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Gotham Knights’ Arkham Asylum Was Never Going to Live Up to Rocksteady’s

GameRant 10/29/2022 Jared Stewart
© Provided by GameRant

Arkham Asylum is an iconic psychiatric institution in the DC mythology, and it is almost certainly cemented in that way due to its depiction in Batman: Arkham Asylum. It is admirable that Gotham Knights takes a stab at Arkham Asylum in its own narrative, but it inevitably falls short of Rocksteady’s iteration. One could argue that Gotham Knights’ Gotham City outshines the Arkhamverse’s, iterating on open-world activities in a much more narratively dynamic and cohesive way, but Batman: Arkham Asylum’s world-building and atmospheric presence makes Arkham's nonlinear experience truly memorable.

This is not to say that Gotham Knights’ Arkham Asylum is poorly conceived. However, without the entire game taking place in Arkham or having Arkham be as refined or thematically interesting, there was no expectation that it would ever amount to what Rocksteady was able to achieve with Batman: Arkham Asylum. Gotham Knights instead concentrates on what makes its open-world Gotham City special alongside intricate case file missions, playing to its strengths as an action-RPG, rather than attempting to upstage Rocksteady’s own Arkham Asylum.

RELATED: How Gotham Knights Approaches Trauma and Grief

Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum is an Untouchable Masterpiece

The sheer craftsmanship that went into Batman: Arkham Asylum’s atmosphere is phenomenal, from its gothic architecture to an authentic UI. It also helped that Rocksteady could creatively design the interiors of Arkham Asylum with whatever inventive ideas it had, as the institution is not as iconically represented in media as Gotham City is.

The fact that the game takes place entirely on Arkham Island is a fascinating choice for this reason, allowing fans to completely immerse themselves in this hellish den, home to the most psychotic and intimidating members of Batman's rogues’ gallery. Players encounter villains such as Bane, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, and the Joker, inhabiting their cesspool for a night once Joker has sprung his trap. Rocksteady’s sequels and WB Games Montreal’s prequels never return to this legitimate Arkham Asylum in gameplay, and it seems a disservice that they never did since it was such an iconic starting point for the Arkhamverse.

Either way, it will be difficult for any future games’ portrayal of the institution to ever amount to Rocksteady’s. Gotham Knights did have the audacity to visit its own original Arkham Asylum, and that alone is commendable knowing that it would beg comparison.

Gotham Knights Was Smart to Only Briefly Address Arkham Asylum

This particular Arkham is a dilapidated ruin, and criminals are instead sent to Gotham Knights’ Blackgate Penitentiary. But it is in Arkham that players find a few fun Easter eggs, as well as Man-Bat as a surprise mini-boss. Likewise, Gotham Knights’ Arkham features two fun nods to horrific Batman villains in Jane Doe, Killer Croc, and Professor Pyg.

Players can enter a few old cells in Arkham and see where Jane Doe, Killer Croc, and Professor Pyg spent their time while admitted. Each cell is themed appropriately to them, though Doe’s cell is surprisingly unremarkable and ordinary. Croc’s cell is surprisingly small, but has a pool of noxious green sewage full of skeletons and etchings across the walls that read, “All Hail King Croc.” Pyg’s cell is the same size, but flooded in a certain light from what appears to be blood on its fluorescent light tubes, with a piece of morbid poetry on the floor before a mural. Players spend the perfect amount of time at Arkham before they depart, and it serves as a fun location to visit with history embedded in it from Gotham’s past.

Gotham Knights is incredibly light on context for past events as it is. However, it was right to only include Arkham Asylum for a short period of time if it needed to include it at all, in order to not draw any more attention or comparison to it if Arkham was not going to be as detailed or explorable.

Gotham Knights is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

MORE: Gotham Knights Couldn’t Escape Batman’s Shadow

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