Announced last month during DC Fandome, Gotham Knights is the next super-powered DC action-adventure from Warner Bros. Games Montréal (the studio that gave us Batman: Arkham Origins), and it opens with a hard-hitting premise: Batman is dead.
It's up to you, playing alone or with a friend in co-op, to walk in the latex boots of Red Hood, Robin, Batgirl, and Nightwing, and defend the citizens of Gotham following the unfortunate death of billionaire Bruce Wayne. That's the basic setting and there's more to tell, however, instead of hearing all these details from us, we were actually able to put a handful of questions to Warner Bros. Games Montréal's Fleur Marty following the grand reveal last month, and here is what the game's senior producer had to say about the studio's first major release since 2013.
GR: First off, can you tell us what Gotham Knights is all about?
Fleur Marty: Gotham Knights is a brand-new open-world, third-person action RPG featuring the Batman Family as players step into the roles of Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood and Robin, a new guard of trained DC Super Heroes who must rise up as the protectors of Gotham City in the wake of Batman's death, and ultimately evolve into their own version of the Dark Knight. Our game offers a brand new take on DC's Batman Universe, with an original story that will take the players from fighting crime in the streets of Gotham City to unravelling the mystery in its darkest corners and facing notorious DC villains in epic confrontations.
While Gotham Knights looks designed for co-op, can you perhaps explain more about its structure? Is there a campaign with a beginning, middle and an end?
FM: I can tell you that, yes, there is a main storyline, that the players will be able to experience from start to finish. But on top of this, there are additional storylines, featuring villains, that the players will be able to tackle whenever they decide to. I also want to make clear that the game is fully playable in two-player co-op and that we have made sure that all our systems and design support this. It is absolutely playable entirely in solo as well and players won't miss out on anything if they choose to do so. We are really fond of the idea of the dynamic duo and superhero team up, and it was very important for us to deliver a compelling experience and story no matter how players choose to experience it.
We presume the goal is to hook players beyond the scope of the content for the original game. How do you plan on doing that?
FM: We're very focused on crafting a living, breathing Gotham City, in which our players can immerse themselves and enjoy playing our four heroes, evolving them into their own version of the Dark Knight.
The gameplay presentation shows off a lot of intricate gameplay systems, like XP for instance. Can you perhaps elaborate a bit on how these characters will grow over the course of the game?
FM: As players progress through the game and level up their character, they will unlock new abilities that will accentuate the differences between our four heroes and allow them to ultimately reach what we call knighthood, where they become their own version of the Dark Night. Crafting is also part of growing your character, and players will collect blueprints and materials as they are out in the streets fighting crimes or unravelling mysteries. These can then be used to craft new gear, whether it's an entirely new suit or a different piece for an existing one, along with upgrades to your melee or ranged weapons. Crafting takes place during the daytime when you are at the Belfry, which is your base of operation.
Why did you ultimately settle on not having Gotham Knights as a part of the Arkhamverse? Especially since the games are so perfectly linked.
FM: With Gotham Knights, we really wanted to create something completely new. We wanted it to be the beginning of something. We are really excited to propose our own take on DC's Batman Universe, on Gotham City and to shine the spotlight on our new guard of heroes.
Are there any particular lessons you're taking with you from the Arkham series into Gotham Knights?
FM: I think looking at why players love that series so much, we know they care very much about a well-crafted and delivered story and universe, fun and empowering combat and compelling characters, which they will all find in Gotham Knights, along with a living, breathing open-world Gotham City and for those who which to, a very fluid co-op experience.
In the gameplay demonstration, we see Batgirl and Robin infiltrate a larger structure - are interiors a big focus here, or will the main portions of the game take place outside?
FM: Gotham Knights features a mix of open-world exterior and interior locations but will also give players the opportunity to explore larger interior iconic landmarks of Gotham City, just like the Elliot Center featured in our gameplay demo.
Which brings us nicely to the demo in question, which you can watch above, and which we've watched through a couple of times now. It shows a mixture of opening world adventuring, with scripted sequences that seem to funnel the player into more corridor-driven gameplay, with players able to switch between characters, on the fly by the looks of it.
The demo starts off with Batgirl racing a rather conspicuous motorbike through the streets of Gotham while giant bolts of lightning smashed into the road. Throughout the demo, there are lots of visual effects, in particular, ice-effects thanks to the chilling power of Mr Freeze, who returns as the big bad (or one of them) in this new adventure.
In fact, the demo ends with a battle between Freeze and Batgirl and Robin. Apparently, enemies scale with the player, so fighting Freeze at level 15 will apparently be a very different proposition to fighting the same villain at Level 5. During this boss battle, there was standard third-person combat interspersed with platforming sections that were framed by an isometric camera, with Batgirl and Robin hopping over the beams of electricity as they spun around the combat arena.
This whole sequence highlighted the game's fluid animations, and the 4K gameplay boasted some satisfying environmental effects, although there was a couple of rough edges if you looked for them. For example, the AI seemed limited, especially in terms of pathfinding, but then again, it was captured from an early alpha build, which also explains certain moments during the gameplay demo where the camera stuttered as it panned around.
With action-stealth gameplay that sees you switching between characters often, it looks like there are going to be plenty of opportunities to use the contrasting skills of the four heroes to thin the herd before things go loud and it's a more straightforward fight. After leaving stealth things seem to get more chaotic, with more standard Arkham-inspired third-person combat taking over. The standout addition, however, is the tag team moves where one character serves up an enemy for another to administer a true beatdown - they look like a great way of finishing off a demanding combat encounter.
However, based on what we've seen in the demo and on the words of WB's Fleur Marty, that's all we're really able to tell you about the game right now. The open-world is certainly intriguing and it'll be interesting to find out what kind of distractions it will offer away from the critical path, and no doubt there'll be plenty to share about the four playable characters and their various abilities in due course. With the game scheduled to land at some point next year, it shouldn't be long before we find out more and the rest of our questions are answered.