Arkham City

Over the Christmas holiday, I ‘finished’ Arkham City. And by Finished, I mean I got through the basic story mode which gave me 51% completion. Haven’t finished the Catwoman stuff and haven’t started they Harley stuff.

Arkham City left me with a lot of strange mixed feelings. I’ll go ahead right off and say that I enjoyed it a lot. There were some things I was a bit ‘eh’ about, a few things I was all ‘huh?’ about, but plenty I was ‘yeah!’ about.

-Interspersing the Catwoman content with the main game would’ve been more effective if it weren’t so stacked toward the backend. I realize that this is important for story purposes, but it was strange to start the game as Catwoman for one fight, play as Batman through the prologue, do a Catwoman mission, then play almost the entire rest of the story as Batman before doing another Catwoman mission. According to the game stats, after the main story ends and you start playing as Catwoman again, her story is only about 20% complete. So, we’ll see.

-Mixed feelings about the Riddler stuff. I didn’t mind the Riddler stuff in Arkham Asylum, and eventually even got 100% completion, though it did feel like a tacked on element. The Riddler is much better integrated into Arkham City, and he legitimately feels like the most powerful and dangerous Batman villain because of his shear ability to have crap everywhere; he has the rest of the inmates pretty terrified, too. I like, to an extent, that getting Riddler trophies is a bit more of a challenge than simply waiting until you had the right bit of equipment, but at the same time, you’re still waiting until you have that right bit of equipment, AND you’re looking for more trophies in a MUCH larger and less open area. And some of the traps really ARE so mind-boggling that you’re left thinking “I must not have the right item yet”, put it off, and the next thing you know, the game is over. Riddler’s puzzles, while more rewarding are also much more daunting, and hunting them all down feels like the wearying chore that Riddler intends them to be.

-The augmented reality missions probably need to be done much earlier than I tried to do them. Preferably before everyone and their dog has a gun. I didn’t finish these, and they were pretty annoying. Very Superman 64.

-While it’s not quite a “thrill is gone” kind of thing, the atmosphere is different; Arkham City is creepy but in a different, urban decay sort of way, while Arkham Asylum is creepy in the haunted mental hospital sort of way. As terrible as Arkham City appears on the surface, in a way, that’s kind of how I imagine most of Gotham looking. It’s still a stealth game; gameplay wise, aside from the rooftops thing, it plays like the same game as Arkham Asylum, but the difference is that Arkham Asylum felt like a horror game. I spent the first half of Arkham Asylum (especially the platform puzzle in the caverns) just wondering when Killer Croc was going to pop out of somewhere and eat me. I never felt that sort of anticipation in Arkham City. And the Mad Hatter side mission, while amusing, didn’t come close to that first encounter with Scarecrow in the morgue.

-Two-Face felt like a tease. Sure, he has a faction of thugs sandwiched between Penguin and Joker’s territory, but other than the prologue, he’s fairly irrelevant to the story, which is surprising considering all of the foreshadowing in Arkham Asylum that he might be a major player in a sequel.

-Screw Ra’s al Ghul’s flight challenges. I probably died on these more times than in that big brawl with Joker near the end.

-I feel bad for Penguin that his Iceberg Lounge and natural history museum happened to be in the part of Gotham that got converted into Arkham City. But it’s great for players. The Cobblepot Museum is by far one of my favorite parts of the game. Damn shame that the whole place has fallen into ruins, but Penguin’s really made the best of things with it. I do wonder where Jay, Raven and Lark were. (it got blown up in Gates of Gotham, which I got for Christmas, too!)

-The ruins of “Old Gotham” and Wonderland Park had kind of a silly feel to them and reminded me a bit of Bioshock. It was fun fighting the league of shadows there, though. My opinions on Ra’s and the League have softened over the years, in no small part due to Liam Niason; Arkham City makes this work.

-The concept behind Hugo Strange’s Arkham City makes sense. His big secret plan that he’s carrying out for the real big-bad makes less sense. Poor Warden Sharp. You just know that he was hoping that he could’ve been the villain this go round, but alas, it was not to be.

-Some fairly big name Rogues die ultra grisly deaths, which was kind of a surprise. Lazarus Pits, though, mean that death is certainly not the end.

-Like with Arkham Asylum, Batman’s character model reflects, over the course of the game, the beating he’s taken and the damage to the Bat-suit. By the end, Batman looks like hell, and everyone who sees him is all “Holy, crap, what happened?”

-The first few hours of the game almost trolled me into complaining “Where’s Oracle?”

-Combat continues to be ace.

-Changing up the boss-fights was a big improvement over the original Arkham. Plus, getting to go head to head against more of Batman’s Rogue Gallery was pretty rewarding (Two-Face letdown aside).

-Hooray for the gun disruptor!

-The inevitable-villain-betrayal syndrome is a bit comical, though really I’m pretty sure it’s played for laughs. I couldn’t help but chuckle at Bane’s “Oops, sowry, Baht-mahn!” when he catches you with a charge attack when you’re fighting the squad of Tyger elites together.

-Harley Quinn skanks it up less than the packaging art implies; this is not necessarily a bad thing.

-Something I would’ve liked to have seen more of was the conflict between the opposing gangs. Coding a dynamic gang-war in Arkham city probably would’ve been a nightmare, though. Still, it struck me as odd that when Two-Face & Penguin’s men are there side by side, they’ll call each other names but not really do anything. But when Batman shows up, everyone is all “It’s the Bat!” and with a startling amount of confidence which lacks any justification they all put aside their differences and try to jump you. You’d think that after awhile, “It’s the Bat!” should be a cue to drop what you’re doing and run like hell; this is never the case. While there are a lot of things the game recreates from Batman comics, chasing down scared thugs running for their lives is not one of them.

-Did I mention that the boss fights were better than in Arkham Asylum? Because, man, those were some awesome boss fights.

-M. Night Shyamalan would be jealous of the twist Joker cooked up.

-That was one hell of a powerful ending.

-Watching the credits all the way through should give you an achievement unlock.

-Mark Hamill, you are one hell of a creepy dude, and you are the definitive Joker.

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8 responses to “Arkham City

  1. I am also a late-comer to the whole Arkham City thing as I just picked it up today, but it is pretty cool. It’s a bit of a button masher, but a good game nonetheless. You must try the Harley mini-game…You play as Robin. It’s great.

    BTW- I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Myfarog. I’m starting a game right now and it is a lot of fun, but I am having some trouble keeping the different festivals straight.

    • Thanks for stopping by. Actually, as someone who’s having the chance to actually play it with some folks, i’d be more interested in your thoughts on MYFAROG. It could be a matter of months before I have a chance to give it more than a simple academic go of it.

      As for the Harley mini-game, I’m going to hit that one after I finish the side-quests from the main game. Let me tell you, I will be so unbelievably pissed if the glitched Harley Head that I shot that’s not showing up as destroyed keeps me from getting 100% on the Riddler Challenges.

      • OK- Here’s what I like about the system…

        1. It is incredibly well thought out and immersive with enough grey area for the myth master to tailor Thule to their own campaign.
        2. It follows real world logic and that’s been missing in many games. 3D6 adds more real-world realism than D20.
        3. It “feels” like I’m playing MERP as a kid again. It brings back a lot of great memories.
        4. Only 1 book is needed and Varg updates the site with errata to keep the player/MM informed. I hate having to buy new/additional books just to play a game.

        Here’s what I am not fond of…

        1. It is very complex and unless you have a good handle of the rules, you will be checking the book every roll. I ad lib the rules when I’m not sure of something.
        2. Character generation is very long. When my 13 year old daughter created her first character she gawked at how many sheets she needed to complete. Now she understands how they are all necessary once we got into playing, but it is a lot the first time you roll a char up.
        3. There can be more clarification in the book, i.e. an index with where all the table are located. Varg refers the reader back to many different tables and it becomes confusing at times.

        All in all, I love the game. It is fun to play. I am adapting it for PBP and that is proving to be challenging in itself, but it is helping me be a better MM. I suggest you print up the MM screens as you read the book so you can refer to those tables when you have a question. I hope you get a chance to play it soon. You’ll enjoy it.

      • Agreed on 3d6; it gives a much better bell curve of results. Never having really played MERP much, I can’t really judge by comparison. I do like that it’s all in one book, though I wish said book had a bargain edition; the price entry puts it outside of those who might simply be curious to try a new system, which means it will be harder to find players. While I want very much to play it, I also want to play as a character and not have to GM (I’m suffering a bit of GM fatigue from my own D&D game).

        Right now, I’m contemplating coming up with a stripped down micro version of MYFAROG that is more pick-up-and-play to help introduce new players. I don’t know if you’re familiar at all with Altars & Archetypes, but it’s a role-based micro rpg where each character selects a handful of roles, has ability based on the roles they select, may improve their proficiency in said role and acquire new ones. Since MYFAROG is a role-based system, I’m going to be looking at how to adapt the basics of MYFAROG to a simple system to expose players to the themes of world and terminology.

        At some point, I might make some print & play MYFAROG role cards with simple descriptions of the roles and bonuses they confer so that players can reference cards as they acquire roles rather than have to consult the book.

      • As for character creation, somewhere on my blog, you can find my first (failed) attempt to create a character using the playtest version of the rules. I don’t know if you saw the playtest version, but so far I’m finding the revision easier to follow.

  2. If you’re interested in playing, I just started an ad for a PBP game on RPG Crossing. If you’re a member, look in the advertisements and you’ll find my game. It’s called Curse of the Hulda. I’m focusing more on role playing, rather than roll playing. All the players will start on Hallow Evening with the trial of becoming an adult in Thule. Send me a PM on RGPX and I’ll make sure you have a spot. My app deadline is Jan 17, so you have plenty of time to check it out.

    I don’t know if you’ve done PBP before, but I try to keep the action going pretty quickly (for a PBP game) so as not to lose the interest of my players. If for some reason, you have never heard of RGPX, you can join for free and start playing today.

    I did read your blog on character creation and you are actually one of the reasons I decided to purchase the game in the first place. I like the format of your blog as well as the fact that I have similar musical tastes.

    If you decide to play, maybe I’ll see you online.

    • Thanks, I really appreciate the offer, but I’m a little wary about doing play-by-post stuff. It’s not really my thing, and I was just invited to join another group, so I’ll be in two games already. I do hope you’ll stay in touch here and let me know how it goes.

      I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed my blog and that it steered you toward MYFAROG. One of the reasons why I featured it so heavily was because when I first heard that Varg was working on a game, the only responses had been “LOL, the crazy blackmetal guy is making a stupid game!” and no one in the game blog community was talking about it at all. At the time, I was only a casual (and fairly recent) fan of Burzum, but I wanted to give Varg’s game a fair shake. Over the last two years, while I think it would be presumptuous to say that we’ve become friends, Varg and I have talked a decent bit and found him to be quite the affable fellow with whom I’m pleased to be acquainted.

  3. Actually, I just got word that my game has been approved by the administrators. It usually takes up to 2 weeks to get a game thread going, so this must be a good sign.

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