How do you follow up on the most critically acclaimed Batman game of all time? Turns out developer Rocksteady Studios isn’t just bringing the Caped Crusader back, they’re sending him back as well.

There was minute speculation months ago that the developer would depart the Gotham universe altogether after teasing its next game as “exciting” and different” – some even anticipated a curious Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles deviation. Those rumors can take a rain check, though, as a new report positions Rocksteady at the helm of a Silver Age Batman prequel – with a league of familiar faces in toe.

Stemming from an unnamed source at Variety is the knowledge that Warner Brothers Interactive, publisher of all DC Comics games, has commissioned Rocksteady to chronicle Batman’s first encounter with The Joker. Teaming up with the superhero will be several, but right now unspecified members of the Justice League of America, in a game that’s slated to release in 2014.

In the DC Comics canon, this sends Batman back to the Silver Age – a period of comic book making, from 1955 to c. 1970, that saw the constant inception of new superheroes (as well as the formation of the Justice League) and an increased emphasis on artistic verve. Indeed, it’s alleged that the new game will be “highly stylized,” though whether or not that means an inflection from the beautifully harrowing, gritty design of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City isn’t stated.

Batman Rocksteady Justice League Game

What’s also vague is how Rocksteady would use the Justice League alongside the main playable gameplay sequences of Batman – sequences our Arkham City review felt were close to perfection in the last title. We’re thinking right now that a rotation of JL-specific missions is more in sync with the developer’s singleplayer modus operandi (think Arkham City’s Catwoman or Robin missions, just not as DLC), but AI companions or even co-op mode aren’t out of the question.

As for the award-winning voice work of the franchise, don’t expect Mark Hamill to make a return; the voice of the Joker in the previous two installments has stated on several occasions that he wouldn’t be reprising his role (this time for real). Kevin Conroy as Batman was left open for another appearance, but it might depend on just how drastically redesigned the prequel aims to be.

Batman Rocksteady Justice League 2014

Another interesting tidbit asserted by Variety concerns the project’s release date. Allegedly, the prequel/Justice League pathway represents a calculated, post-Nolan effort by Warner Bros. to ingratiate audiences with the Justice League of America (whose only current sans-comic presence, really, is in LEGO Batman 2) before a 2015 JLA film. This leads them to posit Rocksteady’s Batman game as a 2014 release at the earliest. So we have to wonder: is the game also being developed primarily for the next generation? If so, the potential for Rocksteady to shine – they’ve built quite the reputation for gripping narratives, elaborately detailed worlds, and wildly popular characters – is staggering.

Ranters, now that we know where Rocksteady’s locus is at for their next game, how excited are you for a Batman prequel? How should the Justice League (and, apparently, some Justice League film synergy) factor in to the game’s design? Which members should take center stage?

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Source: Variety [via Game Informer]