Rocksteady’s Batman games have evolved beyond their humble origins in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Where Batman was once confined to this single location, later games in the Arkham series have granted him greater room to glide through. In Batman: Arkham Knight, the entire city of Gotham is under siege by a united rogues gallery–so where does Arkham itself fit into the story?
“The word ‘Arkham’ has come to represent an aesthetic and a philosophy,” says Arkham Knight’s marketing director, Dax Ginn. “Our games are very ‘real’–not hyper-real, but there’s a realism about the way the characters behave. There’s a grittiness about the appearance of them. The connotations of the word ‘Arkham’ have moved away from a literal connection to Arkham Asylum. But we think about the word ‘Arkham’ as meaning more than just the geography of the place. It stands for an interpretation of gritty realism within the game world.”
‘Arkham’ also represents Rocksteady’s interpretation of Batman himself: playing as him offers “a fantasy of empowerment”, according to Ginn.
“That’s been an escalation from Arkham Asylum through to Arkham Knight, with every game being a step up in the threat that Batman faces, but also counter-threat that he brings,” he continues. “The skill tree that he has in terms of combat and gadgetry, as well as the addition of the Batmobile, makes him more powerful than he’s ever been. But the threat that he faces is more threatening than it’s ever been. That’s the essence of this arms race that has been the plan throughout the three games.”
If it sounds like an unstoppable force is about to meet an immovable object, you wouldn’t be far off the mark. The eponymous Arkham Knight has been designed to be Batman’s equal, so when the two inevitably clash, Ginn hints that the result will be a “fascinating gameplay experience.”
And yet, in the Arkham series so far, Batman rarely ever feels like he’s in real danger. This plays into the power fantasy Ginn speaks of, and is a core aspect of the character: Batman is equipped to deal with any situation. So what is the nature of the new threat he faces in Arkham Knight, and why is it actually threatening if Batman is more powerful than ever? This time around, Batman is joined by what Ginn calls the ‘Bat-family’–Nightwing, Robin, Oracle, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, Lucius Fox, and Catwoman–and they are the ones who cannot withstand an unstoppable force.
“Batman’s allies become more important, but his allies aren’t as capable as him, and they get drawn into the crossfire that surrounds him because of the decisions he has made about the war he has brought upon himself through his own moral compass,” Ginn explains. “This is a fascinating aspect of Batman’s personality that we haven’t covered at all in the previous games. It’s a much more personal story than we’ve ever told before.”
At the core of Arkham Knight’s story is the question: ‘Is Batman a solitary character? Or is he part of an alliance?’ Ginn says that’s an open question, as other interpretations of Batman have seen him feature in a group of superheroes, but it’s one that Arkham Knight may see you find a different answer to.