With the excellent Arkham series set to wrap-up in June with Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Knight, fans of the series and comic book-licensed games have been wondering what’s next. With no announcement as to where the developer will be heading, fans are left to speculate as to whether they will adapt their highly-successful Arkham model to another DC property, or move on to something totally new. Personally, as a DC fan and a fan of these games, I am hoping they will continue their work on the DCU, but the question in my mind and no doubt in theirs, is how to take this system that has seemed to fit so perfectly into the Batman world and adapt it to a new character.
All in the Family
The first and most obvious approach that comes to mind would be to set up a game featuring other members of the bat-family. They all use similar tactics and gadgets in their approach to fighting crime and all fit into the world of Gotham. We have already seen this work with Catwoman-based missions in Arkham City, and a good female-led game would be a much needed drop in the diversity bucket. They could continue with Catwoman, as this would allow for a similar game-style but an opportunity to vary some of the combat-mechanics and gadgets. We could see interesting things from a Batwoman, Batgirl (not Barbara Gordon), or Huntress game. Black Canary could even be good because you would get the addition of some light super powers in the form of her screech, but still have a melee based game. Another way to go with the bat-family would be to take the game to Blüdhaven for a Nightwing game. Having made appearances in Arkham City as well, he already exists in the Arkham-verse and taking the game to a new city could change up the setting enough to make it feel fresh. Plus, it would give fans a chance to explore a place in the DCU that we haven’t really seen a whole lot of as of late.
While another bat-family centered game could be good, it could also end up feeling like too much of the same thing. One of the things that makes the continuation of this series difficult is the way gameplay combines fluid hand-to-hand combat with a variety of gadgets and stealth to take down groups of enemies, and unfortunately the problem with other heroes of the DCU is the addition of super powers. The Arkham system will not be easily adapted to characters like Superman or The Flash. Further, a Justice League centered game could also be problematic. One of the cool things about the Arkham games was the RPG-like progression, the feeling that you were becoming a better Batman by leveling up your gadgets and your skills. A game centered on the Justice League would take this away, spreading the action out over at least five characters, and probably more. Plus the open world aspect of the series would be difficult to translate to a Justice League game, as they are not centralized to one of the iconic DC cities. The most easily adaptable character from the Justice League, who happens to be enjoying the limelight right now, would be Green Arrow. On top of his popularity due to the excellent Arrow series, Oliver Queen lacks super powers and fights crime using the variety of arrow-based gadgets at his disposal. Of course, the problem would be his focus on archery and ranged attacks, thus invalidating the viability of a hand-to-hand combat system. They could of course force him into more melee combat, but that wouldn’t make sense for the character.
God of War
If they were intent on adapting a super powered character, I see two options. First would be Wonder Woman. She could bring a strong balance of melee combat and super powers. The ideal way to set this one up would be to have it take place on her island home of Themysceria and follow a plot similar to the Brian Azarello’s excellent New 52 run, in which Diana takes on the pantheon of Greek gods rather than standard hero-fodder. She could even face off against her fellow Amazons, who are being possessed or controlled by some evil deity. This would help explain why, despite her super abilities, she is not able to just cut through enemies like a knife through butter. This would also make for interesting boss battles, as she could take on various mythological creatures or even gods themselves as she ascends to her new position as the God of War. The addition of her sword-producing wrist guards could also be expanded to produce other “gadgets” made by Hephaestus, and the lasso could function similar to Catwoman’s whip in Arkham City. Timing the release with the main stream attention that Wonder Woman will no doubt be getting following her appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or her solo flick would put this potential idea on track to be the next big franchise in games based on licensed properties.
A Super Game
The other super-powered character I could see working in his own game is Superboy. He has the name recognition and symbolism of being associated with the super-family, but is a less-explored character and has more potential to build something interesting than Superman does. Indeed, approaching the character in a similar way as the excellent animated series Young Justice did could also help justify a more powered-down Connor Kent. Connor is a Superman clone, sort of. As he finds out, half of his DNA comes from the most famous Kryptonian, and the other half comes from his creator, the infamous villain, and human, Lex Luthor. As we see in Young Justice, he doesn’t start fully powered up and has to work at getting control of the abilities he has, along with new ones that he gains as he matures. This would be a way to justify starting the game with a more powered-down character, and then slowly building up his abilities as he works his way through the game. The game could be set in Metropolis, and see Superboy taking down Cadmus employees in an attempt to learn the truth of his origin and prevent further experiments. Rocksteady could also incorporate the multiple clone angle and have you do battle against evil or twisted versions of yourself.
While all of these would make excellent games, the game I would be most interested in would be a Cyborg-led game. Cyborg doesn’t always get as much attention as I wish he did. Luckily the real man of steel, Victor Stone, has seen renewed interest with his positioning in the New 52 as a founding member of the Justice League, being elevated from his former status of Teen Titan. He will also be getting a solo flick in addition to appearing in Batman v Superman and the Justice League movies as part of DC’s upcoming film slate, again setting him up to be in a prime position for mainstream attention. Of all the characters outside of the bat-family, Cyborg is perhaps the best-suited to an Arkham-style game. As a half-machine, the gadget potential is built-in, and his father’s position as a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs sets him up as a good disembodied voice in your ear to take the place of both Alfred and Oracle, helping you along the way and providing gadget and ability upgrades. While recent iterations see him outfitted with a Mega Man-style arm cannon, he could be returned to his original design with two metal arms. This could also be handled by turning it into a limited charge or ammo capacity weapon, much like Batman’s various gadgets that can only be used a certain number of times before needing recharging. Without his own classic rogue’s gallery to draw from, the developers would be free to generate more of an original story, drawing villains from both the Teen Titans and the Justice League, even following the path of Arkham Knight and creating a whole new villain. If they wanted to stick to pre-made baddies, a great main antagonist could be Amazo. As a fellow machine-head with the ability to duplicate the powers of other super-powered individuals, Amazo would be the perfect pairing for Cyborg.
Well that’s my wishlist for the direction of Rocksteady’s future with DC properties. But what do you think? Is Cyborg or Wonder Woman a good choice? What about flinging it into the future for a Batman Beyond game? Or should they go even more obscure and pull out someone like Plastic Man or The Demon Etrigan? Let us know in the comments below.