Gotham Knights starts with the chilling words, “If you’re watching this I’m dead.” After watching a showdown between Batman and Ra’s al Ghul, the words still don’t feel real. Surely this is all a ploy to draw out the game’s real antagonist? Or even a trial to put our main heroes to the test as they race to solve Bruce’s last case.
As the game starts players will get to choose Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, or Redhood before playing through the first mission. This choice isn’t permanent. Each hero will level simultaneously but gear, mods, and abilities must be selected individually. This does allow some flexibility in playstyle. If there is one character players prefer there aren’t any penalties. The game will treat each hero as though they did leave the Belfry, their headquarters.
Gotham Knights’ strength lies in its story. A professor’s death leads to the discovery of illegal experiments, warring gangs and secret societies. There are some familiar faces “helping” the knights along the way. Namely Harley Quinn and The Penguin who help before hindering our heroes. Through it all we see the team dealing with the death of their mentor. They reach out to each other. They lean on each other as a family. The plot feels as though it’s there to support the characters and their growth, so the stakes actually feel important.
And the stakes will rise. As though the League of Shadows (formerly led by Ra’s al Ghul) being involved wasn’t bad enough, players learn of a second player. They are “hidden within the walls of Gotham” and are only known as a myth. This group calls themselves The Court of Owls. Their corruption is what has drawn The League back to Gotham. Players have to stop the city from falling as the two armies attempt to tear each other apart. Every time it feels like the answers are finally becoming clear, a new obstacle appears. The ending is dangled in front of us. Friend will be turned against friend before the story culminates in a final fight against the full might of Talia al Ghul.
Unfortunately, the gameplay serves as Gotham Knights’ biggest enemy. There were still moments of stuttering and dropped frames. This was mainly an issue during the Blackgate Penitentiary quest. Unresponsive controls also made it hard to avoid enemies despite their moves being well telegraphed. Enemies who used weapons even got a line aimed at the hero for a few seconds before firing. Pairing this with some frustrating traps that resulted in an insta-death and a mandatory stealth level, resulted in the game’s narrative doing some heavy lifting.
That being said, when the controls worked well, nailing your chosen hero’s abilities was satisfying. The brief investigation gameplay also added to the myth of playing a detective-like character without detracting from the rest of the game. Patrols were repetitive, but a good way to gain experience. Being at the minimum level for a mission was usually enough. Most of the game could’ve felt grindy if that wasn’t the case. With the exception of the game’s final chapter where it would maybe be a good idea to knock out a few nights of patrols.
Gotham Knights has plenty of twists waiting for players. Its gameplay is a mixed bag that holds back a lot of its potential. Though anyone who takes on the challenge may find that doesn’t dampen their enjoyment. Or they may find themselves also sitting on a fence, not sure what to make of their experience. Gotham Knights is still an interesting take at envisioning a city in need of new heroes.