Nobody expected Batman: Arkham Asylum to be as good as it was – not at first glance, anyway. Licensed games were bad more often than they weren’t, and this was Batman – it was rare that somebody found the right alchemy needed to make a truly excellent Batman game. But thanks to an addictive mix of exploration, white-knuckle combat, detective work, and a top-notch storyline that did both Batman and his rogue’s gallery justice, Rocksteady finally got it right. With Arkham Knight, they bring the storyline set in motion six years ago to its epic conclusion.
Arkham Knight has been out for almost two weeks now, which is plenty of time for the most active gamers to have reached the ending and begun poking in dark corners looking for secrets. And there are secrets to be found – an entire secret ending, actually, waiting to be found by those with the time and commitment to fully complete Batman’s Arkham Knight to-do list.
A video of that ending is embedded below, but for players who want to earn the “Full Knightfall” ending themselves, it will require completing all side quests and finding all 243 Riddler trophies (that’s something we can help you with). Finishing 7 of the 13 Most Wanted quest chains will unlock a partial version of the ending, but not the full enchilada.
MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW!
Arkham Knight‘s main campaign concludes with Scarecrow in custody and dosed with his own fear toxin, the Arkham Knight unmasked as a brainwashed Jason Todd, and Batman’s true identity revealed to the world. However, Bruce tells Alfred Gotham still needs Batman, even if only “for one more night.” This allows players who haven’t delved into the side missions an in-narrative excuse to finish cleaning up Gotham (or just chasing those damn Riddler trophies). But Batman also tells Alfred to prepare the “Knightfall Protocol.” That sounds ominous! With good reason.
The video above picks up right as the secret ending begins, with Batman setting the so-called Knightfall Protocol into motion. He leaves his cowl by the destroyed Bat-signal, hitches a ride on the Batwing, and then, removing all possibility of trying to explain away that whole secret identity thing, he lands the Batwing on the front lawn of Wayne Manor, in front of a phalanx of reporters. He then strolls into his ancestral home… which explodes, seemingly killing both him and Alfred. This is where the secret ending wraps up if you’e only finished half of the Most Wanted cases, with Gordon delivering that line from the trailers: “This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died.”
If you’ve gone the distance, however, it continues, showing life in Gotham, post-Batman. Or is it post-Batman? As Gordon reflects on Batman’s legacy, it all feels thematically similar to what director Christopher Nolan was trying to do with the ending of The Dark Knight Rises. Obviously Batman isn’t immortal, so how do you end that story? Does some thug eventually get lucky? Or does he end it on his own terms? It seems fairly clear from context that the explosion at Wayne Manor was Bruce’s way of exiting the stage, but what happens in a Gotham without Batman? Like another Joker once said, “You’ve changed things… forever. There’s no going back.”
That question of “what next” is hinted at very cryptically in the final scene of the secret ending. As Gordon himself wonders what happens when the criminals of Gotham no longer have something to be afraid of, we see a recreation of Batman’s origins. A couple in leave a show and foolishly escort their son down a dark alley… and into the hands of armed thugs, eager to take their money, and maybe their lives. But then a dark figure appears on the rooftop above. The crooks aren’t impressed – Batman’s dead, after all.
Then things get crazy. The “Batman” figure lifts off the rooftop. The air around him erupts into flame and smoke and bats. And he comes flying toward the screen like unholy vengeance itself, while the thugs presumably empty the contents of their bladders into their underoos. Batman’s dead? Long live the Batman.
Of course, what exactly we’re seeing here is open to interpretation. Is this Bruce, back on the case? One of his allies having taken up the mantle of the Bat in his absence? Somebody else entirely? The visuals certainly suggest that, whoever this new Batman is, he’s making use of the Scarecrow’s fear toxin as a way to mess with the heads of Gotham’s less reputable citizens. That makes a certain kind of sense: Batman has always been more powerful when criminals were haunted by the fear. Bruce might balk at weaponizing the fear toxin against the bad guys, but not everyone who might take up the cowl would be as ethical.
One final bit of speculation that is floating around the internet is that this figure could be the Arkham franchise’s equivalent of Batman Beyond‘s Terry McGinnis. Perhaps part of the Knightfall Protocol was having someone in place who could carry on the fight, but someone without ties to Dick, Barbara, Jason, Tim, Gordon, Alfred, or the rest. Someone who could be only Batman, no secret identity or Bat-family required. If nothing else, that flaming red symbol on his chest looks a lot like the Batman Beyond logo.
Batman: Arkham Knight is now available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. (The PC version, however, has got issues.)