For the first time in the Arkham series, the villains Batman faces in are unified in purpose. Led by Scarecrow, with the titular Arkham Knight at his right hand, this “united rogues gallery”, as the game’s marketing director, Dax Ginn, puts it, has already caused Gotham to be evacuated. The city is now under siege by the combined forces of the game’s villains–but can such twisted people stay united forever?
“At the beginning they do appear to be a united force,” Ginn explains. “But then, as the game unfolds, you can see they’ve actually got agendas within the overall plan. They’re not as uniform a team as they would first appear. But they’re much more integrated than they ever were, compared to Joker’s role in and , where he was very chaotic and the rogues gallery were fighting each other just as much as they were fighting Batman.”
Compared to the Joker, Scarecrow values order and a strict power hierarchy. But the villains beneath him–people like Two-Face, Penguin, and Firefly–aren’t necessarily just going to fall in line. “So the way the rogues gallery starts to fracture is an interesting part of the narrative,” Ginn says.
But it’s the Arkham Knight who is the biggest wildcard, here. He’s Scarecrow’s right-hand-man, and an entirely new villain created for the game–but one we know almost nothing about. Ginn says we’ll see insight into the Arkham Knight’s character through his interactions and dialogue with Scarecrow, but beyond that, Rocksteady is keeping the Arkham Knight a mystery to put you in Batman’s shoes–because Batman doesn’t know who the Arkham Knight is, either.
“What we don’t want is for, while you’re playing, to know more than what Batman knows in the game,” Ginn explains. “Because then you don’t feel like Batman–you actually feel like you, as a player, are smarter than Batman, which makes him feel like he’s a bit of a dud. Which is totally the opposite of what we try and do with our games–we try to make you feel like you are Batman.”
So how would Batman approach this situation? Gotham is under attack, and there so many villains to pursue. How would Batman actually take them down?
“We found that, with Batman: Arkham City, we had a lot of side missions, but because you were never even forced to encounter the starting point of any of those, it was very easy to just miss them completely,” says Ginn. “So we wanted to give gamers a taste of them on the mandatory story path, and then it’s up to you if you pursue them. As you’re focusing on Scarecrow, which is the main path, you will come into contact with all of those characters. But then, their stories branch off. So you’ve got a decision point, for example, to say, ‘Well, I’m just going to really focus on the Riddler, and go after the Riddler from that main path intersection’. Or, you can branch off to any other.”
Ginn thinks this will avoid the ‘Avengers problem’, where it would be almost impossible to give every character their due focus. “If the game was five hours long, yeah, we’d be in trouble cramming that all in,” he continues. “If you had Penguin and Two-Face and the Riddler and Harley Quinn simultaneously coming at you, that’s just a mess. So you have to break the game out so you’ve got a buffet to choose from, but you can take those meals on discretely. But the game is massive. I can’t put a time on it, but it’s far and away the biggest game we’ve ever made.”
As you start filling up your plate, you’ll find that not every villain is out to simply kill Batman. Scarecrow wishes to destroy the myth that Batman has built around him. The Riddler wants to prove he is Batman’s intellectual superior. Others will find that may be external to Batman himself. If Arkham Knight really is Rocksteady’s biggest game, then there are more than enough chances not every character will make it through to the end.