I didn’t necessarily play a ton of new games in 2009, but Batman: Arkham Asylum was my favorite game that year. The beat ‘em combat was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in a video game. As Batman I took on large groups of enemies, and once I learned the ins and outs of the deep combat system, I was able to rack up incredible combos and effortlessly take out thugs. There was so much more to the gameplay than just the combat though; exploration was such a major feature too. Witnessing so many of Batman’s enemies firsthand was interesting and my knowledge of the lore was enhanced because of Rocksteady Studios’ attention to detail. Needless to say I was pumped for the sequel.
Batman: Arkham City just came out, like yesterday, and I wanted to recap my experience with the first few hours. The biggest difference I’ve noticed so far is the environment. Last time we saw Batman, he was confined to Arkham Asylum and the island it resided on. This was a large environment, but for the most part, everything was connected via hallways. This time around, Batman has all of Arkham City to explore; it’s many times larger than the previous environment and feels much more open.
I’m beginning to get acquainted with the city and am increasingly able to know where I am via landmarks and important buildings. I’m traversing much of the city in the “canopy” by grappling to rooftops and gliding around. For every new story beat, I’m given an indicator of where I need to go, and the game lets progress the story at my own pace. I’ve encountered many sidequests so far and I don’t think I can walk for more than thirty seconds before finding something to do. I’ve been splitting my time between advancing the story and partaking in sidequests, and I’m just baffled by the amount of stuff to do.
But what’s up with Arkham City what is it and why isn’t that game taking place in Gotham City? Well, when Arkham Asylum closed down, Gotham City still needed a place to put criminals and super villains, and Dr. Hugo Strange obliged. He’s behind the development of Arkham City, where ne’er do wells run rampant. Circumstances see that Batman winds up inside and yada, yada, yada. We all know Batman is going to do what Batman knows best, kick butt and put a stop to whatever madness is going on, and probably only temporarily. The story has introduced me to a handful of well known and lesser known enemies in the four hours I’ve played so far, and kicking butt is still challenging and rewarding.
The combat is identical to the previous game, I’m not sure I’ve even encountered any additional methods of attacking yet, but I’m sure that’ll come with time. That just means the combat is easy to learn and difficult to master like it previously was, and I’ve found I’m a little rusty, but then again I’ve already gotten a 40-hit combo. I still gain levels for kicking butt, completing quests, and finding secrets, and I still have a boatload of options to level up. That’s something I really like about Batman: Arkham City; there is a ton of additional stuff for me to do, and I feel it’s worth my time because the rewards have a direct effect on gameplay.
Honestly, Batman: Arkham City has exceeded my expectations in the four or so hours I’ve played of it. The story is captivating so far, but it’s really the gameplay that’s drawing me in. Fighting enemies and wanting to excel is challenging and fun. There’s so much to do too; I feel a little overwhelmed with the possibilities I have, progress the story, accomplish any number of sidequests, etc. but so far I’m blown away by Batman: Arkham City.