Now that Batman: Arkham City has been on retail store shelves for almost four months now it was high time that developer Rocksteady Studios start talking secrets, and what better secret to discuss than the game’s controversial ending. Though not as polarizing as some storylines contained within the Batman comic books, the ending to Arkham City cements the property as one of the boldest Dark Knight tales in quite some time.
Arkham City Director Sefton Hill sat down with CVG to discuss how early on in the development process the team at Rocksteady settled on the game’s ending, and why they chose to go that route. It goes without saying, but if you haven’t finished Arkham City yet, it’s best to turn back now.
At the conclusion of Arkham Asylum, Batman had taken down a handful of Gotham’s rogues gallery of villains and left the Joker poisoned and on the brink of death. It’s here that Arkham City picks up with Joker now looking more worse for wear, and being left with no option but to put Batman in the same boat and hope he finds a cure.
Unfortunately Joker’s plan backfires, and gamers are left with a final scene featuring Batman carrying Joker’s limp corpse out of Arkham City, a striking visual if there ever was one, and one that Rocksteady settled on early.
For Rocksteady, story has always been paramount to the experience, and so they arrived at Joker’s death early in development. Luckily DC Comics had no problem with the direction Rocksteady was headed with Arkham City, and provided the move wasn’t done simply for shock value.
“We decided fairly early on, I guess. Batman is very much about the story, so we discuss the story early. Right at the start we sat down and thought what story we wanted to tell. We knew we had Joker starting off sick from the previous game and we wanted to play on that idea. Pretty early on we hit on this idea of Joker poisoning Batman and the two of them having this kind of shared goal, but with diametrically opposed world views. We felt that gave a lot of opportunity to interact in interesting ways, and I guess then we sort of knew that we wanted that story to have resonance in the universe.”
Having experienced the breadth of Arkham City firsthand it’s easy to see where Rocksteady wanted to take the story, even if the conclusion was a bit abrupt. When, in early promotional trailers, it was shown that Joker’s condition had not improved, the thought lingered that this would be a “Joker dies” storyline, but playing through the game certainly throws players plenty of misdirection.
Ultimately, Rocksteady pulls off quite the feat in not just packing the game full of Batman villains and side characters, but in telling a story that is poignant for Batman fans everywhere. And, as Hill teases in the interview, Arkham City may just be the middle act in a grander story.
How did you feel about the Arkham City ending? Do you think Rocksteady pulled it off or was it done just for the shock value?
Batman: Arkham City is available now for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.