The Batman Arkham franchise has long been considered the benchmark for superhero games.
With Batman Arkham Asylum laying the foundations for a gritty gaming adaptation and Batman Arkham City evolving the formula to an open world, Rocksteady’s conclusion to this trilogy had to find a way to take the caped crusader to new heights.
This ambition, while no easy task, culminated in Batman Arkham Knight, the studio’s final game based on the character. Despite debates about the best Batman Arkham game, the achievements of Batman Arkham Knight cannot be understated.
As a game following up on award-winning titles, I believe this title managed to successfully evolve an established formula without falling victim to the traditional flaws of sequels.
Because of its strengths, the game has aged gracefully, and it is still much better than most superhero games.
Why it matters: In the future, studios like Marvel will place greater emphasis on superhero games. With the likes of Iron Man in development, I believe developers have much to learn from the Arkham trilogy.
Be The Batman
Leading up to the game’s release, Rocksteady proudly displayed its tagline: “Be The Batman.” The studio wanted players to embody the world’s greatest detective, and critical to capturing the essence of Batman was Gotham City.
Compared to its predecessors, Batman Arkham Knight sets players loose in a fully realized depiction of Gotham City. The setting emanated a sense of dread and gloom, enhanced by the constant downpour of rainfall.
This stellar atmosphere and the new generation of consoles in 2015 were a match made in heaven, allowing Rocksteady to deliver a terrific open world in the final game of this trilogy.
However, Gotham City was just one part of the puzzle. Even more important to the game was its underrated traversal system. I found the sense of momentum and speed in Batman Arkham Knight unparalleled in 2015, and it remains as satisfying as ever today.
Alternating between the Batmobile, dive bomb, and the fully upgraded grapple boost allowed Batman to move at unimaginable speeds, instilling an unmatched thrill in the gameplay and removing the clunkiness of past Batman Arkham games.
While Batman’s portrayal in the game was far from grounded, the feats shown never seemed outside the realm of possibilities of a character like Batman. In my opinion, the character’s stealth was also at its best in this title.
With Batman’s most expansive arsenal in the trilogy, I felt encouraged to experiment with each stealth encounter. Similarly, the counter-based combat was refined to perfection, with each attack carrying an overwhelming sense of weight expected from this DC Comics icon.
Through its gameplay, Batman Arkham Knight presented an almost mythical take on the character, making him a force of nature reminiscent of the strongest variants from the comics.
The Competition Is Worrisome
The gaming landscape has changed drastically since the conclusion of this trilogy. Rocksteady is working on a live-service Suicide Squad game, Spider-Man has found a new home at Insomniac, and superhero games are no longer a rarity.
Despite the dying trend of movie tie-ins and low-budget superhero productions, I feel only a few games have been able to match Rocksteady’s work. Unfortunately, Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man is the exception rather than the rule today.
While Spider-Man 2 has racked up various positive reviews, the likes of Gotham Knights and Marvel’s Avengers are considered massive failures. Other releases like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, while underrated, also fail to reach the high bar set by Rocksteady.
The studio’s own Suicide Squad game appears to be a far cry from the quality observed in Batman Arkham Knight, with initial reception leading to disappointment and uproar over its live-service focus.
All Hope Is Not Lost
While the current state of superhero games may be depressing, the future holds a lot of promise. I feel this genre is headed toward a new age of prosperity that will finally produce games on par with Batman Arkham Knight.
Looking ahead, characters like Wolverine, Iron Man, Black Panther, Wonder Woman, and Captain America are set to star in their own games. Evidently, studios have realized that these characters can only be done justice if they are given adaptations like those in the Arkham trilogy.
As we transition toward a new age of superhero games, it is important to acknowledge the strengths of Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham games. Batman Arkham Knight may not have been a perfect game in 2015, but it sure did a lot of things right.
Despite a weak antagonist, a poor PC port, and other flaws, this game delivered the definitive Batman experience I had always wanted, and it is hard to fathom other studios being able to nail a trilogy like this in the superhero genre anytime soon.
Avinash is currently pursuing a Business degree in Australia. For more than three years, he has been working as a gaming journalist, utilizing his writing skills and love for gaming to report on the latest updates in the industry. Avinash loves to play action games like Devil May Cry and has also been mentioned on highly regarded websites, such as IGN, GamesRadar, GameRant, Dualshockers, CBR, and Gamespot.