If you discount Telltale’s adventures with the Caped Crusader and a VR spinoff, it’s been a long time – over four years – since we’ve donned the cape and cowl as Batman. While Rocksteady continues working behind doors locked very tightly, WB Montreal has gone a different route. Not only do we know that its next game takes place in the Batman universe, we know thanks to a premature tweet who the main antagonist will be. That’s not all we know, either. Here’s everything we know so far about WB Montreal’s untitled Batman game – aka the new Batman Arkham game, aka Court of Owls.
Yes, a Batman game is all but officially confirmed
@WBGamesMTL is proud to celebrate Batman’s 80th anniversary with rest of the world during #BatmanDay #Batman80 pic.twitter.com/4VGz9kBWxjSeptember 22, 2019
The first question many have about WB Montreal’s project is a sensible one; are we even sure it’s a Batman game? Yeah, we are. On Batman Day this past September 22, WB Montreal shared a video that celebrated its involvement with Batman’s storied history. In that video were hidden four mysterious images, and though we don’t know what they mean quite yet, the next day, WB Montreal tweeted a new video with just those images, no longer hiding them in a single frame each. They appear to be some sort of evolving, occult-like symbol and the last one is rather devilish, even resembling the Demon’s Head, the symbol for the League of Assassins and their semi-immortal leader Ra’s Al Ghul. Ra’s died seemingly for good in Arkham City, but comics and their spinoffs are known for all sorts of retcons and wacky continuities, so don’t count him out.
The Court of Owls will make their debut
Comic fans got excited when Scott Snyder, the author responsible for creating the Court of Owls in DC’s “New 52” reboot, accidentally tweeted more details than he was apparently supposed to. Quote-tweeting the original more cryptic WB Montreal video, he captioned it” Wait for it… #bewarethecourtofowls.” He even included emojis of a bat and an owl. It makes sense that Snyder would be at least a script consultant if not the game’s full-on writer, so one can assume he’s doing more than guesswork, especially when you consider he quickly deleted the tweet.
Who are the Court of Owls?
If you’re not into comics or maybe just missed this story arc, first of all, fix that. It’s one of the best Batman stories ever, and changed the landscape of the timeless hero’s world for good. That’s why a game built around the Court of Owls is so appealing. Think of them as Gotham’s Illuminati, an omnipotent secret society that pulls its strings from the shadows using expert assassins and enormous wealth all while they wear owl masks to hide their identities.
The Court of Owls deploy their assassins called Talons to keep their interests well-managed, and once Batman begins to unravel this conspiracy that dates back to the colonial era, he becomes their target. Some of the Talons even have some metahuman capabilities, which should fit right in with the Arkham continuity that already plays host to Man-Bat, Titan formula, and a very Freddy Krueger-like Scarecrow. But even Bruce Wayne, the first son of Gotham City, had written them off as nothing more than forum fare for the tinfoil hat community before one of them, William Cobb, tried to assassinate him.
The Court of Owls introduces some brilliantly written and personal storytelling for Bruce Wayne, who must grapple with what role his own wealthy parents may have played in the rise of the Court of Owls. But perhaps the best moment in the Court of Owls arc comes in the collection Night of the Owls, which tells the story of how Talons descended on Gotham with a hitlist to execute. Their targets included Batman’s allies and enemies alike, and it led to these typically warring factions to work together for a few hours and protect Gotham. If WB Montreal decides to work with that material, it would be something Batman games have never really seen before.
The nature of the Court of Owls also lends itself to a Nemesis system, like that in the Middle-earth games from WB and Monolith. We’ve since seen Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed employ a similar system and it always seemed like WB’s Mad Max was once intended to have a Nemesis system too and maybe they ran out of time. But that Nemesis system never quite took off the way many expected and hoped it would. With so many Talons able to roam the open world of Gotham, WB Montreal’s next game could carry the torch which has mostly stayed surprisingly dormant under the Warner Bros. umbrella.
The only part of all this Owl talk that is confusing is how it ties into the League of Assassins. They’re very separate entities in the comics, and though either would suit a story (and Nemesis system) well, it may be the case that the game studio is taking some liberties and merging the two somehow, or perhaps even making them adversarial. That wouldn’t take too much work since the League of Assassins views Gotham as a cesspool worth destroying and the Court of Owls maintain all their power by hoarding over that alleged cesspool. It seems like Batman will be stuck in the middle.
Sorry nineties kids, Kevin Conroy won’t be voicing Batman
The beloved Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy has played the hero hundreds of times, but according to him, he won’t be reprising his role for WB’s Montreal unannounced title. In a recent interview with JOE (opens in new tab), Conroy was asked if he will be playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in the upcoming game. “I’m not”, he simply replied. The interviewer expressed disappointment to which Conroy agreed, saying, “I know. I don't know why.”
The last time WB Montreal made a Batman game, it also elected not to have Conroy and screenmate Mark Hamill reprise their famous roles as Batman and Joker respectively. For Batman Arkham Origins, Warner Bros got away with it since its story followed a much younger Batman, plus the new actors of Roger Craig Smith for Batman and Troy Baker for Joker did well filling their massive shoes.
It looks like Smith is returning to the role of the hero too, if a teasing tweet ten days before WB Montreal’s cryptic video is to be read into. Smith said “Super bummed to not be working on anything that I can't tweet about right now because I can't violate an NDA for something that I assure you does not exist.” (opens in new tab) That could be anything, really, but when the writer of WB Montreal’s Batman Arkham Origins replies with a tease too, it’s okay to guess what they’re talking about. Even a WB publicist joked to Smith that he’s thankful for his secrecy and promises they would “let the cat out of the bag reasonably soon.”
What does all that mean? With our reporter caps on, it means the voice actor for Batman in WB Montreal’s Batman Arkham Origins, the script writer for the same game, and a WB publicist are all working on something together. That’s with our reporter cap on. But with our fan speculative sombrero? It’s totally a Batman game.
A release date announcement is coming “reasonably soon”
As WB publicist Gary Miereau said above, we won’t have to wait much longer for a release date reveal. Some fans took the Batman Day teases to mean the game would be revealed at Sony’s State of Play event just days thereafter, but that came and went with no such reveal. But if we’re to interpret “reasonably soon” as before 2020, there are still three major events that could host the grand unveiling.
The first is Microsoft’s X019 event. The Xbox fan festival was utilized last year to push Xbox Game Pass, announce more studio acquisitions, and talk about big upcoming games. It’s possible this year’s event will be where WB Montreal introduces the world to their new Batman game.
If it doesn’t happen on Microsoft’s stage in London this November, it may be revealed at The Game Awards, which tend to air on the first weekend of December. This is certainly the biggest stage of the three end-of-year possibilities, and it surely feels like the kind of debut the show has become famous for.
Lastly, it may be revealed at PSX, Sony’s fan show which is analogous to Xbox’s X0 festival. The only problem there: Sony hasn’t announced a PSX this year. They took it off last year too, but with the way they’re slow-rolling their PS5 reveal, one might think the show could be part of their first-party showcase, and all the meanwhile show off some new third-party games like WB Montreal’s project likely will be. Then again, maybe the reveal will just fall on some seemingly random weekday.
This new project was born from an apparently cancelled Damien Wayne-led sequel to Arkham Knight
Check out these images from the cancelled DC Batman Arkham game starring Damian Wayne. This game was most likely a Batman Arkham Knight sequel, but we cannot know for sure. Those of you that have followed the channel for a while recall me describing some of these. pic.twitter.com/mUQ6TXbUmqAugust 13, 2019
Fans of the comics and recent animated movies will know Damien Wayne as the newest Robin and the son of Bruce Wayne. It was reported two years ago that WB Montreal’s next game was going to be a sequel to Rocksteady’s apparent Batman closer, Arkham Knight. The following year, rumors changed to say that game had been cancelled and changed into something new and different. This Court of Owls game is probably that.
We never saw much of that Damien Wayne project so we still don’t know if it ever existed in the first place, but we know some concept art claimed to be from that project has recently surfaced. (opens in new tab)
WB Montreal was, and maybe still is, creating two DC Comics games
For a studio that has been pretty quiet outside of its Batman games, they were certainly slated to have their hands full. Years ago, WB Montreal confirmed they were working on a pair of DC Comics video games. These days, it seems like maybe that’s not the case anymore, but that’s merely speculation because it’s been so long. If the Damien Wayne came was real it’s not likely that was the second game alongside this Court of Owls project. Two console Batman games at once doesn't quite fit.
More likely, that Damien Wayne game was folded into the other DC game and combined they became this soon to be revealed title.
Of course, it’s still totally possible WB Montreal continues to work on two games adapted from DC Comics heroes, but it’s taken four years for fans to see anything concrete about this Batman title. If there is another DC Comics game being made inside the offices of WB Montreal, time is running out for fans to believe it’s ever going to happen.