Gotham Knights narrative director says killing Batman was "liberating"
By moving away from Bruce Wayne, Gotham Knights is doing something no Batman game has done before.
How do you make a Batman game without the Batman? That’s the challenge facing WB Games Montréal, the studio behind several games in the popular Arkham series. But while those games let you inhabit the Dark Knight’s twisted mind, Gotham Knights starts off by killing him off in the first 10 minutes — and he doesn’t come back to life either.
That may sound like the premise for a disappointing game, but the team behind Gotham Knights says it freed them up to try some new and exciting things by focusing on the less-celebrated members of the Bat-family.
“It was liberating,” narrative director Ann Lemay tells Inverse. “Not because Batman isn't a fun challenge to take on. That would have been just a different kind of game. But we really got to take on characters that aren't the main headliners in games usually.”
Instead of focusing on just Batman, Gotham Knights lets you play as one of four other superheroes: Nightwing, Red Hood, Robin, and Batgirl.
“These are all characters my team loves,” Lemay adds. “We had writers going, I want to write this one. And I want to write this one, right. We came to this very excited and very enthused about it. And like I hope it's reflected in the work that everyone sees it.”
Gotham Knights cinematic director Wilson Mui tells Inverse that making a game without Batman has “been a challenge,” even if it’s not a direct sequel to the Arkham series. “It's not tied to the Batman games that we've seen,” he says.
“The ultimate goal is for all of you to play the game four times over.”
Aside from simply missing Bruce Wayne, the biggest challenge in creating Gotham Knights was in trying to make four games in one, as both Mui and Lemay explain. Since all four characters are playable, that means every single level and cutscene can be played as Nightwing, Red Hood, Robin, and Batgirl. And who you’re playing as changes the experience dramatically.
“Every character gets custom lines per level per cinematic, and they each get a character arc with multiple cinematics in it,” Lemay says. “It was a lot of writing. But because we wanted that to be part of the experience — and because gameplay and animation were doing the same thing on their side with unique animation sets and unique gameplay per character — you had to rise to the occasion. It's four games in one.”
Cinematics director Wilson Mui offers a bit more detail on what that means for the Gotham Knights experience.
“We've managed to deliver essentially four cinematics in one,” he says. “So when you're playing as Red Hood, you're gonna get your version of that cinematic, but let's say you decide to switch to Nightwing or Batgirl, you're gonna get their version. I can honestly tell you, those are four very different cinematics, different dialogue, and different interactions with characters.”
“The ultimate goal is for all of you to play the game four times over,” Mui adds, “if not more.”
Gotham Knights swoops onto PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft Windows on October 25, 2022