Editorials, Featured, Main, PC, Platforms, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One

The Future of Batman in Gaming – The Bat Needs a Break

by on January 23, 2014 1:39 PM 18

I recently finished the main story of Batman: Arkham Origins, and I can say that despite its criticisms, it is a very solid Batman game, with an engaging story and the Rocksteady-developed gameplay that I first fell in love with in 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. Origins has its issues though, and they are primarily centered on the game’s story, which while engaging is horribly misshapen (the big reveal, which was unfortunately spoiled for me beforehand, came much earlier in the story than I expected). However, these issues are nothing compared to what they represent: the challenges the franchise faces going forward and where the Batman character has been oriented in the wake Batman: Arkham Origin’s release.

What attracted me most to Batman: Arkham Origin’s story was its lineup, which included a combination of A-listers and lesser-known villains from Batman’s gallery of rogues. Herein is where one of the biggest challenges lies: if there is another solo Batman game, the developers will have to double, triple, and even quadruple-dip some of the villains. This does not preclude Rocksteady (or whomever develops the next Batman game) from utilizing these villains in a completely different story, but it does not eliminate the fact that we have seen these people before. And despite how strong a new story may be, the paradigms of these villains and how they interact with Batman has already been explored; the Joker is a nihilist, Bane wants to break him, Killer Croc is a jobber, etc. No matter which route the developers go, it will be very hard to tread new ground.

Batman: Arkham Origins - Joker 1

So what is the alternative? Does the next game scrape the bottom of the barrel even further? Maybe. The problems with that choice is that despite how strong the appearances of Firefly and Deathstroke were in Origins for example, they were matched in dullness by the Electrocutioner and Copperhead’s appearances. The latter of which was advertised with a very promising trailer. What goes for Batman’s main villains goes double for the C, D, E, Z-listers, etc. that could pop up in a potential sequel. What you can do story-wise in a single cutscene with Batman and the Joker or Scarecrow is just not possible with villains much lower on the totem pole.

When it comes to a character like Batman, an exceptional story will not hold it up solely. The gameplay needs to be up to par as well, especially considering how much that gameplay is emulated by other studios. By that same token however, a Batman title is not held up by its gameplay alone. You see the problem here? The gameplay sequences involving the aforementioned Deathstroke and Firefly in Batman: Arkham Origins for example, were challenging and engaging. However this was not matched by their roles in the story, which were minimal and even forgettable.

Other assassins such as Anarky and Lady Shiva were not even deemed worthy enough to appear in the main story, and were relegated to side quests. What we subsequently got was an overemphasis on Bane, and having dealt with him in two games prior, this became tired very, very quickly. Further inclusion of Batman’s rogues in a fourth game could feel tired and repetitive. Even if the quality is there, it diminishes with each appearance.

Batman Arkham Origins (7)

Batman solo titles, in lieu of completely shaking things up, need to be given a break. If the next direction does not include continuing the story in the wake of the Joker’s death in 2011’s Batman: Arkham City or the addition of Damian Wayne, the Court of Owls, or Hush as the primary villain, then the franchise should be considered on a hiatus. If there is a sequel, it needs to be viewed as a huge leap forward, not a simple progression of the franchise. Even then, I would still be apprehensive. Though at the same time this all feels moot, with the Batman/Superman film a mere two years away, there is more than enough time to develop a new Batman title to cash in on the hype of the film. Especially when there are no real fundamental changes that need to be made to the gameplay.

Still, there are advantages to giving Batman a rest. The Arkham games have paved the way for many superhero titles to come forward. Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, etc., they can all benefit from the gameplay and story design that Warner Bros. and Rocksteady has employed in the recent Batman titles. Furthermore, the quality of these games has ensured my confidence in the developer’s abilities to truthfully and cleverly adapt comic book characters and their stories for the gaming medium.

Batman has indeed had a strong run in games these past five years, but with the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, now might be a good time to tap another character to carry the torch into the new generation of gaming (or bring on the Justice League!).

Join the Discussion

  • Temjin001

    I too was surprised to find that Arkham Origins was still a solid Batman game despite it’s generally negative critical response.
    I agree, too, while having all of these Batman villains in one game was compelling, but true that it seems they may have painted themselves into a corner having done this.

    While I wouldn’t want Batman to be a no show for the new gen I do support the idea of a quality dev making a quality solo outing focused on another one of the JLA cast. I’m still waiting for that really good Superman game. It can be done. It just needs the right vision and team. I’d also be up for something Wonder Woman.

    • David Rodriguez

      Yeah I don’t think Batman should be exorcised from DC games entirely; a cameo in a Superman, JLA, Wonder Woman, etc. game would be a nice way to “pass the torch” from the superhero of one generation to the next.

      • Guest

        Doubtful

  • azureknight

    Still waiting for my Batman: Beyond Arkham game ;_;

    • Temjin001

      order online or something?

      • azureknight

        haha nah, what I meant was, I’m still waiting for them to make an Arkham game based on the Batman Beyond series. Terry has his own set of villains, new gadgets that come with the new batsuit, and it takes place in a futuristic Gotham, so I think a game based on Beyond would be more interesting then another Batman game with Bruce again so soon.

        Would be nice if they could bring back Kevin Conroy to voice old Bruce as he mentors and navigates for Terry like the TV series.

        • Temjin001

          ah, sorry. I totally missed that. I haven’t followed the Beyond version of Batman much.

          • David Rodriguez

            It had one of the best intros of any cartoon. Terry McGinnis wasn’t a bad character, and he has a severe cult following. The comics ignore him as far as I know, though.

        • David Rodriguez

          Honestly I would love to see Michael Keaton play an old Bruce Wayne in a Batman Beyond film. It’ll never happen, but it’s great to imagine.

        • Masoud House

          I’d love an open world cyberpunk Gotham. Hell yeah.

    • Guest

      NEEEEEEEEEEEEVER

  • 3rdworldgamer

    now might be the best time to create a good single-player Superman game, keyword is GOOD

  • E3

    It’s not The Batman that’s the problem, it was the studio itself that failed to bring any innovation and novelty – that was the problem with Origins. There is so much in Batman’s universe that I daresay you don’t really know about.
    Even about those other heroes, the question is, can the companies that decide to try to produce a game about them hit the nail on the head? Can they do for them what Rocksteady did for The Dark Knight? Will Rocksteady, assuming they can do all superheroes, be willing to do a game for every well-known character of the DC Universe,? Or is it best that they continued to solidify their skills and repertoire with Batman for now, seeing as how they’ve only made two games of him, not a line like the CoD series?
    I think it best that they make at least one more Batman game, possibly start working in other members of the JL, then attempt to branch out to other members of the JL.

  • DC-Marvel-fan

    Well, i think it’s a good idea to add more superhero protagonists it will add more hype to the game , oh ! And also a more dynamic environment .

  • jakdripr

    Well a little while back rocksteady said the next batman game they make will in fact be a silver age game featuring justice league members so I think they share your opinion. However with the release of arkham origins I’m not sure how they are going to pull that off since one of the points for that game was it would feature batmans first meeting with the joker(something this game already did).

    I hope rocksteady and WB’s know what they’re doing, they have a good opportunity to set up a nice series of top notch superhero video games. I hope they don’t squander it on nothing but batman.

    • Severedman

      Prevailing thought is that Variety was talking about Arkham origins, rocksteady has kept quiet about what they are working on.

  • matt p

    Any villain can be done well or poorly depending upon the implementation. If the story is fresh, the writing solid, and the gameplay fun, which villain is used is largely inconsequential except to those most hardcore of fans.

    The problem with Origins is that they used the excellent core gameplay that Rocksteady developed but what they added around it was not of equal value. In addition, it’s going to be time for combat – though already excellent – to be upgraded and refreshened because other games will be coming along that emulate and build upon what Batman has done so well

    It probably also ought to be a priority to put greater emphasis on making the open-world setting more livelier and interesting than it has been. Though Gotham has been beautifully depicted, it hasn’t really felt like a real, living city.

  • Severedman

    Its almost a guarantee that rocksteady’s next batman game will come out this year, being the seventy fifth anniversary of batman and the fact that dc is doing an assault on arkham blu ray this fall. Once you see next gen Gotham, I think all your fears will be allayed. Ps. Except those created by Scarecrow.

Win a SOL Republic Deck from DualShockers! in DualShockers' Contests on LockerDome

Recent Comments

Powered by Disqus