I went into Gotham Knights with enthusiasm and a goal to get lost in the game. I recently installed an RTX 3070ti and was looking for a new game so I could crank the graphics and put it to the test. Gotham Knights isn’t a graphical powerhouse, though it looks fine. However, it’s new and has Ray Tracing, so I was all in. Paired with my i9-9900k it all but held a locked 60fps.
For the most part it didn’t waiver but there were areas where it would dip into the 40 and 50s. Occasionally it would dip to 1fps. More on that later as it wasn’t a one-time thing. But I’m not really one to judge a game on its graphics. Let’s talk about the game itself and my experience with it. From opening scene to rolling the credits I played a lot of this game and walked away with mixed feelings on it.
Gotham Knights reminded me a lot of the recent Saint’s Row game. It’s a game that I could not put down. I just wanted to keep playing it. However, it also felt like it lacked in many key areas, and in a similar way to Saint’s Row. I think the overall execution was more successful though due to the source material. I didn’t watch much coverage of the game leading up to me playing it, but I saw enough to know more or less what to expect. It’s an open world game set in Gotham, following the death of Batman. You take up the mantle as one of four playable characters: Batgirl, Red Hood, Knightwing and Robin. You select your character at the start and can change between them as the game goes on. Character switching is something that I either missed the memo or the game does not explain well because I was near the end of the game before I realized this. Since this is a “Batman” game I selected to start playing as Batgirl and since it took me so long to realize I could switch, I just finished the entire game as her. So, my review will be from the perspective of a complete Batgirl playthrough.
Once you select your character you are given the city to explore. It’s easy to get lost in the city, especially early in the game, with finding crimes to stop and bad guys to beat up to gain XP and level your character. The more crimes you stop and bad guys you defeat/interrogate, the more crimes you learn about. This is a circle of events that can keep you going for a while. I ended up spending so much time doing this in the beginning that I was well over-levelled for the first half of the game. Unintentionally of course. Gotham Knights can do a pretty good job of humbling you later in the game so my being over-levelled wasn’t a huge advantage the more I got through the story.
So let’s get to it. What makes Gotham Knights a good game?
- Gotham Knights does a good job with its side content. It’s fairly well organized, relevant to your character and plentiful. There are three main side stories that center around Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn and Clay Face. The Penguin also gives you jobs to do. All are worth your time and are filled with interesting areas to explore, tasks to do and lore to uncover. There is more side content than those mentioned as well but those felt like the main ones.
- The combat is a good example of easy to learn, hard to master. At the start of the game, when enemies are lower level, they are easy to dispatch, and the combat is fast. It’s easy and incredibly fun to button mash your way through encounters. But as you get stronger and start to encounter tougher enemies that goes out the window and you need to start taking a more tactical approach. Whether that is by hiding and using the environment to stealthily take out your foes or learning new moves and abilities to counter an enemy’s specific immunity. You need to start using your head a little more.
- I really enjoyed the main story, writing and voice acting. I felt that I was in a genuine Gotham/Batman universe and having an experience that I would expect. That may sound like a very dry, business-like description but it’s how I think I can best describe it. There are a few issues with the world they built which I will touch on later but overall, I liked what the game presented to me. I felt invested in the story and never had any moments where I didn’t know what to do next or felt taken out of the game in some way. From the start of the game, I was interested in what was going on and the game pulled me through the main missions without letting up. I find that these types of games usually have a slow middle section but Gotham Knights kept me wanting to play the next mission to see what happens next. Some character voices were slightly off from what I was expecting but was easy to get used to and the actual voice acting was great.
- Upgrades are plentiful. The way you move through the story is by going on “on patrol”. You go out into Gotham each night and can tackle the missions however you want. During your outings you acquire upgrade materials and blueprints that you can use to craft new gear as well as find mods. While you can craft new gear when out on patrol, you can’t equip it until you return to your base. That gives the player incentive to take a break and take in some of the story. I liked this break from the action and that I had to return to equip the new gear I crafted. I would go out, do some missions, stop some crimes and then return to see what new gear I could craft. It was a neat way to break up the game.
Where does Gotham Knights fall flat?
- Let’s get back to the combat. I mentioned that later in the game you need to start being more tactical and using specific attacks on specific enemies. At points this can get very frustrating. Later in the game you encounter enemies that can dodge nearly every attack and you have to use a certain skill that requires charging up to stun them, allowing you to then pummel them. It’s not a huge deal, but in the heat of battle when facing multiple baddies, it can become infuriating. Especially when those same enemies also have multiple drones firing at you. This does encourage the player to change up their tactics and maybe play a different way, but it’s worth noting that it can also become frustrating. Your character also has some AOE type attacks to hurt them but they run out and take some time to build back up.
- PC Game performance has a surprise where the game drops to 1fps for a few minutes. I did a search on it and it seems many other people are reporting this. I would be in the heat of a battle and all of a sudden performance would plummet to 1fps. I would, slowly, run out of combat which seemed to fix this and run back into combat, under the same graphical load, and the 1fps drop would be gone. It happened to me about ten times over the playthrough. It’s not an issue of my PC not being able to handle the game, I’m well above the requirements. It’s some software thing that is affecting the game. Usually I can ignore performance issues in games but this was nearly game breaking at some points. The game also crashed to desktop on me a few times.
- Gotham City looks great overall. Graphically it does fall a bit compared to last-gen’s Arkham Knight however taken as its own game on its own merits, Gotham still looks good in my opinion. But similar to Saint’s Row, it’s empty. Even with the population slider in the graphics menu maxed out, the streets don’t feel like anyone lives there. Sure, the game takes place at night when most people would be home sleeping, but something just feels empty about the city. I don’t think it needs people packed in and tripping over each other, but the lack of population is noticeable. Gotham serves as a pretty set piece, especially with Ray Tracing on, but like Saint’s Row it fails to become more than that. It never really stands out as part of the game, just the environment the game takes place in.
- When crafting new gear it shows you the specs of the new gear vs your current gear, which is good but the new gear is at its base stats and your current gear is usually sporting some mods so it can be hard to tell if the new gear is actually better than what you have. It would be nice if the new gear showed the base stats and then the increased stats with the mods separately so the player could compare the base power level when deciding what new gear to craft.
Overall, I really liked the game and will go back to fully complete the side quests. But after that is done, I will probably leave it there and not return to my save. The city itself leaves little reason to go back to it and explore. There is a New Game+ option that I may jump into with the other characters, but I have no reason to go back into Gotham as Batgirl anymore once the side stuff is completed. And I feel that’s a shame. I go back to GTAV regularly just to exist in that world. There is enough there to be entertaining just as a world. I know they are two different games, but GTAV is a great example of an open world done right. It makes the player want to come back because there are things to do, constantly. I realize not every open world game will be done to that level of detail but it’s shame to play two brand new games back-to-back where it feels that the world doesn’t share the same level of development the rest of the game received. The randomized crimes that constantly spawn are nice for a bit, but that is just the window dressing on an otherwise bland store front.
Still, I bought Gotham Knights on sale for $29 and at that price I absolutely recommend a playthrough. Given how short the main story is it may be a bit much at $60-$70. If you can find a deal on it and have even a passing interest in Gotham and its lore, then I recommend a buy.