Arkham Knight Was Great Until it Ended

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

There has been a lot of talk, good and bad, about Arkham Knight. The PC port was a mess, but is being fixed. The console version has been very well received, being hailed as "Batman, perfected." I've finished the campaign and have seen all parts of the ending. I slogged through hordes of enemies and slagged countless tanks and drones before it was done. While I had a lot of fun in the process, the endings have been more than a bit of  letdown.


Myself and many other Batman fans were really excited to play Arkham Knight. Rocksteady did a really wonderful job with Arkham Asylum and Arkham City and we felt that we could trust them when they said that the Arkham Knight, one of the principle antagonists, was an original character created in cooperation with DC Comics. I spent a large part of the game in conversation with Wesley about who the Knight could be. 

Warning bells started going off in my head when I was presented with a vision of Jason Todd tied to a chair, being tortured by the Joker. I thought for a minute, what if the Arkham Knight is Jason Todd? Surely though it couldn't be him, as he is already represented in the Red Hood DLC, taking down Black Mask and is a well established character/hero/villain. So it had to be someone else.

Those of you who don't follow Batmam as closely may not know who Jason Todd is. Allow me to enlighten you; the second Robin (after Dick Grayson, who went off o his own to become Nightwing), Jason Todd was captured, beaten and finally killed by the Joker, an incident that has haunted Batman ever since. In the comics, Jason Todd was resurrected and eventually taken in by Ras al'Ghul who gave the amnesiac Todd a dip in the rejuvenating Lazarus Pit.

Todd returned as the Red Hood, obsessed with killing Batman and bringing a harsher vision of justice to Gotham's criminals. This wasn't some obscure reference or offshoot storyline. this was well known canon and has been played out in comics and animated features. 

With this in mind, imagine my disappointment when the climactic moment came and the Arkham Knight removed his mask to reveal Jason Todd underneath. As if that wasn't enough, he even had an inner mask that is unmistakably that of the Red Hood. Not exactly an "original character," is it Rocksteady? 

I'll skip most of the details, but eventually Batman has his identity revealed to the world by scarecrow. Batman is rescued by Jason Todd at the last moment, subdues Scarecrow and informs Alfred to initiate the "Knightfall Protocol," which is apparently some sort of contingency wherein Batman retires if his identity is revealed. A cut scene shows Alfred greet Bruce at Wayne Manor in front of a throng of onlookers and step inside just before the whole place explodes. The result there is ambiguous.

Finishing all the extra activities (including the 254 exhausting but clever Riddler puzzles) rewarded me with an additional bit of closure involving a wedding between Barbara Gordon and Tim Drake. Our last glimpse is of a Batman-esque shadow descending from a rooftop towards a pair of muggers in crime alley. Also ambiguous. I'm sure all the ambiguity was intentional, leaving it largely up the the players to discuss and interpret as they want. In a series famous for its careful development of characters and story, the open-ended resolution feels beneath the caliber I've come to expect from Rocksteady. 

I could go on about the beauty of the gameplay and combat, the way the side missions play out or the really well done joker hallucinations, but I can't overlook the letdown of the ending no matter how good the gameplay leading up to it was. The DLC for Arkham Knight  mentioned that some of the packs will take place after the events of the campaign, and while there is no guarantee that they'll clear a few things up, we can always hope.