Batman Gotham Knights Review: We’ve Played Better

Gotham Knights is a strange game for Gotham’s return.

Developer WB Montreal take steps to differentiate their Batman universe from Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy, but the results here are scattered. The combat, stealth, and progression systems are almost entirely different from the Arkham series, but not in a way that improves the experience. Parts of the game, like its presentation and narrative, are somewhat similar to the Arkham games if you squint.

But everything here is slightly off-key. It’s somewhat recognizable as a dark superhero mystery, cluttered with layers of homogenized game design. Gotham Knights stumbles in crucial areas, but despite some annoyances, there’s some fun here. It’s not an experience that I'd recommend to all fans of the Batman Arkham games. Gotham Knights is just an acceptable romp through the cities’ crime-ridden streets.

Bright Lights, Big City

Let’s take a look at the game’s version of Gotham first. Despite debuting seven years ago, Batman: Arkham Knight is arguably the better-looking and more stable experience. Arkham Knight’s Gotham was distinct: each district had its own unique color palette, the neon lights and heavy rain reflected off every surface, and there was just so much to look at. So much detail in every aspect of Batman’s world.

Gotham Knights looks lackluster in comparison. Enemy models look comparatively one note, and the world seems relatively devoid of detail up close. Even on top of Gotham’s high-rise towers, something seems off. The cityscape just isn’t as drenched in detail, light, and memorable landmarks. However, it’s not all bad news.

Reflections in Gotham Knights look spectacular, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this city is always soaked in puddles. The campaign’s linear, structured levels are also quite stunning. The art on display here has time to shine and feels as if every beam of light or decoration on the wall was meaningfully placed for maximum effect. It’s just a shame that the moody, attractive interiors didn’t bleed over into Gotham’s streets.

Serviceable Combat, Terrible Stealth

Gotham Knights’ combat suffers a similar problem. It’s very different from Arkham’s gameplay, but not different enough to avoid comparison.

Counterattacks, combos, and gadgets have been moved entirely, yet the combat retains the same magnetic flow as our Bat-family zips from one enemy to the next. When you begin to dig into the training courses, there's a decent amount of depth here.

The main draw is Gotham Knights’ momentum meter which charges up when you successfully land hits and dodge incoming attacks. Players can then use the meter on a selection of special abilities. This system can be pretty fun as you master perfect dodges and time your attacks to deliver combos.

The emphasis on evasion sets this game apart from the Arkham series, as your target and position are always in-flux. Gotham Knights’ combat isn’t as dynamic or endlessly replayable as the Arkham series, but it’s varied enough to endure 15-20 hours of playtime.

While Gotham Knights’ combat is serviceable, the same can’t be said for its stealth. As a Batman adjacent game, you’d expect to have all kinds of stealth options as you stalk the shadows, pick off enemies one at a time and instill fear in your enemies.

Unfortunately, none of that is present in this experience. The stealth options you receive in Gotham Knights are significantly pared back, which removes the cat-and-mouse dynamic that was so fun in Rocksteady’s Batman.

Instead, you can crouch around, or grapple to ledges, sneak up on enemies and quietly perform a takedown. That’s essentially it. The AI isn’t smart enough to spot you unless you’re directly in their face, so you’ll never need to use the environment in clever ways.

The removal of gadgets hurts the stealth sections, too, as there are no opportunities to experiment with them, leading to a reasonably one-note experience. Rather than an intense, cerebral experience, the stealth in Gotham Knights emulates systems found in many other uninspired AAA games of late. Crouching around blind enemies and one-hit killing them.

Gotham Knights’ stealth might be stale, but the only aspect of the game I can call genuinely bad is its progression systems – which are also ripped straight from other AAA games. The game gives you an endless list of loot, crafting materials, and meaningless stats to keep track of. You can upgrade your weapons and armor to boost your capabilities, but I can’t imagine most players are drawn to a Gotham game to collect random loot.

It’s another drab system bogged down by bad UI and too many numbers. To be fair, you’re never forced to interact with this system too much, but I can’t say upgrading the Knights was an enjoyable experience.

Knighthood Troubles

The game’s saving grace has to be the writing. The opening cutscene alone raised my expectations for Gotham Knights, as Batman has a long and desperate fight in the Bat Cave. It’s a shame the game doesn’t give all of its cutscenes the same cinematic flair, but at least the writing does stay consistent.

The central mystery at the story's core is intriguing enough, and the relationships between the Knights are fun to watch. The optional dialogue choices, in particular, are great, as the game has the opportunity to flesh out these characters and depict multiple sides to their personality.

The dialogue occasionally devolves into something you’d see on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode, and it’s sometimes a little too sentimental. But, mostly, if you want a fun romp with Batgirl, Red Hood, Nightwing, and Robin, the story here shouldn’t let you down.

Overall, Gotham Knights isn't offensively bad. It’s OK in the same way that fast food is OK: it gets the job done. I wouldn’t recommend it to most people, but it’s better than nothing, I guess?

The point is, if you’re a massive Batman fan, Gotham Knights won’t blow you away, but it’s a decent time waster in the iconic city. There’s nothing in here that’s particularly impressive, and it pales in comparison to previous Batman titles, but it’s decently fun in small bursts.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.