Gotham Knights is the next Batman game – except it doesn’t have Batman.
The new co-op game – though you can also play it solo – lets you control the rest of the Bat-family instead, with Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Red Hood all stepping up to the plate to protect Gotham after the death of the Caped Crusader.
This is separate to the Suicide Squad game under development by Rocksteady (the original Batman Arkham developers), and instead Gotham Knights comes from Warner Bros. Montréal, who previously made the prequel Arkham Origins.
When will Gotham Knights come out?
Warner Bros. has so far only confirmed that Gotham Knights will release some time in 2021. We don’t know anything more than that, but it’s probably safe to expect it towards the end of the year rather than the beginning.
What platforms will Gotham Knights be on?
With a 2021 release, it should be no surprise that Gotham Knights will come out on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. It’ll also come to PC, and in a welcome touch will release on PS4 and Xbox One too, so anyone who hasn’t upgraded their hardware yet will still be able to play.
Watch the Gotham Knights trailer
The game was officially revealed during the DC FanDome stream with a slick cinematic trailer that shows off the game’s core setup, and also teases the villains that will no doubt be behind the main plot: the mysterious Court of Owls.
What’s the gameplay like?
As mentioned above, the big new feature of Gotham Knights is that it offers co-op gameplay, with the choice to play the whole game either solo or with friends.
The four playable characters are:
Batgirl, a.k.a. Barbara Gordon, who fights with a few of Batman’s old techniques and looks the closest in style to the old Arkham games
Robin, a.k.a. Tim Drake, who uses the combo of stealth and a quarterstaff to navigate encounters
Nightwing, a.k.a. Dick Grayson, who’s the most acrobatic of the bunch and armed with his trademark escrima sticks
Red Hood, a.k.a. Jason Todd, the resurrected former Robin who is the only member of the group to use actual guns
Strangely, despite the choice of four playable characters it only offers two-player co-op, so you’ll only ever have half of the Bat-family in action at any one time. That’s on purpose though, as the idea is to tap into a specific comics trope.
“The two-player dynamic fits the fantasy and the Gotham City setting. The ‘duo’ or team-up is such a central feature of the universe that there’s a literal shorthand for it in the comics, animation, film, and TV versions,” creative director Patrick Redding told GamesRadar.
Each character will play differently, with their own moveset, weaponry, and upgrade paths, so the game should feel different depending on which character you load up.
You can see a little of that in the first official gameplay video, which shows Batgirl and Robin working through an encounter with Mr. Freeze, each approaching the scenario with different techniques.
Combat is different to the Arkham games, dropping that rhythmic attack and counter system with a simplified beat-’em-up approach, a move designed for multiplayer according to the devs in the same GamesRadar interview.
“We have entirely redesigned the combat system in order for it to work well in co-op,” said Fleur Marty, the game’s executive producer. “Of course, we’re still a brawler, and some of the mechanics won’t feel totally alien for people who played and enjoyed the Arkham series, but it is in many ways very different.”
Interestingly progression is now tied to levels, with enemies having their own level, and damage actually represented by numerical values popping up with every hit – a sign that this probably owes a little to games-as-a-service titles like Destiny.
Levelling up isn’t tied to each character though, so no matter which member of the Bat Family you pick you’ll feel just as powerful, and enemies and other threats will scale to match.
“Since the other members of the Batman family are always present in some way in the background, while you’re out in the world fighting crime or unravelling the mystery, they don’t stay inactive. So it makes sense that they are also progressing and getting stronger,” Marty explained.
“Since the story progression is shared between all the characters, it also makes sense that you don’t have to level them up from scratch every time you want to switch. It also stays very coherent in terms of our narrative.”
That helps because you’ll be able to switch between members of the team at just about any time, so long as you’re in a point of the game where you can get back to the Belfry, your base of operations. That’s also where you’ll be able to tinker with your gear and gadgets.
Still, some things stay the same though. Gotham will once again be a sprawling open-world space, split this time into five boroughs. And to get around them you’ll have access to the Batcycle among some other fun tricks.
One final note on the story: this isn’t a continuation of the Arkham games, even though the setup is remarkably similar to the finale of Arkham Knight. Instead this is a separate take on the DC universe, so expect to see new takes on a few villains, and don’t come to this game looking for an explanation of the Arkham trilogy’s ending – for that look to 2022’s Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, which comes from original Arkham devs Rocksteady and will carry on in that same setting.