The Dark Knight in all his glory

February 2014 Prof. Cassandra Lobiesk

Coming off of an Injustice: Gods Among Us high and a terrible obsession with the Justice League animated series (which I'm still in the middle of watching), I thought a good immersion into the notable Arkham series would be the natural next step.

There has been a lot of praise for Arkham Asylum and its Batman: Arkham sequels, and while I'm normally the Kal-El fangirl, I've certainly grown some degree of fondness toward a majority of the DC Comics characters, Bruce Wayne included. In fact, as far as superheroes go, there's no denying that the Batman franchise has served quite a lucrative profiteering model in the gaming industry, especially with the Arkham series counting off numerous accolades on its release. While Injustice: Gods Among Us and DC Universe Online were also great contenders--and fun games to play--it is Arkham that delivers the very best of story, graphics, and adventure gameplay.

This review will deal with Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, since those are the two I've played.

Arkham Asylum was released in 2009 by Eidos Interactive (known for the Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and Thief series, among other games) and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Based on one of DC Comics' most prolific superheroes, Asylum brings us straight into the action taking place in Gotham. The game opens with Batman on his way to Arkham Asylum, a correctional facility or prison for the terminally criminal. With Batman is a recently captured Joker, whose plan had been to trap the Dark Knight within the prison, along with the many villains that Batman had helped put behind bars. Joker's plot is a bit more menacing than that, and throughout the storyline, Batman must save familiar figures and battle notorious villains in the DC Comicverse.

Arkham City (2011) retains a continuity of the Arkham series, starting off a year after the events of Asylum. In City, Arkham Asylum has since become defunct, and instead Arkham City arose to contain the prisoners of the old asylum. Run by Dr. Hugo Strange, the area is a cesspool of villainy, and Gotham Police are more than overwhelmed by the fact that the prisoners are walking the streets, freed from their shackles. Fortunately for them, Bruce Wayne gets himself incarcerated within Arkham City's walls. And, we know where Bruce Wayne goes, the Dark Knight isn't far behind.

Asylum is a third-person action adventure game, where the player controls Batman. As Batman, the player can do various physical feats with the equipment that he carries and/or acquires during the game. I admit, it seemed difficult to imagine Batman as being unprepared with his whole array of gadgets ready from the get-go, but the writers and developers made it believable that he can upgrade his batarang, grapple gun, and explosive gels within the parameters of the story.

City extrapolates on the success of Asylum, bettering Batman's items and developing the world and characters within. Admittedly, while I did love Asylum because of story and gameplay, it was far better playing City due to the ease of the battle system (something I often found frustrating in Asylum) and the openness of the world. Numerous characters make their appearances in both games, but again, City wins out due to the inclusion of several "favorite" villains, as well as the playability of Catwoman (and Robin/Nightwing as downloadable content) and the return of previous villains from Asylum.

Both games were phenomenal, and coming from a person who enjoys story in games almost as much as graphics and play, I'd like to say that the story in the Batman: Arkham series is phenomenal. The end of Arkham City left me aghast, mostly because I hadn't been sure whether the creators could blatantly do what they did and get away with it. Also, the voice acting was absolutely divine, with veterans Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Mark Hamill (Joker), and Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn) taking on voice roles in the game, reprising their animated series roles of the same characters (though Sorkin does get replaced in City by Tara Strong). There's also the addition of Stana Katic (Detective Kate Beckett in Castle) as Talia al Ghul, Troy Baker (Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite) as Robin, and Grey DeLisle (Daphne in Scooby Doo) as Catwoman.

So yes. I can definitely see why various game publishers rated this high on their list upon release.

Also, part of the trilogy is Batman: Arkham Origins, so I'm looking forward to playing that as well!

Game: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City
Released: 2009, 2011
Genre: Third-person action adventure
Developer/Publisher: Rocksteady Studios, Eidos Interactive and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
ESRB Rating: T for Teen