#Gotham #Knights #Final #Preview
Over the course of our month-long IGN First coverage, we’ve seen a lot about the world and history of Gotham Knights – the crafting and gear mechanics, the suits and customization options – but there’s a big green Riddler-style question mark surrounding the whole game up to here: How does it play? Well, I played about three hours of this at a recent hands-on event, and the answer is… complicated. What is certain, at least, is that Gotham Knights is an insanely ambitious opus that feels appropriately massive and dense, to the point where even a heavily conducted three-hour demo felt like a scratch on the surface.
My demo was broken into four parts: I played the tutorial, which involved following a lead into Batman’s final case, then jumped into a new save to play the first chapter of Harley Quinn’s multi-part villain arc, and then drove continued with several open-world challenges related to Harley’s story, and to top the event off, I jumped to a late-game save that pitted me and Internet-based Destin Legarie against Harley in the final of their arc.
And that leads to one of the main reasons why my takeaways from this event are complicated: Gotham Knights is a game about building your character, defining and understanding your own abilities and gear, and developing your own playstyle – something , which I just couldn’t get into as I was jumping around to different save files and trying out the different characters. Without that, the fight felt like it was missing a key ingredient.
At a very basic level, Gotham Knights combat builds upon the Batman: Arkham games. But once you pass the shallow water things go in completely different directions. Things will be familiar here: you press a direction and the attack button, and your character spins, jumps, or slides gracefully toward the nearest enemy to unleash a quick combo-triggering punch. Enemies will also display their own attack with an icon appearing above them, giving you plenty of time to move out of the way to avoid damage. It’s all super smooth, there’s a ton of slick animation, and you’re even rewarded for timing your button presses instead of just mashing, just like in the Arkham games.
Gotham Knights – 28 Superhero Suit Designs
And that’s where the comparisons end, because everything else feels very different. Gotham Knights is much more skill-focused, with a meter in the bottom right governing your ability to use your swing abilities. As you can imagine, you gain meters by dealing damage and using your dodges to dodge well-timed attacks, and you lose meters by taking damage. Once you’ve filled a bar, you can use one of your eight equippable swing skills for a variety of different purposes: Red Hood has a point-blank throw that deals a ton of damage to a single target, Robin has a holographic deflection he can throw around taking some heat from him and the team, Batgirl can throw a Batarang barrage to deal a bunch of penetrating damage right in front of her, and Nightwing has a cool acrobatic leap attack that he can use to leap at an enemy from afar.
There were also moments when certain swing abilities were key to defeating certain enemy types armed with powerful armored attacks. Penetrating abilities beat armored attacks, for example, so every time I saw an enemy with a red attack warning I had to counter with my own Penetrating Attack, whether it was Batgirl’s Batarang Barrage or Robin’s Spin Spin Attack.
All of this sounds great, and I’m really looking forward to progressing in unlocking new Momentum abilities, purchasing abilities that synergize with them, finding and crafting new gear, adding mods that further improve certain effects, and finding a preferred playstyle for each character when the game actually comes out. My concern is how well that progression – those swing abilities, the gear, and the many customization options – can carry the entire experience. Because on a fundamental level, I found Gotham Knights’ combat very flashy, but also kind of boring.
The fights quickly felt very routine, with very similar enemies in every encounter, to the point where I felt I had to mess up my tactics – not because I was being forced to, just to try and use the to make things a little more interesting . My favorite character ended up being Red Hood because he featured a hybrid style of long-range and melee combat that felt very different from all the others. He also had some neat tricks – like the ability to grab an enemy, place a bomb on them, and then throw them away so you can detonate the bomb in one shot.
The other characters also have their funny surprises. They all generally control the same thing, making switching between them very easy, but they each have their own combat/stealth focuses and playstyles defined by what you score in their skill tree. Batgirl can be built as a single-target DPS machine, a near-uninterruptible tank that can revive itself, or a stealthy hacker that can make itself invisible to surveillance cameras. Nightwing can build himself to increase his jumping abilities and deal massive damage from critical hits, he can become a slippery acrobat that gains extra dodges and gains momentum faster, or he can be built more like a team leader, dedicated to the Co-op game is designed; Red Hood can lean more heavily on his ranged attacks, giving them higher critical hit chance and more damage, he can become more of a close-range brawler aiming to smash into his opponents and grab them, or he can take the damage , which he inflicts on different, raise different factions of enemies; Finally, Robin can set himself up to have a game plan centered around his decoy; he can become a true Batman successor by investing in stealth skills, including Arkham game mainstays like Vantage Takedowns; or he can focus on his shenanigans and elemental damage. Looking at the skill tree, it’s easy to see that there’s a lot for each character to get excited about every time you gain skill points.
And that’s where I’m torn about Gotham Knights: when I look at the skill trees, the locked swing abilities, the wide variety of suits I can unlock, and I think about it all with one Going through dude and taking on more challenging missions, I can’t help but get excited at the idea of what Gotham Knights could be. But in my playing time with this demo, things were very far from that idealized vision.
Beyond combat, Gotham Knights is very impressive. The city of Gotham is absolutely beautiful; the many different types of movement are all fun in their own way, whether it’s a motorbike, Batgirl’s Glide, Nightwing’s Glider, Red Hood’s mystical air bouncing or Robin’s short-range teleportation; the Belfry appears to be a fantastic headquarters full of optional conversations that deepen the relationship between the four heroes (and you can even play Spy Hunter!); and the cooperative play feels extremely well executed.
Because the demo was so focused on the Harley Quinn subplot, I didn’t get much of a feel for the overall story of Gotham Knights and how the Court of Owls fits into it all, but I’m very excited about what I’ve seen of the characters so far. There’s a great dynamic between them, with the standout for me being between Red Hood and Nightwing. Nightwing tries his best to assume the role of leader while Red Hood himself struggles between his thirst for violence and his desire to honor Batman’s legacy. There’s a great scene in the Belfry where Nightwing accidentally touches a nerve by telling a story that upsets Jason, and you really get to see the pain and anger Red Hood is struggling to keep beneath the surface . It’s very Guardian of the Galaxy-esque, and if Gotham Knights can fill the entire game with moments like this, its characters will almost certainly become a highlight of the entire experience.
Gotham Knights isn’t an easy game to show off, and while I was less than impressed with many aspects of combat after my hands-on time, I was still interested in playing more. We’ll see how it all comes together when Gotham Knights releases on October 21st on PS5, Xbox Series X and S, and PC.
Mitchell Saltzman is an Editorial Producer at IGN. You can find him on Twitter @JurassicRabbit
https://www.ign.com/articles/gotham-knights-the-final-preview Gotham Knights: The Final Preview