Where Should The Batman Series Go Next?
What Next For The Batman: ‘Arkham’ Games?
Some spoilers for the Batman: Arkham series…
Since Rocksteady Studio’s third entry Batman: Arkham Knight was released in 2015 there have been lots of rumours about where the series and potential spinoffs could be headed. Initially it seemed that after Batman: Arkham Origins Warner Bros. Montreal began working on a Suicide Squad game that would feature co-op and may or may not have tied into the film plus working on a new Batman game. According to sources at Kotaku late last year the Suicide Squad project was axed after failing to impress Warner Bros executives and the studio put all its efforts into the next Batman title which was rumoured to feature Damian Wayne.
More recently, over on Reddit one user who claimed to be a disgruntled Warner Bros. employee apparently leaked ‘Batman: Arkham Insurgency’ which contradicts the Damian Wayne rumour as this game would essentially be a sequel to Arkham Origins set before Batman: Arkham Asylum. The post has since been taken down but included details such as the return of Roger Craig Smith as Batman and Troy Baker as Joker, a Blackgate prison breakout and a prominent villainous group from the DC’s New 52 comics, the Court of Owls. Whatever the case may be, its clear a new Batman game is in the works but what direction should the series go in next?
The first question that comes to mind is where to place the next game in the continuity of the series. One of the coolest parts of the ‘Arkhamverse’ is that it has a history and weight to it – characters have died and the effects of villains like the Joker continues through the timeline Rocksteady began back in 2009. Nevertheless, after four games in the series, setting another game up to be a direct prequel as the Reddit post suggests could be quite limiting. The best option might be to set the next game far away from the Arkham timeline which would free up the developer to try new things that wouldn’t break the continuity Rocksteady and Warner Bros. Montreal have created. Given that the games over time have had less and less to do with the asylum, is the ‘Arkham’ name even really necessary anymore? One reason it might stick around is because there’s a recognition behind that name in the gaming space now and it’s a useful marketing tool for the future since the series is so well regarded.
DC has a huge roster of characters in their history to pull from and it might be time to move on from Bruce Wayne, at least for a while. Other characters such as Dick Grayson have taken up the mantle and there’s always the option of putting someone completely new under the cowl as the Arkham series hasn’t been afraid to change things up dramatically from the comics. Warner Bros. Montreal could even play into this by keeping the identity of the new Batman a secret until the game’s release although this could backfire via a leak or an anti-climatic reveal like the Arkham Knight’s reveal. While Bruce Wayne is Batman to most people it would be a shame if Warner Bros. felt they absolutely had to do another Bruce Wayne story when there is so much more to pull from.
A fresh approach could and should extend to the villains too. Seeing the Court of Owls in some respect or a new take on established characters could be really interesting and although the Joker is great and iconic, he should play a part in the next game rather than stealing the show or be absent altogether. A more direct acknowledgement of the wider DC universe would be appropriate too – rather than easter eggs and advertising billboards what if Lex Luthor actually just appeared in-game? Batman: Arkham Knight quite prominently featured lots of Metropolis nods which also begs the question of what is Rocksteady Studios working on next?
When it comes to gameplay, the Arkham series is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. The Freeflow combat system is not only fun to play but has been copied and adopted by plenty of other third-person action games as the best way to implement combat in that genre. There’s no doubt it suits the feel of Batman and does evoke the character’s fighting style in the comics, eliminating each threat methodically and fluidly. It doesn’t make much sense to do away with the system entirely but keeping it fresh and challenging without being unfair is the real challenge for the developers moving forward. One of the best parts of Arkham Origins were the boss fights in which it was more of a struggle for Batman to defeat his enemy, layering in these more difficult encounters is one way to break up the repetitiveness of combat.
Predator mode will also likely feature in the next game and again perhaps needs adjustments and tweaks to keep it entertaining. Part of this will depend on the setting and story, if players control Damian Wayne, is he less careful and more playful with criminals? What new or existing gadgets would he use differently? While the disappearance of gadgets that were by your side in the last game and re-emergence later on isn’t that bothersome to me, it is to others and there’s surely a more elegant way to build your character from scratch. It’s pretty likely that in the next Batman game we’ll be returning to the fully open city of Gotham or perhaps another city and that means the Batmobile will likely return. Overall, it’s worth the developer taking notice of some of the reaction from gamers without buying into the hyperbole. Did Batmobile stealth sections belong in Arkham Knight? Was vehicle combat an issue or the frequency of it?
As a fan of other characters like Nightwing it would be neat to see the Bat-family incorporated more fully into the next game. Being able to explore Gotham as some of these other characters without breaking the narrative of being Batman much the same way as players controlled Catwoman in Batman: Arkham City would be a really neat future as would more story content beyond shallow pieces of DLC. For Warner Bros. DLC is an opportunity to extract more money from a game (which as a business is their right) but there’s a longing from most for a meaty expansion which would be a great opportunity for the developer to explore a different character or setting while trying out some new things. This would also earn the publisher back some goodwill after disastrous technical problems for Arkham Knight on PC and the many reported Arkham Origins glitches.
There are lots of exciting options for Batman in the gaming space moving forward and it will be interesting to see how all the rumours do or don’t land. However likely the various leaks discussing the next Batman game are, one thing is more likely: we’ll probably hear more about what’s coming next at E3 later this year.
What direction do you think the Batman games should go in next?
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