Game Thoughts: Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City on X360 by Rocksteady. Time Played: 14 hours.  Status: Finished.

  1. An open world game doesn’t feel open world when loading screens happen every 5 seconds and the game crashes.  I don’t think it was worth it.
  2. I am lost.  “Landmarks are needed!”  A good introductory tour of the City could have done wonders.
  3. The open world phases make the game muddle.  I much preferred the more linear rollercoaster stylings of the prequel.
  4. Excellent neon signage.  Batman Forever eat your heart out.
  5. The best swinging I can recall.  Spiderman has really established this gameplay style well.  The gliding took a lot of time to get used to, however.
  6. The combat is still textbook awesome.  And the critical hit system (which rewards you for not button mashing) combines with the old combo system brilliantly.  Give that man a raise.
  7. Mixed boss fights.  The Mr. Freeze fight (when you have a good stealth system, flaunt it!) and the Ra’s Al Ghul fight are both big standouts.  Most of the others fall short due to story placement rather then the fight itself.  Lesson: build your fights to fit the feelings, if you’re going to write your story ahead of time.
  8. So many buttons and gadgets though, I struggle to know what I can use when.  Good thing Strike and Counter are so reliable.  A slower gadget intro rate would be my main request.
  9. For their complicated controls, they still are masters at tutorialization.  Nicely layered test rooms and optional missions that train you in a specific move one at a time, spread over the first 10 hours.  Dedication.
  10. And hint text every time you use a rare or contextual action, or they even guess that you might want to.  Fantastic.  The kind of AI no one notices, and yet is absolutely required.
  11. So Many Villians!  No game other then Batman could even attempt it.  3 would have been plenty.  Villian introduction rate: 2 per hour.
  12. Grungy.  Everything is so grungy.  The palette seems remarkably narrow.
  13. Side quests and rapid pacing still don’t mix.
  14. The Riddler’s secrets feel more like pedestrian hidden objects and achievements this go round.  My guess: the open world-ness makes it feel less like you’re “finishing” a room.
  15. The Catwoman “Buy-or-Pay” model can’t shake the DLC feeling, no matter how many times they ask you to pay before you start the game.
  16. What’s up with the ending?  A story collapse moment for me.

Batman: Arkham Asylum still stands out to me, but this game made me nicely nostalgic for it. (Disclaimer: I used to work for SquareEnix, the publisher, but have no connection with the work itself)

REMA wrap-up:

  • Primarily a Rollercoaster game, with the player being driven forward by story and mission goals.  Plenty of classic Rollercoaster touches.
  • Nice isolation of the various systems (stealth, combat) with clear delineations allows some manageable mode switching.
  • However brief encounters, short-lived successes, inability to repeat encounters, and longer load times limits the opportunities for Experiment and Mastery in the main game.
  • Some Experiment possible in the Combat system (lots of gadgets, XP for variation) and in the Stealth system (lots of options for takedowns, XP for variation).
  • Primarily Mastery in the Challenge modes, outside the main game (start with same set up every time, global leaderboards, easily replayable).
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