Who killed Batman? Seems ironic that Gotham Knights is about to ask us to solve the mystery of who murdered the world's greatest detective, but that's where we are. Playing as the four members of the Batman Family – Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood – it seems it's down to you to find out who has taken Bruce Wayne out. Jim Gordan is long gone, the Gotham Police Department doesn't trust you, and the Batcave has been destroyed. Talk about a Code Black.
With this as a backdrop, developer Warner Bros. Montreal is trying to build the kind of Batman detective game we've been waiting for. We spoke to creative director Patrick Redding and senior producer Fleur Marty about the game, who shed a little light on the trauma at the heart of Gotham Knights.
We are family
"One of our goals was to really tap into the aspects of the Batman universe that hadn't necessarily had exposure yet in games," says Redding. "We drew on the idea of the Batman Family really as a core element of that. Family, in general, has become a theme in this game."
"It's the Batman family, and these are characters who, because of the death of Bruce Wayne and the death of Batman, have lost their mentor. They've lost this figure that's guided them. And, in a way, they're kind of orphaned," he continues. "[But] the Court of Owls, as an adversary, has always been about the decadent, dark understanding of what families are, and their connection with the history of Gotham City… There's a dark reflection at work in this game, for sure."
It's already clear that the Court of Owls won't be the only adversaries of the Gotham Knights, with a variety of bad guys and classic villains emerging to fill the gap left by the death of Batman. In fact, as Redding eases, the Court of Owls are only one piece of the puzzle. "With the Court [of Owls], the things start out as one thing, and then they definitely end up somewhere else, and that's the exciting part."
Gotham Knights will task you with finding out what exactly is going on in Gotham. It's up to you to find out how the chaos consuming Gotham is connected to the Court of Owls, and to work out what happened to Bruce Wayne. It's not like we can get any clues from the panels either, because, as Marty explains, this is a "completely original story… not re-enacting any of the existing stories from any of the comics."
"The reason we went for a mystery sort of structure for our main story is that it isn't something you can just grind through over a weekend," says Redding. "It's something where you uncover a piece of it, and you get a chance to explore that piece. And it has implications, and it changes the world. And then you have to kind and go and do the detective legwork in order to get access to what the next piece is going to be."
Bats in the Belfry
As you'd expect from a game set in Gotham, the majority of the Gotham Knights story takes place at night, as a bat family is wont to do. But, according to Warner Bros. Montreal, there's also a renewed focus on what Batgirl and co will be doing during the daytime – aside from catching up on a little sleep.
With the Batcave gone, the Batman Family has established the Belfry as the Gotham Knights' new base of operations. It's one of the more iconic locales in the Batman comics, but as with the overall story, Gotham Knights' Belfry will be Warner Bros. Montreal's "own version". At its core is the Batcomputer, which Redding states is a very important part of the game. You don't quite have Batman's full resources at your disposal, but over the course of the game you'll work to improve your gear and hone your abilities as the new protectors of Gotham. "The Belfry is your home base, and it's where daytime happens," explains Marty. "You go home, you rest a little bit. You hang with the Batman family, and you prepare for your next night of crime-fighting."
"Our Gotham City is a city you return to night after night to patrol, to fight crime in, to find clues in, to explore. And it's that process of going out and then returning to The Belfry which is going to drive you to those next chapters in our major story arcs," adds Redding, who explains that this is also where you'll have the opportunity to switch between each of the four playable characters and tinker with heroes' suit, gear, and build.
"The Belfry, in a way, is the perfect regrouping spot for the player to take everything that they've been able to gather and collect for themselves when they're out fighting crime, and kind of hone that into their next set of plans, and what they're going to be working on next, and what challenges they'll want to take on, and what goals they want to set for themselves."
As excited as we are to explore an open-world Gotham City, we'll certainly appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a little downtime with these characters. Gotham Knights is, after all, Warner Games. Montreal's chance to deliver a challenging, all-encompassing Batman experience. With the Belfry as a base of operations, with a city in desperate need of saving, and a big mystery that needs solving, Gotham Knights is shaping up to be the Batman game we've always dreamed of playing.
Gotham Knights is scheduled to release on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One in 2021.