Sunday, June 23, 2024

DC FanDome: WB Games Montreal’s New Bat-Family Game

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I am a fairly big gamer. Admittedly I fall into that weird area where I’m not casual but I’m not a super serious, hardcore gamer, but I do at the very least love games enough to aspire to having a game room one day. As such, when looking over the schedule for DC FanDome, one of the panels that first caught my eye was this, an announcement of a new game from WB Games Montreal, the studio behind Batman: Arkham Origins. A game which is considered by many to be the black sheep of the franchise, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t rather fond of the game. But the highs and lows of the Arkham series of games is a conversation for another time.

In a panel hosted by Zachary Levi and two of the head staff of the new game, the studio announced a return to Gotham, but they’re not attempting to continue the Arkham games. Instead what we have is Gotham Knights. The game will be set after the deaths of Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne (separately, they didn’t die at the same time) and will focus on four members of the Bat-Family: Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, Dick Grayson as Nightwing, Jason Todd as the Red Hood, and Tim Drake as Robin.

Where are all the non-white and/or non-straight members? Good question! Now, admittedly this is the first reveal of a game that’s not coming out until next year, so it’s entirely possible that we’ll see other characters revealed later on, but for now we just got the four straight white big names.

Given that, we didn’t get a whole lot of details beyond the basic premise, though we do see a reveal of the Court of Owls, one of the few important Batman plot points that the Arkham games never touched. We also got to see some gameplay footage, albeit of the pre-Alpha build. It looks rather good, though clearly drawing from the Arkham games, as well as recent Assassin’s Creed games, in regards to its gameplay and HUD.

The focus of the gameplay footage is on Batgirl and Robin working their way up a tower to confront a violent Mister Freeze, and it looks good. Not as good as the fight with Freeze in Arkham City, but then again they’re clearly trying to pave their own path rather than attempt to recreate that famous and beloved boss fight, and I don’t blame them. On top of that, 2 player co-op looks like it’ll be a thing, though the footage didn’t delve much into that. Hopefully, more information will come out as time goes on.

Overall this looks…pretty decent. It’s hard to properly judge what is clearly an unfinished product, particularly when we only have 20 minutes of footage to go off of (and not even 20 minutes of gameplay footage). On the plus side, it’s nice to see DC moving ever so slightly away from Batman. Sure, we’re still in Gotham and still using the Bat-Family, but the developers promised an emphasis on carving out a character’s own identity rather than trying to become a new Batman. While the portions we got playing as other characters in the later Arkham games was nice, a game focused entirely on the Bat-Family is even better.

That being said, it’s hard not to notice that the casting choices are…entirely the straight white characters. They’re the most well-known ones yes, but on the other hand…Batwoman’s got a show, Cassandra Cain was (technically, in name only) in Birds of Prey, Damian’s been in most of DC’s recent animated movies, these characters are being introduced to non-comic reading fans. If this is the full playable cast it’s very disappointing.

So a mixed bag of a game, but one I’m cautiously optimistic will improve with time. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Images Courtesy of Warner Bros. and WB Games Montreal

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