Gotham Knights Better Not Repeat The Mistakes Of Marvel’s Avengers

Gotham Knights is definitely the product of Warner Bros. reacting to the current market. Games like Fortnite, Genshin Impact, and Apex Legends have cemented themselves as hugely successful live service-titles that build upon a growing ecosystem for years at a time. Players can go it alone or team up with friends, but what matters is that they’re eager to log in each and every day to keep their progress ticking along nicely.

The coming adventures of Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, and Red Hood hope to join this cabal of time-hoarding experiences, slotting in nicely alongside them as a superhero co-op caper that you can play alone or with a group of fellow vigilantes. I’m more than a bit worried about it.

On the surface it seems the mechanical foundations of Rocksteady’s Arkham games have been stretched out into something more ambitious, allowing us to explore an entire city with four characters instead of one, while also placing a greater focus on multiplayer and repeatable activities instead of a single cohesive story. During a recent gameplay trailer it was stressed that solo play is possible, but co-op play is clearly at the centre of its core design.

Nightwing is seen gliding onto a rooftop to take out a group of generic goons with a selection of abilities, and before long Red Hood swoops in to join in on the action and move things along. They share experience points and other spoils from the encounter, and can either go their separate ways or continue to save innocent lives as a team. The idea of a sprawling open world where four players can go about different activities either together or independently sounds incredibly exciting, but it also raises a number of concerns.

The recent trailer shows the same mission being repeated by Nightwing and Red Hood, and while I assume the intention was to show that each character shares a storyline and you can progress the main narrative regardless of who your favourite hero happens to be, it also teases a game that risks repetitive mission design or fragmented progression while spreading itself too thin across four characters who aren’t able to accommodate the campaign they’re a part of. This is a co-op superhero game, so I wouldn’t be shocked if Warner Bros. Montreal plans to build upon it with expansions and updates moving forward, but part of me is also wondering who exactly asked for this type of superhero game in the first place.

Marvel’s Avengers is an immediate comparison, the live-service disaster from Crystal Dynamics that had so much potential, but was clearly bludgeoned into a formula the studio wasn’t familiar with by Square Enix who wanted a slice of the games as a service pie. The end result was dull, lacked charisma, and failed to justify the huge time investment it was expected from the players to see the very best it had to offer. Its solo campaign was the best thing about it, and the live-service dregs we were left with as the credits rolled just weren’t compelling in the slightest. Major expansions after launch were great, but they weren’t enough and other updates were fleeting enough that now the game has all been forgotten.

The game has become a joke despite all the effort that went into creating it, with the team likely doing the best they could in a bad situation while dealing with corporate decisions that turned this once promising game into a mess. Gotham Knights could easily follow in such footsteps, and I imagine Warner Bros. Montreal is more than aware of that. Even more puzzling is that Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is also a co-op superhero adventure set across a massive open world city with a number of distinct playable characters all with their own skills and abilities. You can play the game alone or tackle it with friends – is this all starting to sound a little familiar?

Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac Games was obscenely successful because it provided players with a comprehensive single-player superhero journey that understood the potential of its central character while seeking to build upon him with a brilliant supporting cast, original story, and gameplay systems that were a joy to experiment with. Wolverine will likely follow in these footsteps, while Gotham Knights and Marvel’s Avengers are chasing market trends presented by out-of-touch executives instead of actually wanting to build something we as players care about. I’m not a game developer, so I will never think to take away from the craftsmanship that makes these titles possible, but also seeing them die a death because corporate fools who think they know better always break my heart.

Gotham Knights and Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League could be massive hits, but right now it feels like they’re following in the wrong footsteps in the hopes of finding success. We’ll have to wait and see, but I hope we don’t have enough Marvel’s Avengers on our hands.

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