DLCman: Arkham Knight

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Six years ago developers Rocksteady Studios redefined the superhero videogame genre, with their action-adventure Batman: Arkham Asylum. Borrowing a majority of the voice actors from the critically-acclaimed cartoon series of the 90s, and key writers such as Paul Dini, Rocksteady Studios provided fans with a Batman game to be proud of.

Arkham Asylum utilised Batman’s detective abilities to an impressive scale, and the game provided an incredibly fluid combat system. The game showcased a variety of favourites from Batman’s rogues gallery, and Rocksteady incorporated some of the best ideas from several different incarnations of the Bat, such as the cartoons, Tim Burton’s Batman, the comics and Nolan’s first film.

The critical success of the first game demanded a sequel, which was set to be bigger and better than the last and just two years later, fans were graced with a sequel that accomplished that feat, Arkham City. Exploring the relationship between Batman and the Joker, the game expanded on its gadgets, its villains and playability.

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Arkham City left some interesting Easter Eggs for fans after they finished the main storyline, with the heavy implication that the Scarecrow was involved in something diabolical. Fans desired to explore the streets of Gotham with the next instalment, and the idea that Rocksteady were ready to introduce Scarecrow as the main villain was titillating.

Four years later, and Rocksteady’s final outing with the Dark Knight arrived, in the form of Arkham Knight. This was the big one. Allowing Batman free roam of Gotham was an exciting idea, with the story focusing on a mysterious new villain aiding Scarecrow. All the pieces were set in place for an unforgettable Batman experience.

Upon the game’s release date, several pre-order packages provided different experiences for gamers. One package included a playable Harley Quinn add-on, with another, allowing for the use of the Red Hood. Thankfully, some select retailers were packaging both parts, but customers found this frustrating as different exclusives were everywhere. Rocksteady eventually announced that either packs would be available through purchase of the season pass though, for an additional price.

These two DLC add-ons were a telling sign of things to come, as these downloadable packages were nothing spectacular. Each segment lasted approximately 15-30 minutes (depending on player performance), and are utterly forgettable. Adding nothing to the story, both are big disappointments, and especially for fans of Harley Quinn. Despite Rocksteady providing her a unique move-set, it lasted for an appalling length of time. Of course, most pre-order content is mediocre, but let’s not forget these are pieces of the planned downloadable content.

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The main story in Arkham Knight might be the strongest of the trilogy to date, but it certainly isn’t without its faults. Any Batman veterans will guess the identity of the Arkham Knight fairly easily, and after the initial reveal, Gotham doesn’t really feel dangerous anymore. Throughout the game the ante is raised, only for it to be subsequently lowered later on.

Arkham Knight’s side missions are also a mixed bag, with some incredible additions and some truly pointless ones. The third game in the series introduces a classic character long overdue into the game, whilst introducing players to a more recent villain from the comic books. There are glaring omissions though, and for fans of Asylum and City it almost seems criminal that characters such as Mr Freeze, Clayface, Bane, Killer Croc or Ra’s/Talia do not turn up in any form throughout the game. Personally, the severe lack of Freeze is most upsetting.

A lot of villains may have had their time and space throughout the trilogy, but lets not forget that this is supposedly Rocksteady’s send-off for the caped crusader. Whilst nearing the true ending for the game (100% completion), it feels that it’s missing something. Some loose ends are tied, but it almost feels like Rocksteady have forgotten about the simple things, like Clayface’s incident with the Lazarus Pits or even Killer Croc mauling Scarecrow. It’s apparent a lot of things have been left out, and perhaps the game will then be padded with horrible DLC.

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Yes, downloadable content has been a thing for ages now, we’re all blissfully aware. But this time, it appears that it’s crippled the Arkham series, which should’ve have been clear with the absurd pre-order packages. The next pack is set to be for Batgirl, which gamers can only hope will have some saving grace. There are no doubts Azrael or any forgotten villains will be added in the future, just for some extra money.

Usually, it’s best to wait for the Game of the Year edition with some titles. Arkham City added in Harley Quinn’s Revenge and a whole bunch of other stuff, but City as a standalone game had a beginning, a middle and an end. Arkham Knight on the other hand, doesn’t have a proper ending. It goes out with a whimper, even when you’ve accomplished everything in Gotham.

It’s upsetting, because the Arkham series have been superb, but you can see where these planned DLC packs have hurt Arkham Knight. The ending is ambiguous and a huge disappointment for fans, and one villain uncharacteristically utilises a tank to defeat you, despite ranting endlessly about being an expert in hand-to-hand combat. It hardly feels like there’s any real reward to the gamer for following the Dark Knight’s adventures in Gotham for the past 6 years.

If players want to fully experience Arkham Knight, an excess of at least £70-80 has to be spent on a season pass and the game itself. The gaming industry has taken such a horrible turn in recent years, and it’s a damn shame that Rocksteady may have caught the bug too. Players shouldn’t have to fork out ridiculous amounts of cash to receive the complete experience, as it’s a blatant cash grab until the collected version comes out. Sure, you can wait a year for the collected edition, but ditch the internet or social media as a whole during that time to avoid any spoilers.

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It isn’t all bad. Rocksteady have somehow managed to improve the combat even more so, and utilising the efforts of your sidekick during a massive brawl is tons of fun. The Batmobile is well refined, but then Gotham is infested with so many unmanned tanks, that players will get sick of the sight of another heap of metal attacking Batman. Players may not like sheer extent of Batmobile missions.

The halfway point in Arkham Knight is where it all really kicks off, and it truly felt like something special. There’s a real sense of dread, and it appears that all hope is lost. Of course, Batman overcomes the odds because he’s Batman, but it all occurs in such a lacklustre manner. Also, there’s almost no thought put into the Riddler’s challenges this time round. Only a select few are fun, but there are so many locations that had Riddle material written all over them, such as Crazy Quilt and Music Meister’s respective stores.

Arkham Knight is an experience, but it is full of missed potential. It is riddled with inconsistencies, glitches, pointless missions and disappointing endings. However, it will sell plenty and then be regarded as a best-seller due to different versions, and players getting suckered into the various DLC packs. This might be Rocksteady’s last game, but be sure WB Montreal will eventually pick up Batman at some point in the near future and milk the Arkham series for all it’s worth.

Oh, and let’s not mention the PC port.

Or the treatment of Barbara or Catwoman.

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