Role-playing games are usually heavily centered around character progression, in which players start out as mere weaklings struggling to hold their weapon and progress into mean killing machines as skill points accumulate. WB Games’ Shadow of Mordor, released in 2014, is a good example; the protagonists start out as a lowly ranger whose family is slain by Uruks and develops into a Bright Lord whose powers are only matched by those of Sauron himself. It’s a good recipe for an outstanding game — one WB Games decided to neglect entirely for their upcoming Gotham Knights.
According to IGN, the upcoming Gotham Knights won’t be following the traditional RPG gameplay based on character development and progression. Instead, the game’s protagonists, Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood, will be more or less as powerful as one would expect from Batman’s acolytes — at the very start of the game. This sounds very interesting in theory since there aren’t so many RPG games that aren’t based on character progression, and it might be the kind of deviation from the RPG norms that can either make or break the game.
However, that’s not to say that the upcoming Gotham Knights won’t have any character progression — quite the contrary. Instead of following the usual character advancement in which protagonists of RPG games become stronger as the story progresses and more powerful skills become available, the game will feature the protagonists changing. In other terms, we’ll get to see them starting as graduates of the Batman School of Crime Fighting and evolving and fully diverging into their own unique flavors as heroes.
For example, Batgirl will be equally as strong at the beginning of the game and the end-game, and her crime-fighting style will be somewhat similar to Batman’s. However, as the narrative progresses and the game puts different requirements on the protagonists, she will change her skillset and tactics to rise to various challenges — of course, with the player’s help. Admittedly, this is a unique approach to an RPG game, but one that fits the overall narrative well. Gotham Knights’s protagonists aren’t regular individuals and thus aren’t weak by any stretch of the imagination.
So, in other terms, the players of Gotham Knights will get “half-baked” heroes who are fully trained by Batman and other highly-skilled individuals. But the main progression, instead of following the usual route, will be centered around individual heroes (and players’) interpretation of what it takes to be a Gotham Knight and how to best protect Gotham now that Batman’s gone. The new approach to RPGs and the fact that Batman is gone is what makes this game such an interesting prospect, especially after the culmination of the Rocksteady Arkham series.
Batman supposedly dies in Batman: Arkham Knight, but not before ensuring that there are other crusaders capable of continuing his work. Gotham Knights apparently follows that thread, even though the game is set in a separate universe from the Arkham trilogy. Still, it’s an interesting idea, and we’ll have to wait until October 25 to get a taste of the action in Gotham City once the game releases for PC, Xbox Series X/S, and the now more readily available PlayStation 5.