This is the fifth 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
It was a battle to get here but this is it – I’ve faced countless thugs and the bitter cold in a city run by madmen, to find myself here at the end of this adventure. Let’s talk about it!
Confronting Dr. Hugo Strange was epic, but the man behind the madness of Wonder Tower disappointed me in his motivations.
The prequel comics and game did a good job of presenting Strange as the mastermind, so when he mentioned a “master” just before his climactic last stand I didn’t know where things would go. However having Ra’s al Ghul be that puppet master was a let down, and it’s my own fault.
My mind was going crazy with theories during the ascent to the top of the tower. Was this all happening in Batman’s mind? Was Strange going to show Batman that he had done what the Dark Knight never could, literally destroy the criminal element of Gotham City? Those are just two ideas, but you see what I mean – I was ready to have my mind blown and a big reveal.
And that’s just it! Having Ghul behind Hugo’s rise to power was a surprise, but I guess having so much time to think about the upcoming reveal (and knowing how good the Arkham series is) I thought myself into a position where it was hard to be satisfied.
(It should be noted that Batman and Ra’s al Ghul being flung out of the tower and flying towards the surface of Arkham city was a cool sequence.)
But wait, that was the conclusion to only ONE story thread – let’s look at the other…
Joke’s On You
The other big story thread reveal was the impostor Joker, something I had an inkling about but to have it be Clayface was a surprise. He certainly made for a terrifying last battle, and the theater was the perfect setting. Once again the environment of Arkham City strengthens the narrative around it.
I thought that perhaps the Joker was never infected the entire time, that he had already been cured and was playing Batman that way from the beginning – but that was not the case.
This resolution left me wanting, but again this is not the game’s fault – I was at a place where the build up was so big that I probably couldn’t have been satisfied.
The ambiguity of the Joker’s “death” hung over the whole ending and took away from any sense of finality. Follow-up comics point to the fact that he is dead, but what about Batman: Arkham Knight? Does he show up there?
The Joker and Batman’s relationship in the Arkham games has been so strong that it was hard for me to believe he was really gone.
As far as Batman’s reaction to Joker’s death, I thought the character was more grieving the fact that someone was killed on his watch no so much that it was specifically the Joker. I may be wrong on that, but that was my take.
Talia was unnecessarily run through – that had to be playing on Batman’s mind as well.
The Cain & Able painting from the very beginning was a nice touch, although I wasn’t sure what the game was telling me. If you follow a traditional interpretation of the first murder the theme is not one of regret on the part of Cain, which is what the painting seems to depict.
Whatever the case, the way the painting and scene served as bookends for the game was great.
As the credits rolled and the clown prince of crime creepily sang on I found myself glad he was gone, glad for a future game where we’ll have a new challenge to face. I’m probably in the minority but I was tired of the clown’s shtick – we’ll see if he stays down.
It Just Makes Sense
I believe I’ve mentioned it before but one of the series (and City in particular) strengths is how it works in sensible explanations for the game play mechanics.
Your computer identifies the Riddler’s henchmen via your database, and then you question them as to where his items are. No arbitrary plot point thrown in, or a reason to track down data point that doesn’t make sense – it all adds up to a logical reason why you’re doing what you’re doing, and in gaming that goes a long why to making a game great.
It shows that Rocksteady values story enough that they’re willing to think through even the “trivial” tasks the Batman must go.
The Weight of the Cowl
After the final scene ended and the credits had rolled, something I was most impressed with was the weight you felt as Batman. Watching Batman: The Animated Series or The Dark Knight Trilogy brought me along with Bruce Wayne’s story, but playing this game (and Asylum before it) made me experience every punch, feel every loss and triumph.
The Dark Knight says nothing as he leaves the Joker’s body, and that silence speaks loud as to the man’s reaction to what has happened. He feels the weight of that night, of every night that he holds Gotham back from the brink of chaos.
Players get a taste of that burden playing Batman: Arkham City, and it’s for that reason that this game gives fans something no other Batman media has done before. Bravo.