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Gotham Knights Review

gotham knights

Do the Gotham Knights live up to Batman’s legacy, or do they simply live in his shadow?

Batman is dead. Proper dead. This is the message that Gotham Knights developer WB Games Montréal have etched into all of their marketing. They want you to know Batman is dead. Which he is. It’s a brave move, not just because of how iconic the Caped Crusader is, but also because comic book characters rarely stay dead.

Holy Odd Choices Batman!

Right out of the gate, Gotham Knights suffers with this message, sure the games’ intro shows him dying and the Gotham Knights finding his body. But it’s not enough. One of Batman’s foes - Ra’s al Ghul - has been resurrected several times. One of the Gotham Knights - Jason Todd - also spent a brief stint not breathing and, throughout the story, reminds everyone that he died. So yes, trying to convince the fanbase that Batman is dead is an uphill struggle. So Gotham Knights had it’s doubters from the off. They would’ve been better off just say “you won’t play as him” and go from there.

Annoyingly, this isn’t the only odd choice Gotham Knights makes. After the introduction, and selecting which of the four knights to take to the streets with (Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood or Robin), you’re set loose on the streets of Gotham and, immediately, something feels off. I started my adventure as Batgirl. From the rooftops I looked out, used my scanner to pick up reports of a crime nearby. Set a waypoint and leapt from the rooftop... and fell to the pavement.

You see, Gotham Knights has a levelling system. You’ll gain experience from fighting criminals, stopping crime, doing side missions and following the main story. As you progress through the 40 levels you’ll unlock new abilities - which is all pretty standard and, on the whole, a lot of fun. Sadly, the ability for Batgirl to glide is locked behind a side mission. Which in turn must be unlocked by fighting a certain number of criminals and hitting a certain level cap. I spent the first night either on foot or Batcycle before ziplining to the rooftops so I could surprise attack criminals from above. It was fun and the Batcycle handles well, but I wanted to glide and zipline across the rooftops, not run down the street having pedestrians heckle me. Unlocking the mission to gain the glide ability for Batgirl is simple and quick, which begs the question “why lock it away in the first place?”.

Up To Speed

By the third night my Batgirl had the ability to glide, she was level 5 and I had selected a couple of abilities from her unique skill tree and a couple from the standard combat tree. Gotham Knights suddenly came alive and I was back in Gotham proper. From here, and with each subsequent level, Batgirl became more and more akin to her mentor. And she was a far cry from the oddly stunted crime fighter from a couple of nights ago.

Combat became faster, leaping between criminals became smoother and my new abilities kept villains on the backfoot. Batarangs, smoke bombs, and a grappling hook all became lethal and Batgirls unique hacking skill tree ensured all security cameras and enemy equipment were down before I attacked. Eventually I was a shadow, I was fear and I had a cool little drone that fired stun rounds while it healed me.

So yes, the artificially stunted crime fighters slow things down for the first couple of nights all in the name of progress. Which then leads me to the next odd choice. You can choose which of the Gotham Knights to play as each night. But they all gain experience independently. So when I gave my level 15 Batgirl the night off and took my level 1 Red Hood out for a spin I had to redo the side mission to get his version of the “glide” ability. His is an odd “jump from weird platforms made from ‘back from the dead’ powers” (Nightwing gets an actual glider and Robin can teleport short distances using Batman’s tech). So, my level 1 Red Hood hit the streets to carry on the main storyline, to which the game told me I was under levelled and would struggle. So I spent Red Hood’s night fighting street punks before calling it quits early and getting Batgirl to suit back up the following night.

A Knight To Remember

The main storyline follows the Court of Owls thread. A mysterious organisation that control Gotham from the shadows. The Gotham Knights pick up where Batman left off and follows leads in an attempt to uncover the Court’s motives, find out their sinister plan and put a stop to it. The main story is split into eight chapters, each comprise of a few missions each. Typically you’ll only get to complete one mission a night before either fighting criminal factions to gather clues about hideouts or other, higher profile, crimes that are set to take place. If you’re done beating up bad guys you can head back to the Gotham Knight’s base - The Belfry.

Here you gather clues to look over, unlock cutscenes, train, build new weapons & costumes, and choose which hero to take out the following night. It’s also where, if you’ve met the prerequisite, you can look over the case files of certain member’s of Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery and foil their plans as well.

Better The Devil You Know

I won’t spoil which ones you’ll face, but these are, by far, the highlight of Gotham Knights. That’s not to say the main story isn’t good, it’s excellent, but the Court of Owls aren’t mainstays in Batman’s roster. His Rogue’s Gallery of colourful villains are. And facing off against them is always a pleasure. The marketing for Gotham Knights has shown a lot of Harley Quinn, so it’s not a spoiler if I talk about her... I hope. Anyway, the first time you meet Harley is in Blackgate as part of the main storyline. Even though she’s in prison, she’s doing pretty well for herself, the guards stay away from “her side” of the prison and she has a small army to do her bidding.

She starts off helping the band of caped crusaders before hatching her own sinister plans. You’ll then embark on a four mission side quest to foil Quinn’s plans and eventually take her down in a boss fight. Each of the Rogue’s Gallery side missions and subsequent boss fights are fantastic. WB Games Montréal have absolutely nailed the writing of these villains and the graphics and effects used in these sections are some of the best in the game. Boss fights can feel long, but that’s only if you don’t read the case files and work out each villains weakness. A properly equipped Knight can bring a boss down in mere minutes, but you’ll still be tested and these supervillains won’t go down without an epic fight for Gotham City.

We Built This City

Gotham City itself is beautifully realised and easy to navigate either on foot, Batcycle or across the sky. Holding down on the D-Pad gives out a quick sonar scan of the surrounding area and highlights crimes, side and main missions. These then show up on the main map and can be selected at will. Side missions vary. You have the aforementioned Case Files, time trails by bike or wing, stopping serious crimes (if you’ve stopped enough street crimes and interrogated enough criminals to gather information). There’s also a side mission where you’ll need to plant false information to keep the identity of Batman a secret. There are also the usual collectibles dotted around. Not one of these side activities feels like a chore, they’re all fun with just the right amount of difficulty. All of the different collectible sets come with decent rewards and the grand total of collectibles is still less than the infuriating Riddler Trophies from the Arkham games.

Knight & Day

It’s hard not to play Gotham Knights and compare it to the Arkham games. Once again odd choices come into play here. The game is made by WB Games Montréal, who made the criminally under-rated Arkham Origins so the association is there immediately. Arkham Knight ends with Batman activating “Knightfall” and “dying”. Gotham Knight starts with Batman dying, but in a completely unrelated way. Even though it looks like it, Gotham Knights is NOT an Arkham game and it doesn’t continue the story left by the Arkham games. This should’ve been made clearer during the game’s marketing. Gotham Knights is it’s own game, with it’s own identity and should be treated as such.

Early on Gotham Knights came under fire for “pretending to be an Arkham game” and Arkham fans got their pitchforks and torches at the ready. When Gotham Knights launched it had a fair few performance issues and was mocked by the Arkham crowd. But WB Games Montréal worked tirelessly to fix these issues. And they did it so quickly I had to re-write my review a few times as six patches came out in the space of two weeks and fixed the majority of issues. But the odd thing with Arkham fans (or fans of anything really) is they have short memories.

No-one expected Arkham Asylum to be as amazing as it was, it was dismissed before release, but then blew everyone out of the water. Arkham City had story pacing issues and the shear number of collectibles to grab was nauseating. Arkham Knight tried to make people believe the Arkham Knight was a completely new villain, which ended up being false, the Batmobile was overused and the game had several performance issues, in fact it was unplayable on PC for months. These things have since been forgotten by the media and now the Arkham games are regarded as immaculate and always have been. As I say - short memories. Hopefully the bumpy start for Gotham Knights will soon be forgotten because this is a great game that’s even better with a friend.

Knights To Meet You

The co-operative element of Gotham Knights is another of the games’ strong points. It’s drop-in/drop-out so you can play, have a hero jump in for a bit, help you out, then they can log out. Heroes aren’t tethered either, you can be at opposite ends of the city doing whatever you each wish without impeding each others progress. One of you could be continuing the main story line with the other is taking out street gangs and gathering clues, or they could be grabbing collectibles. Progress is locked to the host, but the guest player can keep the level they reach and take anything they collect back to their game. And if the guest players follows you into a main story mission and completes it, when they return to their game and reach that same mission, their game will allow them to skip it if they wish. My only gripe with co-op is that is becomes incredibly easy, so cranking up the difficulty (which you can do at anytime from the options menu) is a must.

Final Thoughts

Gotham Knights is a great game. Performance issues upon release have soured the game’s reputation and odd design choices make the first hour or so a bit of a chore. But six patches later and around character level 5 and the third night is when things start proper. The main story line is interesting and will keep you engaged until it’s climax. But the game really shines with the Case File missions, these are so good I’m willing to pay for DLC if it means getting more (and I never buy DLC). Co-op is a blast and adds longevity to the title. I’ve already bagged myself the Platinum trophy, but can’t stop diving back in for more.

That concludes our thoughts on Gotham Knights. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Gotham Knights today click here!