This is the third entry on my play through of Batman: Arkham City. Be ye warned that there will be spoilers for as far as I’ve played and please avoid spoilers for me if you have any comments concerning future segments of the game
I continue to be amazed at how much Batman there is in this game. If you were someone new to the Dark Knight’s now seventy-seven year public history, you could play this game and get it – get what Batman is all about, from the characters to locations and motivations driving everyone forward. It’s great stuff.
The way the gang activity is portrayed throughout the story is well done. The chatter of the thugs gives you a ground up perspective of the events you are reacting to, and enhances the environment around you by giving it more history (if even very recent history).
The various items and gang clothing in each territory – whether Two-Face’s, Penguin’s or Joker’s – communicate what’s going on in the sections of the city as far as who’s in charge at the moment, and it’s helpful info to have.
It Builds Character
Characters keep coming fast and furious in City; not only the introductions of new ones but the fleshing out of others.
Bane shows up, and we’re “working together”. I’m sure he won’t betray me. Cool subplot though, and I like the Venom connection to the Arkham Asylum story line.
Good to hear Oracle’s voice again, especially when near death in Wonder City. When she’s trying to get Bruce to tell her what to do when he’s gone … thought it was a powerful moment showing not only how much she cared for him but also how much she cared for their overall mission.
Mr. Freeze’s fight was well done, a virtual work-in-progress and you try to figure out how to take him down. My favorite part was how your bat computer took a few moments to figure out his weakness, then gave you suggestions on how to win. Very Batman-like.
I found it funny that about two minutes after the boss fight where he’s trying to kill you you’re best friends and promise to find Nora for him. It wasn’t out of character for either of them, just made me smile.
Hugo throwing Quincy Sharp to the Arkham City wolves was a surprise and I thought something more would happen with his (Quincy’s) character; whatever the case it was nice to have him included. The detail of you leaving him right under his “Quincy for Mayor” sign was a nice touch.
The Mad Hatter sequence was .. interesting. In retrospect I liked how it came out of nowhere and just threw you in – guess what, you’re Batman rabbit-face now! It was simultaneously surreal and scary and I was glad it was a one-off, not a major plot point.
The recordings for the Hatter were creepy as well, showing Strange’s manipulation of him as well as his fixations on “Alice.”
With all these villains competing for attention the inclusion of Ra’s al Ghu seemed at first like a bit much, but his contribution to the story and the Wonder City setting were both so huge that I’m glad he was there.
I finally found Zsasz! Very satisfying to put him away after all the phone calls and listening to how he would carve up the hostages he had with him. Along with the Mad Hatter’s audio tapes, Zsasz’s phone calls and taunts are some of the darkest things in the game.
Not to be left out, Batman has good story beats along the way as well. I particularly enjoyed his response to Oracle when she’s concerned about his health and knows he has only minutes to live – she wants to know what to tell Robin what to do and how to move forward, but Batman’s response is “I’ll … make … it!”
He’s not going to die, he has too much to do. His refusal to even consider a future where he is not victorious is both admirable and ignorant, depending on how you look at it.
The game world is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of playing through, and that’s largely due to how well things fit together. The mechanics (I’m not sure if I’m using that word correctly) are spot on.
The “story synopsis” cards you can access from the main menu, and pop up as your game is loading, are quick refresher to give you the main points and focus you on what’s important. I think it something every game should include.
Each of the citizens and policemen you rescue have full names – a detail that goes a long way for me to make them seem more real, that they have history. And each rescue operation you have involving them ties into the story and makes sense, something that isn’t always the case in other games (see Assassin’s Creed series)
I’ve been able to embrace the fighting in this game more than Asylum (my fault, not the game’s) and it’s so good – the tutorial that lets you highlight one specific move at a time, the way the environment plays a part in each fight with all characters reacting realistically, and the “Riddler’s men” mechanic that gives you a goal within a goal of saving his henchman until last in order to get the info you need. It makes each encounter dynamic and fun, again, much more than other games I’ve played (Assassin’s Creed again). I look forward to every fight instead of seeing it as merely time-consuming.
The Riddler’s secrets do a fantastic job of peeling back the layers of the city. Everything’s hidden in plain sight, and behind every brick wall or alleyway is another section of story and adventure waiting to be discovered.
Penguin’s museum is another layer of that onion – the display cases throughout the structure add so much to the history of that location as well as give you an inkling of just how much has already happened to characters you’ve met (or some you haven’t). Black Mask, Bruce Wayne, Mr. Freeze and even a spot for the Joker eventually all make an appearance. This is yet another instance of Rocksteady going above and beyond – where it could have just have a wall, it puts another layer of story goodness.
Another great moment at the museum was the build up the gladiatorial arena; the music and pacing got you pumped for the big show.
The way Batman slowly breaks down is something else that works really well – the wear and tear on the batsuit and cape has been done before, but the way he has to limp to Ra’s al Ghul’s chamber minded me just how fragile he was.
You’re freaking Batman, but you’re human. There is an end. And that was a nice reminder.
Two things I didn’t care for: first, working all that time to get the cure and then having it stolen by Harley. It makes sense and it had to happen, but that’s the reason I didn’t like it – you knew you weren’t going to get the cure then, so to have it be, “Oh man, the old ‘steal it out of the other side of the safe’ gag!”
I also didn’t care for the boss battle with Ra’s al Ghu to end with a new gadget, the reverse batarang. We just had the epic battle (which we built up to after facing the drug-induced trials, what a trip) only to be able to defeat the six hundred year old super human by throwing the batarang past him first.
Rapid-Fire – Surprises and Environment
In wrap-up here are some staccato note observations:
- The T-Rex head scared me when I first walked into the museum
- Political prisoner shanty town was a cool little surprise, neat environment detail
- Riddler’s first intro and first hostage rescue (electric floor) were well done
- Wonder City was incredible set with history, atmosphere and dread. Shops, tower, mechanical men (that I thought for sure I’d have to fight) were all top shelf
- The League of Assassin’s ninjas were fun to fight, and I thought the one housed in Penguin’s display case would be Talia
- The guards in Wonder city talking about an “accident” and giving some background was helpful, added real sense of the place
- The old subway, the Iceberg Lounge, the map on the floor in the museum showing the Penguin’s plan for taking territory – great set pieces and details that again show why this game is one of the best around
I could go on and on (and in some ways I have) about the different environments of this game and how they work together, work with and against each other, and how on both a small and large-scale give the game a richness that I cannot praise enough – but we’ll bring this page of field notes to a close.