How do you follow up the best superhero game of all time? This was the task that Rocksteady set themselves when going into creating a sequel to Arkham Asylum, one of the best games of 2009. Do you completely reinvent the genre once again, or try to create more of the same? Rocksteady chose the latter and it pays off, for the most part anyway.
Story wise the game truly is a sequel to Arkham Asylum, with Batman once again trying to stop the Joker's evil plans however this time the setting isn't just an island full of villains but in fact a whole city. The plot takes some twists along the way but other then a surprising ending it is pretty standard stuff. It won't stay with you once you have completed it like some games but it will keep you interested for as long as it needs to.
As I mentioned the setting is that of a city this time which creates a much more open world feel to the game as opposed to the more linear approach of its predecessor. Whilst the story progresses you can go off and do certain side missions and stop crimes across the city and go back to the story whenever you like. I find this approach takes the player out of the story and whilst many like the option to do what they like, I preferred the more focused linear style of the first game.
The story length felt shorter to finish than Asylum and I'm not sure whether I just played it quicker or whether that is actually the case. This game does however have way more content to delve into once you finish the story than Asylum due to the open world approach of the game. Whilst the Riddler trophies return (400 as opposed to 240 in the last game) and contain an actual story and confrontations with the Riddler this time, there is also many side missions to play which feature a host of all new Batman villains to be entertained by. It's great stuff and really will keep you satisfied long after the main story is wrapped up.
The graphics and art style are pretty much untouched from Asylum, albeit a slightly more polished version. Whilst the game couldn't completely reinvent itself as it needs to be set in the same world as the first game, it would have been nice if they had tried to make this game distinct on its own. It's disappointing but hard to argue with seeing as the art style of Asylum was so fantastic, there isn't really a need to change it.
One of the things I did find frustrating whilst playing through the story was some blatant attempts to prolong the game's length. For example, in one part you need to access a room to progress the story. But before you can do that you need to go to four random locations first to destroy generators that are stopping you from entering the room. Things like this are completely boring and distract from playing its great story.
This game is very heavy on including different characters, way more so than Arkham Asylum, which is a good thing and a bad thing. The downside is that the story will be very hard to follow for people who are not very knowledgeable of the batman universe and will find the appearance of some extremely random. The game does a good job to provide character bios but still seems like players could get lost easy along the way. The upside is that Rocksteady does such a good job at adapting these famous characters that ideally we want to see their take on all of the citizens in Batman's wonderful universe. However this means that the characters feel less fleshed out than in Asylum and makes the story less meaningful.
One of my problems with the first game was that the boss battles we're pretty much the same, apart from Poison Ivy. This time the bosses have definitely been given more thought and feel way more unique than before. My favorite has to be the battle with Mister Freeze. Not only is he one of my favorite Batman villains and Rocksteady's take on the character is excellent, I found the battle to be a cool albeit slightly easy one to play through.
The combat and gameplay is pretty much the same as Asylum, with the inclusion of a few new gadgets and takedowns. The core mechanics are untouched with combos feeling tweaked and slightly easier to pull off. As with the art style I was disappointed at how small the improvement between games was, but the fact that they worked so well in Asylum I can see why Rocksteady chose not to adjust them that much. If it ain't broke don't fix it right?
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Arkham City. The boss battles and villains feel a lot more unique and special like Batman villains should, and the inclusion of side missions is a nice way to include more characters without the integrity of the story suffering. It's a shame that game isn't more distinct from Asylum and feels more like Asylum DLC than a true sequel. I preferred the story and setting in the first game but as a lot of the things that I loved about Asylum carry over, it's hard not to love City also.