Gotham Knights: The Final Preview

Over the course of our month-long IGN First coverage, we’ve seen a lot about the world and lore of Gotham Knights – the crafting and gear mechanics, the outfits, and the customization options – but there’s been one big green question mark to the style of the conundrum that surrounds every game up to this point: How do you play? Well, I played about three hours at a recent hands-on event and the answer is…complicated. What is certain, at least, is that Gotham Knights is a wildly ambitious effort that feels appropriately massive and dense, to the point where even a heavily guided three-hour demo felt like just a scratch on the surface.

My demo was divided into four parts: I played the tutorial that involved following a clue in Batman’s latest case, then jumped into a new save to play the first chapter of Harley Quinn’s multi-part villain arc, then continued through various challenges. open world game related to Harley’s story, and to end the event, I jumped into a late save game that allowed me and the internet’s own Destin Legarie to take on Harley at the end of her arc.

And that leads to one of the main reasons why my takeaways from this event are complicated: Gotham Knights is a game that focuses on developing your character, setting up and understanding your own abilities and gear, and developing your own style of play, something that I just couldn’t do as I was jumping to different save files and trying out different characters. Without that, it seemed like the match was missing a key ingredient.

On a very basic level, Gotham Knights’ combat builds on the foundation of the Batman: Arkham games.

On a very basic level, Gotham Knights’ combat builds on the foundation of the Batman: Arkham games. But once you get past the shallows, things go in very different directions. This is where things will become familiar: you press a direction and the attack button, and your character gracefully spins, jumps, or dashes towards the nearest enemy for a quick hit that initiates a combo. Enemies will also telegraph their own attack with an icon appearing above them, giving you plenty of time to dodge and avoid damage. Everything is super smooth, there’s a ton of slick animations, and you’re even rewarded for timing your button presses instead of just mashing like in the Arkham games.

And that’s it, that’s where the comparisons end, because everything else feels very different. Gotham Knights is much more focused on abilities, with a meter in the bottom right that controls your ability to use your boost abilities. As you might imagine, you gain meter from dealing damage and dodging to avoid well-timed attacks, and you lose meter from taking damage. Once you fill up a bar, you can use one of your eight equippable boost abilities for a variety of different uses: Red Hood has a short-range cast that deals a ton of damage to a single target, Robin has a holographic distraction that can throw down to take some heat off him and the team, Batgirl can throw a barrage of batarang to deal a ton of piercing damage right in front of her, and Nightwing has a cool acrobatic jump attack that allows him to jump on an opponent from far. far.

There were also times when certain boost abilities were the key to defeating specific enemy types that were armed with powerful armored attacks. Piercing abilities outperform armored attacks, for example, so whenever I saw an enemy with a red attack warning, I had to counter with my own piercing attack, whether it was Batgirl’s batarang barrage or the staff’s spinning attack. by Robin.

This all sounds great, and I look forward to the progression to unlock new boost abilities, buy abilities that synergize with them, find and craft new pieces of gear, add mods that further enhance certain effects, and find a preferred playstyle. for each character when the game comes out. My concern is how well that progression, those boost skills, gear, and the deep well of customization options, will be able to carry all the experience. Because on a fundamental level, I found Gotham Knights’ combat to be very flashy, but also a bit bland.

The fights quickly began to feel very routine.

The fights quickly started to feel very routine, with very similar enemies in each encounter, to the point where I felt like I had to mix up my tactics, not because I was being forced to, but just to try and make things a little more interesting. . My favorite character ended up being Little Red Riding Hood, because she excelled in a hybrid melee and ranged style, which felt quite different from what everyone else could do. Plus, she had some nifty tricks, like being able to grab an enemy, plant a bomb on them, and then kick them so you can blow up the bomb with one shot.

The other characters also have their fun surprises. They all generally control the same thing, which makes jumping between them a breeze, but they each have their own combat/stealth approaches and playstyles that are defined by what you put points into their skill tree. Batgirl can be built to be a single-target DPS machine, a nearly nonstop tank that can revive herself, or a stealthy hacker that can turn invisible to security cameras; Nightwing can build himself to enhance his jumping abilities and deal massive critical hit damage, he can become a slippery acrobat that gains extra dodges and faster boost meter gain, or he can build himself more like a team leader. designed for cooperative play; Red Hood can lean more into his ranged attacks giving them higher crit chances and more damage, he can become more of a short range puncher aiming to get in and grab his opponents, or he can increase the damage he deals to several different factions of enemies; And finally, Robin can build himself to have a game plan centered around her lure; he can become a true successor to Batman by investing in stealth skills, including Arkham game mainstays like takedown vantages; Or you can focus on gadgets and elemental damage from him. Just by looking at the skill tree, it’s easy to see that there’s a lot to be excited about for each character every time he earns skill points.

And that’s where I’m torn on Gotham Knights: when I look through the skill trees, the boost lock abilities, the wide variety of outfits I can unlock, and I think about getting through it all with a friend and taking on more challenges. missions, I can’t help but get excited about what Gotham Knights could be. But in my time playing this demo, things were a long way from that idealized vision.

Beyond the combat, Gotham Knights is very impressive. Gotham City is absolutely beautiful; Different traversal modes are fun in their own way, whether it’s motorcycle riding, Batgirl’s Glide, Nightwing’s Glider, Red Hood’s mystical air jumps, or Robin’s short-range teleportation; the Bell Tower looks like an impressive headquarters filled with optional conversations that deepen the relationship between the four heroes (and you can even play Spy Hunter!); and cooperative play feels extremely well implemented.

Since the demo was so focused on the Harley Quinn subplot, I didn’t get much of the overall story of Gotham Knights and how the Court of Owls fit into it all, but I’m very interested in what I’ve seen. of the characters so far. There’s a great dynamic between each of them, and for me it stands out between Red Hood and Nightwing. Nightwing is doing his best to assume the role of leader, while the Red Hood himself finds himself struggling between his thirst for violence and his desire to honor Batman’s legacy. There’s a great scene in the bell tower where Nightwing inadvertently hits a nerve by bringing up a story that provokes Jason, and you can really see the pain and anger Red Hood is struggling to keep below the surface. It’s very Guardian of the Galaxy-esque, and if Gotham Knights can fill the entire game with moments like this, then its characters are sure to become the highlight of the entire experience.

Gotham Knights isn’t an easy game to play, and while I walked away from my practice time less impressed with many aspects of the combat, I was still interested in playing more. We’ll see how it all comes together when Gotham Knights launches on PS5, Xbox Series X and S, and PC on October 21.

Mitchell Saltzman is an Editorial Producer at IGN. You can find him on twitter @JurassicRabbit

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