It is hard not to compare Gotham Knights to likely one of the greatest games ever released in our lifetime, Batman Arkham Knight. With that being said, even if Gotham Knights was four or five times better than what it already is, the game would still be worse than Arkham Knight. The bar has simply been set too high. It also doesn’t help that Gotham Knights has strangely been designed with live service elements built into it. However, these mechanics have not been implemented fully. Sort of like the devs quickly changed how the game was meant to be played in fear of another Marvel’s Avengers trainwreck.
While there is a story going on in Gotham Knights, the gameplay padding isn’t good. It has been structured to be repetitive, chore-based and offer materials that were likely harder to earn before things were tweaked. But that’s just my conspiracy. I strongly think that Gotham Knights had a very different end result in sight when it was in development. So how does the game fare? Well, it is okay.
Before you go into Gotham Knights it is important to forget everything you think you know about the Arkham series. This game isn’t it and if anything, doesn’t want to be either. Although, I wish it did. Batman is dead and four new vigilantes now enter the spotlight in Gotham City to protect it (while also uncovering the death behind Batman and other nasty things going on behind the scenes). Sadly, while this sounds like a story for the ages, it is far from it. Gotham Knights’ story doesn’t get a chance to shine due to all the other nonsense you’ll be forced to do during all the okayish main missions.
You see, Gotham Knights starts out strong with a decent few missions. However, before I knew it, I was exploring a bland, empty city punching goons in the face in order to tick things off a list to proceed to the next mission. The game is all about objectives and pushes these at every opportunity. Sorta like Destiny missions where you have to complete a set number of side missions and defeat a set number of enemies before you can unlock the next chapter and even abilities. It just doesn’t work for a game like this.
The four playable characters namely Batgirl, Robin, Red Hood and Nightwing mix these mechanics up ever so slightly thanks to the varied combat approaches but it all slowly starts to blend together into a mindless series of mundane back-and-forth runs in and out of the city. Most of the padding missions feel the same and offer no real excitement. I had to defeat some bad guys and stop them from stealing money. One time I had to defeat some bad guys and stop them from hacking a terminal. Another time I had to defeat some bad guys and steal some items myself.
It doesn’t help that progressing the game is mostly locked behind doing this nonsense. To make matters worse, the story missions also start to become the same cookie-cutter stuff over and over again just set in different areas with different enemy varieties. So what started off as a ploy to unlock fun missions slowly turns into “doing boring stuff to get even more boring stuff”. Just when I thought things were changing, I met a main character that simply turned out to be a quest-giver that provided even more boring missions to do.
The boss fights offer some sort of variety thanks to their large-scale experience and come across like raids. However, they too are designed to be the same thing reskinned for each villain. So the first fight which was an exciting battle against a health sponge villain became the example for every encounter going forward.
Combat is a major piece of Gotham Knights. Mostly everything you do in the game revolves around kicking, punching and shooting stuff (bar the odd parkour challenge and puzzle). The combat merges the Arkham style with RPG so you’ll have to watch out for stats of your gear, elemental damage, timers for your abilities etc. At the same time, the combat also feels slow and clunky. It also lacks the flash and flair we’re used to from the Arkham series.
There are no combo stats you can attempt to climb up as you punch about the crowd and dash from enemy to enemy. Instead, spent my time hitting the same button over and over again while building up a Momentum bar. Once full, I could perform one of my abilities that often took down one or two enemies. After which, I had to do it all over again.
You would think that the four characters would offer a bit of variety but that isn’t the case either. While at first things feel unique across each of them, it all boils down to spamming the same button over and over again, dodging a Molotov cocktail or gunfire and doing it all over again. The moves might look different and the odd Momentum Ability here and there adds a bit of variety to the mix but it is all just a one-note experience that doesn’t evolve at all during the game.
This is probably the biggest issue with Gotham Knights across the board – it doesn’t evolve at all. While the game revs up the difficulty, the experience remains as slow and cumbersome in the late game as in the early one. The four heroes don’t actually grow into being the new savours of Gotham. Well, they don’t feel like it anyway. You know, Batman started out with no gadgets and by the end of all three games, he felt like a badass. However, he could still get his ass handed to him because the enemies scaled to the game. Gotham Knights scales the enemies but the heroes remain boring and don’t do much to feel like heroes.
That is to say, the gear helps a little bit. Gear can be found and crafted and has different stats and perks. Late-game gear has more mods slots so you can spec into a specific elemental type. It is hardly deep enough to make it exciting. You’ll likely end up equipping whatever is stronger without actually caring about what helps your build.
Where WB Games managed to create some magic is in the game’s underlying narrative. While the Court of Owls’ role in the game remains underwhelming, each of the four main characters manages to steal the scene when it comes to their role in the game and how they are directly affected by Batman’s passing. It is an interesting take on the story. The combat might feel samey across all four of them, but the ongoing trauma behind Batman’s death and the emotional approach each of them takes was interesting to see play out.
I was actually interested in learning more about Batgirl’s relationship with Bruce and how it all tied together with Robin and Red Hood. Nightwing’s complicated relationship with Batman is also exposed in the game which is something I wasn’t fully aware of. To see all of these intertwining past stories connect together, and most importantly, grow, was an incredible journey. If anything, the best takeaway from Gotham Knights. Sad truth but at least there’s something here to enjoy.
Sadly, Gotham Knights also falters on the performance aspect. The game runs horribly on PS5. So much so that it would drop to as low as 10FPS at times. I also don’t know what the hell the game was doing that it dropped so badly because there’s nothing happening in Gotham City anyway. The city is a barren wasteland and an absolute snore-fest at times.
Driving around on the Batcycle sounds like fun on paper but it is just a horrible waste of time. There’s absolutely nothing going on and all you do is follow a line on the road to your waypoint. You do unlock fast travel but often the objective was closer than travelling so you still have to either grapple from point to point, use the character’s unique movement ability or drive. I hate to compare this to the Batmobile in Arkham Knight but gosh dammit, just driving that from one point of the city to the next was so incredible.
Gotham Knights, as it stands now isn’t a fun game. I have hope that WB Games embraces its original plans for a live-service experience and bolsters development on some decent end-game content. However, there’s even a lot of work to do here in order to make that compelling. I just don’t know where this will go from here.
This Gotham Knights review is based on a PS5 code provided to us by WB Games. The game releases on 21 October for PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. It starts at R1140.
Gotham Knights Review
Story - 6.5/10
Gameplay - 6/10
Presentation - 6.5/10
Value - 7/10
Gotham Knights is held back by its boring rinse-and-repeat mission structure and mundane gameplay mechanics that sadly get in the way of experiencing a half-decent story.
Batman’s story and ties to the four leads
Horrible padded content
Doesn’t evolve at all