world or non-combat mechanics these games have. That’s why all of them have like two whole body proportions for their lads(muscular dude and really big muscular dude) and only bust out maybe a ninja lady for the sequel. The rest of the variety is done through different equipment.

      Meanwhile something like God Hand or Dark Souls or Bayonetta or whatever can have as many different enemy types of all shapes and sizes that they want, ’cause they don’t have to fit them all into this glidey-aroundy cinematic animation combat system. There’s probably less overhead to fit a new enemy in, ’cause the player’s moves will work on anything. I dunno, maybe I’m talking out of my ass here, but it would at least line up with what I’ve seen from the games using these different systems.

      1. Decius says:

        The result of course is that the God Hand type games only sometimes jarringly teleport characters into their poses, while the more cinematic games constantly teleport characters into their animations so it’s less jarring.

        The really bad ones will combine the teleports with a camera cut, so there’s absolutely no way to maintain situational comprehension about what’s going on.

    4. eldomtom2 says:

      Arkham City is explicitly unisex, but all that seems to mean is that Poison Ivy and Catwoman are knocking about.

    5. SidheKnight says:

      Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate had female generic mooks in addition to the male ones. You could punch them to death with brass knuckles or stab them with the hidden blade just like male mooks.

      I don’t know where I want to go with this comment, other than to provide an example. On the other hand, Batman is a superhero, not an assassin..

  5. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    The “you’re not allowed to have a negative opinion from previews” is so offensive to me. We got that shit from fanboys when many people complained that as cool as Baldur’s Gate 3 looked from early gameplay footage, it felt way too Divinity and not Baldur’s Gate enough. Larian then replied that they understood the concern and removed most of the specifically Divinity flourish for the next demo (except the super power style visual charge for basic tasks like jumping unfortunately…)
    Then the earlier fanboys went “see?? You guys complained for nothing!”

    1. tmtvl says:

      I had absolutely no problem with the presentation of BG3, my only complaint about it is that it isn’t BG3. ToB is BG3. The Baldur’s Gate saga is complete, finished, done and dusted. What Larian are calling BG3 is just “D&D video game set along the Sword Coast #172”.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        And to be fair I’d be fine with it. Heck, I’d be fine with just another Larian game, Forgotten Realms license or not. The idea to dig BG out of its grave is, in my opinion, just plain bad attempt to cash in on the name. Heck, go to any site that shows any material regarding BG3 and the majority of negativity in the comments is not about the game as is but about the game as BG3.

    2. Thomas says:

      And Shamus’ point is so so true. The whole point of a preview is to convince you to buy the game, which involves getting you to believe that the game will be like the preview. Are we only meant to have opinions on previews if they’re positive?

  6. Christopher says:

    I wasn’t really expecting marvel’s Avengers to set a trend, but here we are. Details are pretty scarce about the Suicide Squad game at the moment, but I would be a little surprised if it wasn’t a looty grindy action RPG where you move a mouse cursor with your controller in the menus at this point.

    I guess the main main games-as-a-service culprit is Destiny more than anything, but the transition from Arkham Combat to big ol’ Jank Souls reminds me a lot of Assassin’s Creed’s evolution. I’m not the biggest fan of either so the difference is negligible, but as someone who finds the loot grind pret-ty boring but really does like action, it’s sad to see so many devs move towards that stuff. I beat Nioh 2 this year, and while it’s an exciting game, I think it would only be better if it cut down on the loot aspect. Spider-Man PS4 looks better in retrospect for not being this sorta game.

    Shame you don’t like the more outlandish character action stuff. Games like Devil May Cry 5 or The Wonderful 101 are among the few that haven’t started eyeballing the RPG mechanics and/or games as a service trappings that other action titles love to strap on at the moment. The Wonderful 101 in particular was a real relief to have available this year as a contrast to Avengers.

    And even then, The Wonderful 101 was originally a game from 2013 lol

    1. Lino says:

      Yes, DMC would definitely be up Shamus’ alley – especially 5. But I don’t know how it holds up story-wise for people who haven’t played the other games.

      1. Syal says:

        Heehee, story. My memory of DMC 3 is someone shooting a missile at Dante and him jumping on the back of it and riding it like a surfboard.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          I made the mistake of trying to follow the story of the first Devil may Cry game. Pretty sure I permanently lost some sanity.

          Good visuals, though.

        2. Scampi says:

          Are you sure that was DMC 3 and not Ninja Blade? I never played DMC 3 though, so it might as well have happened in both.

          Edit: Nvm: I found the scene from DMC 3.

          1. The Wind King says:

            It also happens in Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes (which was a remake of MGS 1).

            Which is an amazing feat for Solid Snake who is supposed to be just an everyman soldier, but no, he rides his own Stinger Missile straight into that Hind-D a like a Big Boss.

            Granted the guy who “choreographed” MGS:TS is also responsible for DMC 3, so it might just be his trademark shot, but… it’s just insane.

        3. tmtvl says:

          Yeah, ending cutscene of mission 3. I like how they put the mission numbers in various cutscenes. I did feel like the motorcycle melee cutscene (mission… 16 I think?) was kinda sorta a bit too silly.
          And now I also remember how funny it is that the games have all those silly yet awesome action scenes while the anime has basically none. Even going so far as to literally lower a curtain in front of what seems like a standard DMC style action scene.

        4. Christopher says:

          That’s just gameplay these days.

    2. Christopher Wolf says:

      I just want some single player goodness. A game where I can play when I want, and don’t feel the need to track down allies to play it. If a game has it on the side and it is not intrusive into the single player (Mass Effect 3, after ALL of the DLC and updates when multiplayer was truly optional because you could get the best ending without doing any of it) is fine, but don’t make my single player beholden to multiplayer.

      1. Christopher says:

        Would be a start, yeah. I don’t mind some co-op(definitely makes my Souls and Nioh playthroughs more fun), I could just do without this tiring overhead of live game bullshit. It’s supposed to motivate you to keep coming back, but it genuinely works the opposite way for me at least.

      2. pseudonym says:

        I was thinking about Mass Effect 3 as well. The engineer class is easily the most fun as you can cause fire, tech or ice explosions which each are effective against certain foes or protection what works super well is that on “insanity” difficulty your attacks do less damage, but your combos still do lots of damage. It really awards you for chaining up tech combos and using your defensive drones and turrets well. It was so much fun to play. One thing that sucked as an engineer was getting swarmed. But you were given the tools to prevent that. It made it rewarding to play well as there was a penalty for failure.

        The companions worked well as well. One time a husk jumped from behind something in a quiet section and I was completely caught of guard. “Now I am going to die”. *BLAM* Garrus one-shotted the guy in the head just over Shepard’s shoulder and saved her life. Great guy.

        What I also liked was that not using med packs granted you extra experience at each med pack pickup. So of course I never used medpacks. Which made the game harder, but by my choice.
        Also the choice that more weapons meant longer cooldowns on powers was pretty good.

        Too bad the main plot was so bad. But the gameplay was enjoyable and there were some great story and character moments scattered troughout the game.

    3. RFS-81 says:

      How was the name “character action game” coined? It just seems so weird to me.

      1. galacticplumber says:

        The modern version? Mostly just people making distinctions between action games with a well made spectacle based fighter setup, and action games which do not.

        Character action, or spectacle fighter is a subset of the bloated action or fighter terms meant to pin down where the actual enjoyment comes from.

        Like how you could say all soulslikes are action games, and technically be right, but most people would want you to be more specific when labeling them.

  7. Dev Null says:

    Batman’s strength comes from his training and his personal inventions, not because he got some 5 Batarangs from Penguin goon #547.

    I get my Batlore from the movies, not any version of the comics, but I always got the impression that Batman’s strength came from being so incredibly rich. In that sense, micro-transactions and pay-to-win is quite thematic. Not fun, mind, but thematic.

    1. Preciousgollum says:

      Batman’s strength comes from his resolve and promise to war on crime when he was a child (Batman #1).

      Everything from wealth, to training etc is in pursuit of this aim on literally fighting crime. Arguably, the reason why Batman works so hard to achieve this aim is because he already has this wealth, so he doesn’t need to pursue it – but generally it is probably supposed to be a message about not letting trauma define you, studying hard etc etc, and the money does not turn Batman into what ‘self-made’ people feared: that their sons would become useless wasters via inheriting wealth

      1. John says:

        I don’t know what Batman #1 you’re referring to, but in his very earliest appearances in the 1940s, Batman doesn’t have an origin story. He’s just a random young trust-fund type who dresses like a bat and fights crime, most frequently in the form of mad scientists but sometimes in the form of vampire-werewolves. Except for the bat motif he was all but indistinguishable from any number of other pulp adventure characters.

        Funnily enough, Robin got a backstory long before Batman did. Also funnily enough, in some ways Batman comics got less silly after he acquired a boy-sidekick in short shorts.

        1. Liessa says:

          According to this video, Batman’s origin story first appeared in Detective Comics #33 – 6 episodes after his first appearance. Robin came a little later, in issue #38. Interestingly, it seems the first of the ‘regular’ Batman cast to appear in the series was Commissioner Gordon – right from the very first scene of the very first comic.

          1. John says:

            That’s right. In the very first Batman stories, Batman learns about crimes as they happen because Bruce Wayne spends a lot of time idly hanging out with Gordon and eavesdropping on Gordon’s phone calls.

  8. Asdasd says:

    Regarding your thoughts on combat, it’s interesting how much tastes can diverge. It turns out I’m the opposite kind of player to you, Shamus: I hate the grading system more than anything in games. If you’re designing your game flow around a player performing at a certain standard, I don’t want you to allow me to progress until I’ve met that standard. I know the next section is going to be more difficult. You’re going to introduce new enemies, more challenges, different constraints. You’re going to require me to lean on different, more advanced mechanics. But if I didn’t get an A or S in this section, I probably haven’t mastered the basics. It’s doubtful I’m ready for the next level.

    So don’t leave it up to me: make me do it again. Kill me. Let the difficulty be the difficulty, not a secondary set of parameters. Above all else, don’t let me bump along the bottom of the game for its duration, frustrated and miserable, never ready for the last set of challenges, much less this one, like a worse version of the Peter Principle. I absolutely hated my time with Bayonetta for this very reason, and appreciated [GAME NAME REDACTED] for making sure I could demonstrate I was ready to progress before it allowed me to.

    I’m not saying one way is superior to the other. I’m fairly certain I’m in a minority of people with this preference. And I’m definitely not arguing for games to be hard – rather, I’m stating my preference for narrower bands of difficulty (or at least ones that don’t actively assess you on a wider one).

    1. John says:

      If you should happen to lose a mook fight in one of the Arkham games, the game will force you to repeat the mook fight. This is exactly what you say you want, so I’m not sure what your problem is. Not even Dark Souls requires flawless play in order to progress.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        Not the person you replied to, but I imagine that the issue is that the game doesn’t really reward or punish just scraping through or perfect play.

        Sure, it ackowledges it, but acknowledgement and reward are two different things.

    2. Maryam says:

      I agree with you. Thank heavens Arkham did NOT have a grading system. I could tell my ability wasn’t up to playing flawlessly, but getting a victory still felt like winning. If I had been graded after each fight and told I was subpar, that would have taken that away from me. I probably wouldn’t have finished the game.

      1. The Puzzler says:

        I played through the Arkham games without ever getting really good, but at some point I became aware that my battle scores were a long way below what they could be. And then I felt the same at the end of every battle as if they had told me I was subpar or awarded me a D. I think I’d have enjoyed it more if I could have switched off the scores.

      2. CloverMan-88 says:

        Didn’t Arkham Knight or even City give bonus experience if you finished an encounter without getting hit, and an even larger bonus if you did it in one long combo?

        1. Maryam says:

          I’ll be honest, so far I have only played Asylum (recently completed that one, and loved it despite not being the greatest at it). I plan to get to City, but I’m not sure about Knight since I’ve heard such mixed reviews.

          If they have ways to score you, I’ll be pretty disappointed. I can probably live without bonus experience though.

      3. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Yeah, I was kinda surprised at this bit. I’ve seen before that Shamus enjoyed the Arkham combat system greatly but this suggestion to have “S” for Super pop up after a fight to me seems to run counter to the idea to not have elements like floating damage numbers and healthbars. I mean, I understand that those latter correspond to underlying changes to mechanics (as covered in the post) and the grading could reinforce positive feedback to the player but I just don’t find the it fits with the tone I’d expect from a Batman game and I think I’d find it equally as immersionbreaking.

        1. Geebs says:

          Yeah, but with the system as it is, some numbers pop up and the player is left thinking “is that…. good?”. A rank would make it much easier to tell whether you’re playing the game the right way.

          Not to mention that the Arkham games give out the most XP for perfect fights in which the player doesn’t get hit, but require spending XP for bonuses to armour.

    3. ccesarano says:

      I think this here is a mixture of purposes and gamer habit clashing. The rankings aren’t there to tell you whether you’re good enough to proceed. The game is balanced that even if you’re bad at it, you can beat it. The ranking is there so you can challenge yourself to practice and improve. If you’re not the sort to do that, if you’re the type to see the credits roll and put the game aside forevermore, then who cares about rankings?

      But if you’re the sort to master the game, then yeah, get Pure Platinum on Normal difficulty… then jump to the next difficulty and try to Pure Platinum that. And once you’re finished there, move onto the difficulty after and try to Pure Platinum that. As a bonus, encounters are remixed on higher difficulties so you’re not just fighting the same enemies in each arena.

      Is this ideal? No, because if you get a “Stone” ranking (and boy I got plenty of those in Bayonetta) then you feel like the game’s taunting you. But y’know what? Get over it. This isn’t like Dark Souls where you’re forced to repeat over and over and over and over. It’s not gate-keeping players that aren’t that good at character action. It’s letting you determine how good you want to get.

      Which, with Bayonetta, turns out to be “good enough to beat the game” for me. That game’s combos are too nuts for me. I’ll stick with Devil May Cry and Wonderful 101, thank you, and look forward to my single playthrough of Bayonetta 3 when it eventually comes out.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        +1 for this. I play games to relax and enjoy a story, but most games marry their difficulty level to their narrative. (There’s no Darkest Dungeon that plays as easily as Paper Mario, for example.)

    4. Decius says:

      C’s get degrees: you’ve passed this challenge well enough to go on to the next one.

      Practice on the parry-counter tutorial before getting into the dodge-counter tutorial is not necessary; what is necessary is adequate performance. Likewise you shouldn’t practice the parry/dodge-counter encounter to perfection before having the next mechanic explained.

      A or S-ranks aren’t the minimum performance, even on a tutorial fight. An A-tank is going to be “completed the fight without getting hit”, S-tank is going to add “without missing any attack”, and S+ will be “in a single uninterrupted combo”. D-rank should be “survived only because you used a healing item”.

      If difficulty actually ramps up gradually slightly more than practice improves your skill, you’ll see a pattern of slowly falling performance grades which improve with focused practice- not constant practice to get perfect performance at one specific task.

    5. Mr. Wolf says:

      I never much liked scoring systems because they’re inevitably at complete odds with the rest of the game. e.g.

      You’re a hero! You saved the kingdom, defeated the evil wizard, stopped the rampaging orc horde, slayed the eighteen dragons and wooed the prince/princess.

      You have achieved Grade C: Adequate

      1. ivan says:

        You say that, but to me, that seems more compelling. A hero who struggles, fucks up a bit, but does manage to succeed in the end, if not with huge amounts of style, is a lot more interesting to me that a hero who’s perfect.

        More than that, the meta narrative of the hero who saves the world, but not in a manner flashy and impressive enough to satisfy his own ego, so he resets the world back to an in-peril state so he can try again, and again, and again; I also like that a lot. Cos then it’s no longer about saving the world, it’s about someone’s ego being worth more than the world. It’s a character study where you, the player, contribute aspects of yourself to the character.

        (Substitute ‘world’ in the above with whatever the objective may be at the time obviously.)

      2. Syal says:

        Depends on the game tone. Half-Minute Hero saving the world in 300 seconds and earning himself the title of Sucky Hero is perfectly in tone.

        Or the robot from Duck Game who’s given score is always “ughhhh”.

  9. Joe Brookes says:

    Totally agree, yes it could turn out great but most of the signs are saying na, as soon as I heard you could play the whole game as any character I felt letdown, make no mistake, when the game was just the rumor that the Origin’s guys were making a Arkham game set after Batman’s fake death at the end of Knight ! with a whole bat team and the whole map from both Knight and Origins as a setting I was interested, the idea of using a team of heroes was used in Knight but only in small amounts, plus Batman had so many gadgets that everyone felt like a lesser Batman, having a team of heroes with diffrent powers could vary up the Arkham gameplay while avold Knights issue of a whole third pillar build around car combat, instead it looks like their act more as diffrent classes for you to take into online play.

    1. Duoae says:

      Plus, this game doesn’t even follow from the death of batman in the Arkham games. I didn’t see Shamus mention it in the article but this game is set in a different universe.

      I feel it was kinda stupid to set this game with the same start as the ending to the c previous game…

  10. Lino says:

    The only Arkham game I liked was the first one. City was a bit too crammed for my tastes, and I stopped playing it about 2/3rds of the way through. Still, I enjoyed the combat and parts of the story. But when I got to Arkham Knight, literally the only thing that kept me going was the fighting system. With this one, the moment I saw the gameplay, I was firmly in the camp of “Thanks! Not for me!”

    Although I admit, I’m very excited for the Suicide Squad game. I just really, really, REALLY hope it’s not a microtransaction bonanza.

  11. John says:

    I hate Red Hood. In fact, I hate pretty much every single thing that DC has ever done with Jason Todd. It was a bad idea to make him Dick Grayson 2.0. It was a bad idea to retcon him into an obnoxious little punk. It was a bad idea to kill him and a worse idea to bring him back. It was an awful idea to make him a killer and a baffling one to make Batman even a little okay with that even some of the time. There, I said it. Feels good to get that off my chest.

    But apart from all that, I have concerns about how he’s supposed to work in this game. I mean, he shoots people. What happens to the people who get shot? For some reason, the trailer never shows the people he’s shooting at and it didn’t look like he was in any of the gameplay footage. So do his targets die? Are they seriously, perhaps critically wounded? And if not, then what exactly is in those guns of his anyway? Nerf bullets? Little tiny bean bags? My fear is that Red Hood’s guns will be treated as a special or finishing move barely more damaging than a regular punch, kick, or Batarang. That really doesn’t seem appropriate to me. At the very least it’s a strange assault on my willing suspension of disbelief.

    This has happened before. Red Hood is a playable character in Injustice 2, a fighting game set in a dystopian alternate future of the DC universe. He has guns. He shoots people. It does about as much damage as a punch or kick. The thing is that the Injustice series has a complicated and contrived backstory designed to explain how characters like Joker and Batman can fistfight evil Superman and not die immediately. If you can stomach that backstory and you are willing not to think about it much while you play, then the minuscule damage output of the guns seems almost normal.

    So, yeah, probably not ever going to play this game, but I’m looking forward to seeing how WB Games makes Red Hood into something other than a bloody mess and just how many ridiculous hoops they have to jump through in order to do it.

    1. SidheKnight says:

      I have concerns about how he’s supposed to work in this game. I mean, he shoots people. What happens to the people who get shot?

      Rubber bullets, IIRC.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        If you can accept the batmobile running over people with tasers as ‘non-lethal’, then you can definitely accept rubber/’stun’ bullets or whatever in world justification there is for gun guy to keep his guns.

        1. John says:

          I can’t “accept the batmobile running over people with tasers as ‘non-lethal’”. It sounds pretty lethal, even without the tasers.

          1. Vinsomer says:

            I can’t accept it either, but at least ridiculous ‘non-lethal’ justifications for what is clearly lethal weaponry is on-brand for Batman games.

            Or Batman in general. He punches people in the head every night. He’s going to rack up a bodycount.

            I know people hate dark and edgy Batman but it looks like Pattinson’s Batman will be more clearly framed as psychologically fucked up, which I like. ‘I don’t use guns’ makes more sense as ego-driven neuroticism than it does a moral rule.

        2. Syal says:

          The guns shoot a pheromone that mimics the sensation of being shot.

    2. The Wind King says:

      This has happened before. Red Hood is a playable character in Injustice 2, a fighting game set in a dystopian alternate future of the DC universe. He has guns. He shoots people. It does about as much damage as a punch or kick. The thing is that the Injustice series has a complicated and contrived backstory designed to explain how characters like Joker and Batman can fistfight evil Superman and not die immediately. If you can stomach that backstory and you are willing not to think about it much while you play, then the minuscule damage output of the guns seems almost normal.

      Thanks Happy Pill

    3. Jason says:

      I think they will be like the magical bullets from the Bat-Tank. They can destroy drones and robotic enemies (if there are any), but will only “incapacitate” humans. Even when taking a point blank shot to the face (which I guarantee will be a finisher move).

      1. eldomtom2 says:

        The Bat-tank is actually using different rounds when it shoots humans. Not that would probably make much difference, they certainly come out of the barrel at extreme speeds.

  12. Dreadjaws says:

    But Shamus! This was just a preview. It’s not fair to judge it so harshly. You have no idea how it’ll turn out.

    Oh, my God, I hate this argument so much, particularly because it always comes from people praising whatever preview we’re discussing. So, they are allowed to judge it without knowing but we’re not? No, according to them, praising is not judging. It boils my blood. If you just want to say “I’m excited for this and I’m upset that you’re not” just fucking say it. Don’t try to dress it up as me doing something unfair.

    That being said, while I’m sad that this game isn’t anywhere on the Arkham level, it already looks better than the Avengers game, despite being in pre-alpha (which sort of gives me the hope that the floating numbers are there just as a temporary help for the developers), and I hope that it’s at least a good game in its own right.

    I am actually very wary about the Suicide Squad game, though. We’re told it’s set in the same universe as the Arkham games, but not only this is a bit suspect (like, Floyd Lawton is now black rather than white as he was in the previous games, which suggests they’re taking their approach to “same universe” very lightly) but they’ve stated this game is co-op as well (4 players even, which Gotham Knights isn’t doing), which gives me “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” vibes. This is helped by the fact that they don’t show any gameplay, which suggests they don’t want to kill any excitement too quickly and the trailer goes out of its way to show all characters using melee and gunplay attacks.

    Man, I really wish we had gotten the Arkham Origins sequel we were expecting instead. Origins wasn’t as good as the previous two, but it certainly was better than Knight, and it’s always easier to refine a formula on your second time at development than start a new one.

  13. Matt says:

    In a sense, the Arkham games did have a leveling system. As you completed fights and got XP, you could purchase new ability unlocks, upgrade your moves, and extend your health bar. It’s kind of perfunctory for the time when “RPG mechanics” were (and still are, I guess) bolted onto everything, but it ends up being pretty forgettable because you can purchase most of the upgrades well before the end of the game. I don’t recall it having a major impact on play style and obviously enemies didn’t scale to your level with increased damage or health bars.

    It seems to me they probably thought, “Hey, let’s expand this basic idea into a true level system!” rather than “This doesn’t really enhance the experience, let’s drop it,” perhaps because they were desperate for ideas and have no cohesive vision.

    1. Syal says:

      Unlock systems are plain better than autolevel systems. Autolevel has the same effect as unlocks, but it’s obscured by useless numbers and introduces potential balance issues from scaling enemy numbers wrong.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Even better than unlocks, are reversible unlocks. For example, you can equip and un-equip the trinkets in Hollow Knight at any time. Contrast that with the sword upgrades, which are permanent, and can leave you with a game that’s too easy if you guess wrong where to stop. (I personally wouldn’t feel that, since even with the last upgrade, I was still having a challenge at the end of the game.)

    2. Mr. Wolf says:

      Trading reliability for novelty, so many developers seem to fall into the trap that in trying to introduce something new they ruin what they already have.

      “Expansion pack sequels” get a bad rap, but sometimes after a good game (or book, or film, or whatever), do you ever sit back and think to yourself “That was fantastic, I wish there were more of it”.

  14. krellen says:

    I don’t care about Batman, but this

    Man, this is a really weird reboot of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.

    absolutely broke me. I laughed for like five solid minutes. Excellently crafted, Shamus.

  15. Mousazz says:

    Am I the only one put off by just how laggy the gameplay trailer demo is? When Batgirl looks into the lightning in the sky, the video lags horribly. When Robin teleports, the screen freezes (pfft…) for about half of a second. Horrendous.

    I’ve played laggier games on terrible hardware, so I could potentially put up with it, but I don’t see how the rest of the public are able to ignore the stuttering. These demo showcases should, by all means, be shown on the best hardware available – does that mean that the devs didn’t have a good computer on which to run the game? Or is it laggy like that even on the beefiest of machines?

    1. ccesarano says:

      It’s also a pre-alpha (whatever that means in this day and age) that’s not slated to release in 2021. I think it’s time we stop thinking like EA executives and accept that previews aren’t 100% reflective of the finished game and are bound to have framerate issues and other potential glitches and bugs. Especially if we want to reduce crunch in the industry and not overwork developers on something as single-purpose as a 10 minute E3 gameplay demo.

      1. Addie says:

        I don’t understand why you would allow framerate issues to appear in a promotional video. Set the game to ultimate lowest detail, record the inputs of someone playing it. Set the game to unreasonably ultimate 4K detail, take your time to render every single frame properly and save them off to a file, convert it into a movie that runs at 60 Hz. Or more, whatever. Misleading, but in theory what your engine *could* be capable of on the right hardware. Ta dah.

        1. ccesarano says:

          I dunno, I’m so jaded by vertical slices and “target render” videos that seeing framerate hitches and other issues is a relief. “Ah, they’re actually playing the game they’re programming and not a false advertisement like, say, Aliens: Colonial Marines or that fake Killzone 2 trailer.” I know performance can be polished and touched up in development before release, especially this far ahead.

          Now, if this game were coming out this month or October I’d be a little more wary. But it’s not.

          I mean, really, why would you prefer a lie over honest presentation?

          1. Addie says:

            I get what you’re saying. But if the ‘lie’ is gameplay footage that’s otherwise unready to be shown, and the ‘honest presentation’ is just cutscenes prepared for the trailer that won’t be in the final game; well, there’s already plenty of trailers consisting entirely of the second type. And like you say, there’s plenty of games where they seem to have spent the entire development time preparing ‘gameplay demos’ rather than developing the product (I was thinking that ‘Ragtag’ Star Wars game, myself)- I think it would be better to present what they’ve got to best advantage, rather than prepare something completely fake just for the sake of it.

            1. ccesarano says:

              I get what you’re saying. But if the ‘lie’ is gameplay footage that’s otherwise unready to be shown, and the ‘honest presentation’ is just cutscenes prepared for the trailer that won’t be in the final game

              I’m confused because this sounds like the opposite of what I said. Also because:

              I think it would be better to present what they’ve got to best advantage, rather than prepare something completely fake just for the sake of it.

              Which is precisely what they’ve done here. That video is presenting precisely what they have at this point in development, complete with engine deficiencies because that’s just how games in progress work. The graphic artists, level designers, and engine programmers all need to work together still to figure out how to maximize performance. Rarely do you have a game in development working at its shipping target. So, they’ve presented the product honestly (as far as we can tell), complete with imperfections.

              It sounds like you want your cake and to eat it as well, where the gameplay is not a carefully tailored and modified vertical slice but also runs like a finished product free of bugs and framerate hitches (which being on top-of-the-line hardware won’t necessarily fix depending on the cause of the hitch). That’s an unrealistic expectation, and in this day and age I think most players watching a stream like that are tech savvy enough to understand “Ah, pre-alpha, that stuff will get spit-polished by release, hopefully”. And yes, “hopefully”, because you never know if it will or won’t.

      2. Mr. Wolf says:

        I’m pretty sure “pre-Alpha” is corporate-speak for “not too late to cancel”.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      These demo showcases should, by all means, be shown on the best hardware available

      So you’d prefer them to be dishonest by pretending the game is going to run smoothly for everyone? I can’t agree with that line of thinking. That being said, this is a pre-alpha, so framerate issues are nothing to worry about at this stage.

      1. tmtvl says:

        If a AAA dev showed off a game that looks good, but has occasional frame dips before revealing that they have it running on a potato, I’d applaud that.

  16. BlueHorus says:

    Auto-levelling, eh? Like Skyrim’s “we’re going to render your character progression largely worthless by replacing enemies with more powerful versions, so combat gets harder, not easier?”

    Seriously. My level 1 Nobody goes into a bandit den wearing rags and slaughters every bandit in there with a mixture of blade, bow and magic.
    My level 30 melee-focused character (clad in hand-made platemail and weapons) goes into the same bandit den at a later date and gets murdered horribly by a ‘Bandit Marauder’, who’s wielding the same crappy leather armor and iron weapons as all the other bandits.

    What exactly were all those skill points and health upgrades for again?

    1. Decius says:

      It’s to hide the fact that the designers haven’t figured out how to communicate that you’re too low level for the area, or too high level.

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      To level up the bandits, duh.

    3. ivan says:

      The were for the Enchanting/Alchemy loop, duh. It’s not the Designers fault you used them wrong. They can only hold your hand so far. :)

    4. Vinsomer says:

      As they described it in the trailer, it’s not just pumping up the numbers but giving enemies new tools. Whether this means giving every mook shields or stun batons a la Arkham Knight, or if bosses develop entre new strategies.

      I like the idea that the villains aren’t twiddling their thumbs while you’re doing other things, as an idea at least. That time spent putting out one fire is time for another fire to spread. That, if you leave a villain to their own devices for the purpose of becoming stronger yourself, they aren’t going to just wait for you but also get stronger themselves. That is one big problem with the realism of games: storylines which stress urgency but will remain unchanged if you leave them for what would at least be hours, if not days in game.

      Of course, time will tell whether that idea manifests in the narrative and gameplay in an interesting way, or if it just more health + more damage and they spam their most unfair moves or something.

      1. The Wind King says:

        Can I say that I feel like Dying Light did a levelling system / power curve really well?

        Yes you’re not going to miss out on anything in there, you get 25 levels in each tree (plus Legend Levels), and there are 25 perks, but each strata of levels unlocked new combat tools to play about with in the game, or made parkouring about faster & smoother (except the Tic-Tac, fuck the Tic-Tac) while the Zombies remain the same. So you start out struggling and slow (but not controlling poorly), and end up feeling really smooth and stronk.

        The only thing that feels perfunctory is how the game will make you “exhausted” in certain story missions so you can’t use the Grappling Hook (which you get around Survivor lvl 12) and have to parkour around without a tool which, for me at least, became partially reflexive to use when I screwed up a jump.

        1. Vinsomer says:

          I haven’t played Dying Light, but it does sound like a good example of a level up system that fundamentally changes how you approach certain encounters.

          Even then, level up systems can get you to change how you approach the game even if all they do is pump up the numbers. So I do think the hate is a little misplaced, even if generally speaking most games don’t do nearly enough with them.

  17. ccesarano says:

    This has always bothered me about the perception of this series. People dismiss it as “just a brawler”.

    I get this feeling immensely. My eye twitches whenever people refer to games like Devil May Cry as “button mashers”. Reading some impressions of Ghost of Tsushima, I’m learning more and more that there are a ton of players that will insist on finding the most simple thing that works and refusing to learn the depths of a combat system if they can avoid it. For example, relying 100% on the counter-attack in the original Assassin’s Creed, despite learning the full-fledged system turning combat into a far more swift and efficient affair. Because you don’t have to learn the full-fledged system, players will rely on the minimum knowledge and skill necessary to get by.

    Which is likely what happened with a lot of the Arkham combat. I can say right now that Arkham combat is not my preference. I actually prefer Spider-Man’s since it has more in common with character-action (though I certainly have plenty of issues with Spider-Man’s encounter and enemy designs). However, I still tried to make use of as many of the gadgets I could, timing my punches to get Critical Strikes and using the swift takedown abilities to more efficiently push through the crowds… but you don’t have to do that in order to succeed, and therefore a lot of players and writers will define the combat through superficial traits exclusively.

    As I noted above with Bayonetta, this is true of most character-action games as well. It doesn’t help that the combo systems they tend to rely on require some level of encyclopedic study. I’ll never be good at Bayonetta because of how insanely deep it gets with its combos, and how intentional it demands you be with them. Do you know how many combinations of punch and kick there are? Way too many for me, thank you very much. Nonetheless, you can beat the game without memorizing them, relying heavily on the Bullet-Time dodge and more precisely timed offensive strikes. You know when you’ll die? When you button mash and stop studying the enemy’s attacks. But, the game is designed so you can keep going even if you die a lot, because gamers want to play until they see credits.

    If we’re honest, action games require more from the player than most other genres. They require not only the ability to learn, but reflexes as well. It’s the irony of Dark Souls, where the actual combat is not actually that complex, but it feels that way due to the harsh penalty of screwing up your timing. And I say this as someone that now loves Bloodborne, so it’s not like I am trying to trash the whole genre (Sekiro is probably the most complex in its combat, buuuuuut I got issues with that one).

    But part of what makes Dark Souls appeal is the fact that it’s an RPG with character classes and abilities.

    Which, I suppose, leads me to Gotham Knight. There are some elements of the combat I find more appealing than base Arkham combat, but those floating numbers, HP bars, and level indicators above the enemy heads just… nope. I don’t like that. I don’t like that I’m seeing what look to be crafting materials on the left side of the screen. I don’t like the implications of these things.

    What Gotham Knights and Suicide Squad seem to me are Warner Bros. Interactive trying to turn both games into trend-chasing products, with the former half-committing to the Games as Service model but not wholly, while the latter is bound to be a Games as Service title. Once more, Warner Bros. Interactive proves they’re lagging behind even in trend-chasing, trying their best to do what Ubisoft and other companies do (in fact, it’s almost like they’re waiting to see which trends Ubisoft hops on rather than imitating EA and Activision directly). It’s a darn shame because Batman: Arkham Asylum was a hit because it came out of nowhere and was a wholly unique take on the Batman game. Yeah, there were nods to games like Metroid and even Resident Evil, and lots of comparisons were made at the time to Assassin’s Creed’s combat, but the game itself played like none of those other entries. It was its own thing, and it managed to stand out as a great game, which was uncommon for adaptations.

    Sad how quickly that can be forgotten.

    I’m more interested in seeing what Rocksteady can do with a new gameplay style (in a post-trailer interview they mentioned “shooting” a bit, so the game could be a third-person shooter rather than a melee action game), but I’m not hyped about another games-as-service imitation. We’ve truly entered the new age of WoW clones, and it’s getting tiresome.

    Another irony: More and more franchises in Japan are going from turn-based RPG to action-RPG, so it’s almost a mirror of the Western games industry going from action genres to forcing RPG mechanics into each of them.

    1. Syal says:

      I generally like that idea of having a deep system that the game doesn’t require you to learn, but you need to have some optional stuff scattered around that does require you to learn it. If mastering the system unlocks nothing then it’s worth nothing.

      1. ccesarano says:

        Typical solution there is challenge rooms. Those can be a pain.

        1. Syal says:

          Yep. Challenge rooms or optional bosses, or much harder alternate routes if they’re properly telegraphed as Not The Only Option.

  18. Roofstone says:

    I find it interesting that Red Hood is one of the main characters in the game about non lethal takedowns. Cuz Red Hood loves guns and all gun related activities to the point where it makes Deadshot seem like a hobby enthusiast at best.

  19. MelTorefas says:

    Love the article. After all the positivity you have had for Fallen Order I really appreciated the rant XD

    Never been a batman fan myself. Honestly never knew much about DC beyond the basics, until I started watching the new Supergirl series and from there, all the other “Arrowverse” stuff. My conclusion is I don’t care what franchise superheroes are from if their stories are done well enough. Having said that, 100% agreement about how that game looks.

    Autoleveling is… questionable, even in an MMO like WoW I am back and forth on it. On the one hand, it is nice I can do the zones in whatever order I want, and that any zone can be used as a stage for late-game shenanigans. On the other hand, WoW in particular has this problem where leveling up actually makes you LESS powerful because of how the mobs scale compared to you if you are leveling too fast (such as via heirlooms and the end-of-expansion EXP boost). I feel like there are better ways to handle things.

    Finally, :

    I grudgingly admit that there’s still a non-zero chance that Suicide could be great.

    Totally understand what you are saying here but I still feel like maybe this sentence should be a little different. >.>

    1. Alex says:

      I feel like there are better ways to handle things.

      There is: slow the rate of power progression to something reasonable, then don’t take it away with autolevelling. If your power doubled over the course of each expansion – meaning you could do 10-man raids with a 5-man party after one expansion, with you and a buddy after two and solo after three – you’d feel noticeably more powerful revisiting lower level zones from the same expansion instead of discovering they’d levelled up with you.

  20. eldomtom2 says:

    I kinda just hate this idea because it feels too magical for my tastes.

    Well, Arkham City had Wonder City and its associated stupidity…

    Thankfully once you’re done with it you can pretend it doesn’t exist outside of some posters in the museum and Founders Island in Arkham Knight.

    1. Vinsomer says:

      This was a trailer of Mr Freeze, one of Batman’s least realistic villains, freezing much of Gotham. I don’t think teleportation is particularly out there as far as tone goes for this trailer at least.

  21. evilmrhenry says:

    “The demo footage shows Batgirl attacking goons that have hit points bars and level indicators over their heads.”
    “Near the end of the presentation, the designer assures us that the foes will adjust to match your current level.”
    Then why have leveling mechanics at all? This is going to be Dead Island all over again, isn’t it.

    There’s a conversation to be had about how the Arkham series has changed from a somewhat linear Metroidvania game to an Ubisoft-style open-world game, and how fight rankings don’t really fit with that style of game.

  22. SidheKnight says:

    I just wanted to say… that video of Bruce Wayne looks a lot like Sterling Archer.

  23. Jason says:

    I think the gear progression is going to be worse than you think. Instead of Bat Girl finding a +5 Batarang, instead she’s going to find a piece of “nano-carbon alloy”. 4 more of those, plus 5 “enhanced cyber-chips” and she’ll be able to upgrade her existing Batarangs. Because mooks always carry that kind of stuff around.
    Yes, I think it’s going to be a grindable crafting/upgrade system, like all of the mobile squad based games currently use.

    1. Lino says:

      Yes, that’s also what I assumed it’s going to be. Which is one of the other reasons I’m lukewarm about the game.

  24. GoStu says:

    Well, that was bleak.

    So much looked so obviously wrong that I’m wondering what set of notes the developers were working off of. It *appears* to have a multiplayer focus, what with the other superhero always hanging around. Know what doesn’t go well with multiplayer? Stealth. This looks like the death knell to the Predator sections that were always such a fun little puzzle AND that broke up the pacing nicely. No way you get to perch in the rafters, watching your prey and picking your targets, when there’s some other yoo-hoo who’ll just drop in and go for it and complain that you didn’t help.

    (Do you think they’ll Game Over you back to a checkpoint when your allied idiot gets KO’d, or just have them in a fallen “REVIVE” state while the goons just stand around them? Doesn’t matter, either answer is awful.)

    The combat taunts are just… no. No matter what number of different taunts you record, sooner or later they’ll run out and start to repeat. I can’t think of any games where I really appreciated either side having repeated taunts. (Mass Effect: “You must die!” springs to mind.). Say what you will about the Shadow of Mordor games, Talion kept his mouth shut even if the later game in the series let the Orcs get too much monologue out.

    If they’re whiffing on such obvious bad moves, it tells me the stuff deeper in will be pretty dubious. I’m gonna watch from a distance and bet against it… if there’s a pleasant surprise then maybe it’ll get my money, but otherwise no thanks.

    1. Syal says:

      I can’t think of any games where I really appreciated either side having repeated taunts.

      “My turn!” “My turn!” “It’s my turn!” “It’s my turn!” “Here we go!” “My turn!” “My turn!” “It’s my turn!” “It’s my turn!” “Here we go!”

    2. Lino says:

      The only game where I liked the combat taunts was Spec Ops: The Line. Because there the taunts gradually became more and more brutal.

      In the beginning of the game, you’d give an order to your squad mate, and Walker would say something along the lines of “Sniper on the left!” Near the end of the game, during the same situation, he’d just grumble out “Kill ’em!”

      I feel that it really enhanced the game. But to be fair, I don’t remember the taunts being very frequent…

      1. GoStu says:

        Okay, fair call. I played that game and Walker’s “combat dialogue” didn’t grate on me. So what separated it from all the other stuff I didn’t like?

        – It’s not endlessly repeated. The dialogue changes as the game goes. Those feral growls at the end are not the same dialogue as the crisp professional orders at the start.

        – They demonstrate the changes in Walker’s character as the game goes.

        – To the best of my knowledge, he doesn’t say *anything* unbidden. Those lines are only spoken when I, the player, want to give orders to my squadmates. I push a button and my NPC buddies get a command. I’m fully in control of it and it’s not my avatar just deciding to spit out a line at this precise moment.

        1. eldomtom2 says:

          Also, Spec Ops is a short game.

    3. Vinsomer says:

      I think you could have stealth sections still work. Like all co-op games, it depends on who you’re playing with, and from the look of the trailer this seems to be much more of a ‘find a player you can actually tolerate and play through the game with them’ type co-op game than a ‘let’s all play with randos who drop in and out’ type game.

  25. Richard says:

    Kaselehlie Maing, Shamus. Not saying you’re wrong in your views, but I would like to kindly and humbly remind you that Spider-Man was one of your recent Game of the Years, and it is arguably thematically similar in more respects than one to this new Batman title.

    1. ivan says:

      Well, argue it then. Make your case, don’t leave it hanging. Just saying ‘X is arguably Y’ is not a compelling point.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Well yeah, but that’s because he likes web-swinging. He had big issues with the story, the characters, and the combat.

  26. Gautsu says:

    I really loved what they did with the bat family in the period of time between Final Crisis and The Return of Bruce Wayne (Dick Grayson is one of my favorite comic book heroes since he was allowed to both have an arc and grow [unlike Peter Parker continually being regressed]; also his training Bruce’s son as Robin, and failing a lot, felt right), so I am looking forward to playing someone other than Bruce (hopefully). I am glad we got a game where it appears the Joker is not the main show again. The Court of Owls was one of the only things I liked from the New 52. Like others I don’t understand the reframing of Jason Todd/Red Hood as a (anti)hero, since he was very obviously framed as a villain upon his return to life, and I can’t recall anything specific that his given him redemption. I seem to be in the minority here in that Ubisoft’s open world formula appeals to me, but the autoleveling needs to definitely be watched; no one wants to feel underpowered in a super hero game

    1. John says:

      Dick Grayson is the superior Batman. He has all the powers and abilities of standard Batman, but unlike standard Batman he’s allowed to fail sometimes, to express relatable human emotions–up to and including actual, if occasional, happiness–and to have enduring friendships with other characters. Standard Batman hasn’t been able to do any of those things for what must be decades now.

  27. Philadelphus says:

    Shamus, have you tried One Finger Death Punch? (If you haven’t, I’d suggest starting with its sequel One Finger Death Punch 2, which came out last year and vastly streamlined and improved it.) It sounds like the kind of timing-based combat you described, distilled down to its purest essence by only using the left and right mouse buttons. I haven’t played an Arkham game, but your description of its combat really reminded me of OFDP’s emphasis on extremely precise, fast, timing, in hectic situations where you’re fighting dozens or hundreds of enemies, and where button-mashing will get you killed in a few seconds. Enemies typically hove only have 1–4 HP (other than special boss enemies which come along from time to time and give you a bit more hassle), so each click feels impactful, rather than wearing down an HP sponge. Just a suggestion.

    [I]t looks like Gotham Knights is embracing the horrendous Ubisoft formula of grindy open-world collect-a-thon time-hole. Those things sell really well for whatever reason[…]

    Well, I suppose the cynical response to that is “because apparently other people enjoy them;” I’m kinda in that boat a lot, since most AAA games aren’t interesting to me personally but apparently sell really well, so somebody out there must be enjoying them.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      Games with lots of repetitive filler content appeal to people who either:

      * Have so much free time and are so easily entertained that even repetitive filler content will sate them

      * Do so little gaming and play in short enough bursts that repetitiveness, rather than being boring, mean they don’t have to relearn everything between play sessions and won’t play enough at one time to get bored

      That’s a lot of ground all by itself.

    2. Chuk says:

      One Finger Death Punch (and 2, though I’m not finished 2 yet) is great.

  28. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Level scaling; For when the only part of RPG character progression that you want in your game is the skinner box.

  29. Jabrwock says:

    If the game was more campy, “Biff” or “Pow” would be better than numbers flying around. I believe there was a superhero brawler-style in the 90’s that did this, because most mooks only needed 1-2 punches to take out. I believe it too had chainable combos.

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      Comix Zone?

      1. Jabrwock says:

        Sorry, guess it was early 2000s.

        Freedom Force.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      Now I’m all reminiscent about River City Ransom and its text notifications that a guy barfed or screamed for his mommy.

  30. Vinsomer says:

    The most disappointing thing about the trailer to me was that this is supposedly the mid point of Mr Freeze’s story, and there was no indication of motivation or any character beyond the stereotypical evil for evil’s sake mad scientist. Especially when turning Mr Freeze from that into a more nuanced and tragic character has been one of the triumphs of Batman’s rogue gallery in non-comic or movie media.

    I suppose there could be a reason why he’s doing what he’s doing but I can’t think of one. For the mission they chose to show off at least, this felt like a story created to provide gameplay beats and set pieces first, and to be about characters second.

  31. Tamsin says:

    “Like I said above, it looks like Gotham Knights is embracing the horrendous Ubisoft formula of grindy open-world collect-a-thon time-hole. Those things sell really well for whatever reason” Because they’re good and fun and tons of people like them? I don’t love them all, certainly, but AC Odyssey is one of my favorite games of the last ten years.

    Anyway, you already know this game isn’t an Arkham game, doesn’t take place in the Arkham universe, and isn’t made by the Arkham team, and you admit you know that, but this whole article is written complaining as if it were, for some reason…? It’s like writing an article complaining about Avengers being a bad sequel to Marvel vs Capcom, I don’t really get it. Focusing on Suicide Squad would make more sense, as that game *does* take place in the Arkham universe, *is* made by the Arkham team, and is meant to be a sequel of sorts.

    1. Shamus says:

      From the article:

      “Moreover, it’s not like Warner Brothers is going to maintain two competing Batman franchises at the same time. If they’re making this, then nobody is making anything along the lines of Arkham.”

      I’m unhappy with this game because this is what we’re getting INSTEAD of an Arkham games. (And also because of all the people cheering “Yay! Arkham is back!”)

      Good for you that you like AC Odyssey. Fans of that genre have lots of choices. Arkham was the only game doing this one thing I liked.

      I dedicated a whole paragraph to why I’m skeptical about Suicide Squad.

  32. General_Karthos says:

    I hate autolevelling foes. One of the things I loved about Morrowind was that you could go to some places and be torn to shreds by the foes. (I stumbled into a dungeon filled with Skeletons at level 3.) There were also places that would be a challenge at that level 3 I had and be ridiculously easy by the time you were level 11 or 12. Oblivion adjusted foes to your level, and I can give a decent example of that too. I had a level 3 character who entered a cave he found in the wilderness, (it was well off the beaten path), killed the single troll that was in the cave and gained some seriously powerful gear. I told my friend, who had a level 15 character who still didn’t have gear as powerful as the stuff I found, and told him where to find the cave, told him how it was guarded by a single troll.

    He went there and it was guarded by no less than 11 trolls.

    And with Oblivion it was worse than the pure combat games. You could gain levels through skills like speechcraft, pick pockets, stealth, or pick locks that sort of thing. Non-combat skills. But the game would assume that each level (consisting of leveling up 10 skills) made you 10 skill levels more dangerous in combat. But even if you’re not focusing on speechcraft or lock picking you still gain skill in lock picking every time you pick a lock, in speechcraft every time you talk to someone, etc. So you would inevitably gain levels in non-combat skills, and thereby gain overall levels, and your foes would toughen up. So as you progressed through the game, your opponents would get harder and harder to beat. Now, this looks like there will be no non-combat skills, but still… seems like you should be able to go back to level 1 and crush some mooks for fun/stress relief now and then. (I play strategy games [like Master of Orion II] on low difficulties for my fun/stress relief, but I can see where the fun would be in going back as a high-level batman and flattening everyone who gave you a challenge in the tutorial misison.) I just button mash my way to victory in all those sort of games (which I rarely play), because I’ve never been able to manage the combos, but for someone who actually works to learn the combos, I can see how that would be depressing.

    Autolevelling is terrible. It makes bad things worse, makes good things bad, and twists great things into vile mockeries of themselves.

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