What would happen to Gotham City if Batman stopped protecting it? We’ll soon find out in Warner Bros. Montreal’s Gotham Knights, a story-based action/RPG that begins with Batman’s death. As criminals try to take advantage of Batman’s absence, his understudies are trying to keep order. Batgirl, Red Hood, Robin, and Nightwing unite to maintain order, but quickly learn Gotham now bends to the will of the mysterious Court of Owls.
I talked to Gotham Knights’ executive producer Fleur Marty and game director Geoff Ellenor about what players can expect to experience from this superhero experience. We discuss alternate suits, the Batcycle, missions, and how cooperative play will feel like DC’s 52 worlds have collided again.
The trailer shows us a variant suit that is ninja-like in design. Can you tell us what that suit is and how players can get it?
Geoff Ellanor: As you play through the story, you get various blueprints that allow you to craft various types of gear and suits. That is one of the styles that we allow you to craft.
How many suits will Nightwing have in the game?
Fleur Marty: Each of our knights has 11 different suit styles. As Geoff mentioned, those are full styles. Within a style, you can have customization with different pieces and different colorways.
Geoff: Each suit style is basically a silhouette. Every time you craft a suit, think of it as an instance of that silhouette that comes with stats and a specific colorway that you can then override by unlocking more colorways as you go.
Nightwing is a former ward of Batman and Flying Grayson. In the trailer, it appeared his combat draws from both backgrounds with gadgets, brutal attacks, and some acrobatic ones. Can you talk to me about designing Nightwing for this game and what you wanted to achieve from his moveset and traversal?
Geoff: You hit upon one of the touchstones for us: He’s an acrobat. Nightwing in our story is kind of a cocky character. He’s dealing with the death of Bruce in his own way, which is mostly by cracking a lot of jokes and not talking about it. He’s one of the characters that is the most capable of doing constant acrobatic stuff. His combat abilities focus on him getting up into the air and doing more aerial damage. It’s one of the foundations of who he is as a character and how he fights.
Fleur: As for the traversal, we’ve drawn inspiration from the existing comics, but it’s the flying trapeze.
How old is Dick Grayson in this story and how long was he studying under Bruce? Can you walk me through the timeline?
Flower: He’s the oldest of the bunch, and he had left Bruce. They didn’t leave off on the best of terms. He’s back because Batman is dead. That’s the reason he is back. He was his own hero. He’s dealing with both the grievance and the guilt of where he left things with Bruce before he died.
Does the game start with Batman’s death? Is the intro cutscene what we saw in the first trailer with the reveal of his death and the Bat-family regrouping?
Flower: That’s exactly it. That’s an interesting starting point for us because each of the four [characters] have a different way of dealing with the grievance and taking on the mantle [of the Bat].
Geoff: They all get back together and have different past relationships. Red Hood is the least connected to the group at the story’s start. Our version of Robin is quite a young character, so his way of dealing with the situation is different than everyone else’s. [The death of Bruce] Their journey through the game and also sets the tone for a really important aspect of the story, which is how they take on Batman’s job and learn starts how to get along together.
Is your version of Jason Todd, the Red Hood similar to the comics? Did he die and come back to life from a different Earth?
Geoff: He is resurrected and was recently murdered. You’ll learn more about that throughout the game and what happened to him. Obviously, that is what makes him different from the other knights. As some of the comic interpretations of the Red Hood that we like, he’s kind of a mystic character. He’s been changed by his experiences. That’s part of what he brings to the table and how he expresses himself in his abilities.
We are seeing some clear DNA from the Arkham series of games – such as the flow of combat. One of the big, new wrinkles is cooperative play. What can we expect from it?
Geoff: You can invite friends into your game and control your match-making settings to determine if you will be surprised by people showing up. You can play by yourself too. We have co-op takedowns designed to showcase the physicality of the characters working together. Really there’s a lot of synergy in how one hero’s ability influences the fight versus another. Nightwing is the strongest indicator of this; a lot of his abilities are about having buffs for his friends and protecting others.
If my main is Nightwing and my friend’s main also happens to be Nightwing, would one of us have to be a different hero, or could we have an Elseworlds situation of two Nightwings together?
Geoff: You can make it as weird as you want to.
Flower: We’re leaving it up to players. We know some people will want to have different characters, but some won’t care. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a funny moment in the game if you are playing as two of the same character. We’re giving you complete freedom.
In some of the early gameplay clips, we see the heroes on Batcycles roaring along long highways. Those shots make it look like the world is larger than the Arkham cities. How much real estate are we looking at?
Geoff: It’s pretty big. I haven’t put one map over the other, but our Gotham is a big place. I tend to spend a lot of my Zoom calls on the Batcyle driving around Gotham. It is one of the fastest and most chill ways to move around the city. It feels like a big place.
Fleur: For sure it’s the biggest version of Gotham that has been represented in video games. The most important thing for us is its density and verticality. It has a lot of layers. The Batcycle is the long-range mode of transportation.
How customizable is the Batcycle?
Geoff: We let you tweak the colorways for the bike for self-expression. The majority of the abilities around the Batcycle are more focused on the hero, like how you jump off it and go into combat.
Flower: The Batcycle itself is not upgradeable.
Geoff: You can change how it looks and how it makes noise.
Those colors: Are they tied to the blueprints? Are you finding them for the bike throughout the world?
Flower: You are getting colorways both for the suits and for the bike.
Geoff: We went with the same colorway philosophy for the Batcycle and suits. We thought people might want to match their suit with the Batcycle. We give you a bunch of options in that regard.
We don’t know much about how missions work yet. Can you talk about story missions and side activities?
Geoff: Without giving away anything that we want to talk about in future communications, the city has a lot of different stuff you can do. You can find some of it by moving around. We have an AR vision we showed off in a gameplay trailer that is a great way to find things to do. As for mission structure, if you are an action/adventure fan, you’ll be familiar with it. We have an ongoing case file that is of the mystery you are investigating. If you play through the story, you unlock new chapters in the case file that tell you where to go.
Is anything being designed exclusively for cooperative play? Or can you tackle all of it solo?
Geoff: You can absolutely play it all in single player. We don’t have anything that requires you to have a friend be present to go into a mission.
Flower: At the same time, you can play everything in co-op.