With Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City hailed as not only the best superhero video games ever developed, but some of the best third-person action titles in years, Rocksteady Studios had silenced critics completely. But unbelievably, the announcement of Batman: Arkham Knight promised to blow the previous entries out of the water; set in a full-scale Gotham City, adding the Batmobile to the mix, and launching exclusively on next-gen systems.
While the announcement was met with excitement from fans, it came with a bittersweet twist: Arkham Knight would not just be Rocksteady's next Arkham game, but their last as well. Now the developers has offered some insight into their reasons for leaving the franchise so soon, and what the future could hold for the team moving forward.
The notion of leaving a superhero/blockbuster property just as new costumes are introduced, brand new villains are created to raise the stakes, and beloved characters get larger roles is a strange one for both the world of video games and movies (where box office draw and name recognition reign supreme). So why - or how - is the studio putting Arkham behind them?
Rocksteady's Dax Ginn explained to IGN that while the decision to end the company's work on Arkham wasn't made lightly, the developers didn't see the need to go on:
"Anything we do is a collective decision between Rocksteady, Warner Brothers, and DC Comics. But it was something that we were really pushing for because we had a really clear vision for how this story should end, and the way we wanted it to end.
"We’ve done all we can do here… it’s kind of time for us to walk away from it."
It's hard to argue that there are sides of the Batman character that haven't been explored in the Arkham series, either in the central campaign or lengthy side content. Sure, most of the series' plot centered on the caped crusader's life-long battle with the maniacal Joker, but that's generally the case with the comics as well. If the team's initial goal was to simulate the experience of actually being Batman, they have little left to prove.
Batman's use of stealth, fear, and his obsessive mission to save Gotham City have all been adapted beautifully by the developers, but there was always one trademark of the Dark Knight left unexplored - until now. With the Batmobile taking center stage in Arkham Knight's announcement trailer, and apparently adding a new dimension to the gameplay, it seems there is nothing left for the team to tackle. And according to Ginn, that itself seems like an accomplishment:
"For us I think the Batmobile is that final thing... It’s such a critical part of the game, the epicenter of the design, but once we’ve done this, I don’t know we’re ever going to feel like we’ve missed out on a critical piece of what it feels like to be the Batman. That was kind of our driving force all along."
"I’ve had a dream of us just shuttering the studio and walking away like rockstars, 'We’re done here!'... Our attitude is: if we deliver on Arkham Knight, smash it out of the park, the opportunities we’ll have in the future will be massive. We will be able to control our own destiny in that respect."
Having delivered two games that received impressive sales numbers as well as critical acclaim, one would hope that Ginn is correct in hoping the studio would earn the right to decide their next course of action. Rumors of a Justice League video game have circled for years, and hopefully the working relationship between Rocksteady, Warner Bros. and DC Comics would keep that a very real possibility. But only time will tell, and as Ginn points out, a successful finale with Arkham Knight will go a long way in determining their bargaining power.
How do you feel about Rocksteady moving away from the Arkham series? Do you agree with their thinking that there isn't much left to explore, or hope to see them stay in the DC Comics universe for the future as well? Sound off in the comments.
Batman: Arkham Knight will be released in 2014 for the PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
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