A Singular if Familiar Experience
Rocksteady's new “Batman: Arkham City” offers an exciting experience, even if at times it feels slightly familiar. If you're interested in “Batman: Arkham City” and have yet to play it's two-year-old predecessor “Batman: Arkham Asylum” then you should take the time to pick it up and give it a play. At this point the original game is at a price where the barrier of entry, the cost of the game, is low enough that your chances of enjoying it are pretty good. “Arkham Asylum” was a great game, but the reasons that I bring it up in this review are the similarities that “Arkham City” shares with it. If you've played “Arkham Asylum” and you still have an itch for some more Batman, then you should totally play “Arkham City,” but the game doesn't reinvent itself in any meaningful ways. This isn't really a knock against the game, as the Batman games currently coming out are surprisingly singular experiences.
The story of “Arkham City” is a real mixed bag. The plot in general has no substance, and the player is never, in the story, given the background of what is happening, and some key questions of the story are never really answered. As you solve the Riddler's Riddles (the collectibles of the game, which are surprisingly the meatiest part of the game) you are given “Arkham City Stories” which go to better lengths to explain the missing parts of the story. Collecting these is time consuming, however, and it's a wonder that these parts of the plot weren't built into the actual story. That being said, the way that the story is told is pretty great. There are moments of the game that will stick with me for a while, still perturbing and still exhilarating as I think back on them. The opening of the gameplay will stand as one of my favorite starts to a game, helping to introduce the world in which Bruce Wayne finds himself.
The “Arkham” world itself has its good and bad points. At times it feels vibrant and unique, giving you a strange world that only the Batman can set right. It loses its edge the more time you spend in it, however. It can get you through the story fine, but when you spend your time on collectibles it can get a little boring. I know that many people will want to collect the different collectibles, but unless that's something you really enjoy for its own sake, then you should probably not worry about it too much. A lot of the game's content is unlocked through the collectibles, the side stories, challenge rooms and concept art, but it's not stuff that you really need to enjoy the game. The side quests, however, are not to be missed, and will help you gain a better sense of the world as well as include extra villains.
Is “Batman: Arkham City” as innovative as it's predecessor? No, but that's not really a problem. It still delivers on being a fully realized 3D Metrovania (a game focusing on a limited open world containing heavy amounts of collectibles and character upgrades) and shouldn't be missed. This game may be something of a known quantity, but that should just tell you that this game, much like “Arkham Asylum” is worth the time to master it. No one else is making games quite like these, especially not for comic book super heroes. Whether you passively like Batman or are a true believer, then you will have a blast. Hell, even if you've taken a pass on Batman in the past it's still worth at least checking out, its quality goes beyond the license that it's associated with.