Video Game: Batman Arkham Series
is a series of video games based on the Batman
superhero franchise. The games are notable for being a shining example of No Problem with Licensed Games
, since all three games have been released to great fanfare and critical acclaim.
The central events of each game deal with the inmates of the infamous Arkham Asylum, the prison that holds (or fails to hold
) all of Batman's insane foes. Asylum
is based on the premise of The Joker
seizing control of Arkham Island and freeing all the other inmates, including the Bat-rogues. City
takes place about a year after Asylum
, where Batman gets caught up in a plan to enclose the Asylum inmates in a walled-off area of Gotham City which includes some of the more pivotal areas in Batman's history, including Crime Alley
and Ace Chemicals
goes the prequel route and takes place two years after Bruce Wayne first became The Dark Knight.
The games are played in a third-person Action Adventure
perspective. Exploration is very open, since Batman has the ability to glide and use his Grappling-Hook Pistol
to hook onto most buildings and railings. Batman also has the ability to use a special visor to activate "detective mode", a special vision that highlights objects and people of interest.
Combat, which is managed by the "freeflow combat system" is based around three main actions: Attack, Stun, and Counter. Gadgets like Batarangs and the Batclaw are also incorporated into the combat system. At times, you can leap into combat, taking down Mooks as they try to attack you. Other times, you can use stealth; either to get the jump on enemies and take them down easier, or to simply avoid combat altogether. There is also an experience system
that allows enhancements to Batman's combat capabilities if he levels up.
As for the stories, the plots for the first two games in the series are written by acclaimed DCAU
writer Paul Dini
. It is filled with appreciation for the Batman
franchise in all its forms, remaining loyal to the comics, yet incorporating elements from the Nolanverse
, the Burtonverse
, the DCAU
Batman from his own animated series
. Notably Kevin Conroy
reprises his role as Batman while Mark Hamill
reprises his especially acclaimed role as The Joker
in the first two games.
Games in this series:Arkham Origins
is a prequel to the games, and neither Rocksteady Games nor Paul Dini
oversaw the prequel.
The series has also had some tie-in media:
- A comic prequel (also named Arkham City), which was released in mid-2011 and is set between the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and City. The story follows the Caped Crusader as he works to uncover the truth about Mayor Quincy Sharp's plans for the walled-off Arkham City, and the various villains inside the city walls who are fighting for control.
- Batman Arkham Unhinged, a tie-in comic series which follows various characters in the leadup to Arkham City, including Hugo Strange, Arkham inmates, various villains and different plots that occurred before Bruce Wayne was arrested and put into the city, as well as several stories during it.
- Arkham City Lockdown, a mobile game developed for iOS systems, which pits Batman against a number of enemies and villains (with the addition of Slade "Deathstroke" Wilson) seen in the core game via a series of one-on-one battles throughout the city.
- Arkham City: Endgame, a six-issue digital comic series that takes place directly after the ending of the main game, and involves Batman coming to terms with the Joker's death.
- Batman: Assault on Arkham: A movie in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, it is an original story set in the Arkham universe.
Tropes in this series
- Adaptation Distillation: Truly one of the greatest incarnations of the Dark Knight and his rogues ever. It's actually a potluck of the best aspects of practically all his previous media incarnations: the grittiness of the Christopher Nolan movies, the gothic architecture and film noir-ish mood of the Tim Burton films, the canon of the comics, the voices and writing talent of the animated series... It's difficult to imagine an incarnation of the Dark Knight that could so easily please all of Batman's fans from any medium.
- Batman is primarily based on his comic version, but he has the voice of the animated version and his suit actually looks like body armor with a glider cape.
- Joker — again, primarily based on his comic version, but he has Heath Ledger's suit, a face that looks a lot like Jack Nicholson (and his face and hair getting a younger look in Origins), he transforms into a muscle-bound hulk similar to Kevin Michael Richardson's Joker, they used Mark Hamill's voice and we can count Hamill's voice as a Caesar Romero reference. There's a lot of similarity there, especially in the laugh, thus completing the full spectrum of Batman Jokers.
- The Clayface in this game bears Basil Karlo's name (blink-and-you-miss-it when Bats takes Harley's "party list") and now-in-continuity powers: otherwise he's an amalgamated Batman: The Animated Series Clayface (Matt Hagen) and Preston Payne.
- This is canon. Karlo acquired the powers of Hagen and Payne in the early 90s. What's new, however, is his desire to impersonate people. In the comics, Karlo turned to crime out of egomania. The acting ability was a trait of Hagen's in the animated series.
- What we see of the Riddler looks rather like the '60s TV version, while his voicework sounds a lot like and is delivered like a slightly lower-key version of the Jim Carrey version mixed with John Glover.
- After Combat Recovery: Achieved in a somewhat roundabout way. Gaining experience points restores your health, and beating people up gives you XP. Ergo, damage taken in combat may be healed from the XP you got from fighting. Depending on how much damage you took and how much XP you got, you may or may not be restored to full health. Bosses reliably give you enough XP to heal fully, however.
- The reason this works for this trope is that the XP doesn't tally (and thereby the healing doesn't begin) until you finish the entire encounter, whether it's a gang of ten mooks trying to beat you down or a room full of gun-toting mooks you have to stealth-kill.
- Alternate Continuity: The first game was designed to be almost entirely identical to the history presented in the comics. The second game, as well as the third prequel game, establishes a few notable key differences.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: Every game features DLC playable characters. Notably, each one features a different villain as one of the playable characters.
- Asylum has the Joker
- City has Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing
- Origins has Deathstroke and Initiation Bruce Wayne
- Knight has Harley Quinn and Red Hood
- Artifact Title: The series is referred to as "Arkham" despite now leaving the asylum completely.
- Bedlam House: Arkham naturally.
- From Asylum: The marketing (as evidenced in the tie-in Arkham Care website and some of the in-game PA announcements) desperately tries to make it seem like a pleasant, modern psychiatric institution. To utterly hilarious degrees; it's really something to stand in a dank, creepy and falling-apart Arkham corridor listening to a pleasant voice on a commercial witter on about how Arkham is 'the state's premier psychiatric therapeutic facility', how the famous supervillains who get locked up there 'are only half the story' and other such nonsense.
- City : Proudly features an even worse solution: Arkham City, a walled off slum section of Gotham where former Arkham patients and Blackgate convicts alike are thrown in and left to their own devices. Then hired mercs kill everyone in the place. How therapeutic.
- Blocking Stops All Damage: All three games use this.
- Book Ends: Arkham City, which sees the end of the Batman/Joker feud ends with the Joker singing about him and Batman over part of the end credits. Similarly, Arkham Origins, which sees the start of the feud, ends the same way.
- Bittersweet Ending: It's Batman' story. Do you think it could be anything else? So, let's see:
- Batman: Arkham Origins: Batman has defeated Black Mask and his assassins, ingratiated himself with the police, and managed to make Gotham less of a hellhole, but Black Mask's fall leads to a power vacuum in Gotham's underworld that a certain clown steps in to fill, and we all know how that goes.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum: Batman stops Joker and prevents Gotham from destruction from TITAN. But Arkham Asylum is heavily damaged, nearly everybody of its staff is dead. And don't forget about Quincy Sharp's plans about Arkham City...
- Batman: Arkham City: Batman saves the day. Unfortunately, Talia is dead (for now), Catwoman's apartment got bombed by Two-Face, it's left unclear whether any of the people Joker poisoned can be savednote , and Batman actually intended to save the Joker, despite the latter's evil nature, and failed.
- The Harley Quinn's Revenge DLC ends with Harley's plan a resounding failure, but Bruce is still even more emotionally closed-off than usual. Not even the brief prospect of losing Tim gets him to open up - he just grapples away, leaving a very concerned Gordon in his wake.
- Cardboard Prison: There isn't a game in the series yet that doesn't make a prison break a part of the plot:
- Origins: It begins and ends with a riot at Blackgate Penitentiary. In Origins Blackgate Batman enters the prison to quell another riot.
- Asylum: A fire at Blackgate has resulted in much of the Joker's gang being moved to the asylum. Joker stages another riot once he's brought back
- City: The prison was made because of the damage done to the existing prisons in the last game. Black Mask managed to escape briefly; Strange added turrets to the walls in response, Strange tried to fake a breakout to justify Protocol 10, and Catwoman has the option to escape during her story arc. Doing so results in a Non Standard Game Over where Joker's gang breaks out and lays siege to Gotham.
- Crapsack World: A decent argument could be made that the games are actually darker than the main verse. To recap...
- In Asylum; At least half of the asylum's staff is murdered by the Joker's gang, and Joker intends to do the same to the rest of Gotham.
- In City: Likely THOUSANDS are killed by Protocol 10: Gotham apparently has a population in the millions, and given the huge crime rate, how many people Strange and Sharp were apparently throwing in, it's likely that Arkham had a population in the tens of thousands, and when Strange states that at least 22% of the inmates were killed, it's clear that thousands were murdered, including many who likely did nothing to deserve it, and this isn't counting the political prisoners and doctors killed by the Joker.
- In Origins: Gordon is the only honest cop we see; beyond him, the police are basically all thugs with uniforms, who hurt people for no reason beyond wanting to amuse themselves. And this is all before the assassins showed up along with the Joker, who apparently killed most of the staff at the Gotham Royal Hotel, at least 1/4 of Black Mask's men, and likely a great deal of the staff at Blackgate when he broke out and started the riot.
- Disc One Final Boss: Many villains fit this trope.
- In "City": The Joker's boss fight happens just before Batman must take on the Big Bad- Hugo Strange. But after Batman defeats Strange, it's quickly revealed he was the puppet of Ra's Al Ghul, who then commits suicide minutes later. Batman then has to save Talia from The Joker, who appears to be the game's real Big Bad. But after rescuing Talia, who kills The Joker, the true final boss is revealed in a major plot twist: Clayface was employed by The Joker to impersonate him at various points in the game, and the Joker Talia stabbed was merely a decoy Joker, who transforms back into Clayface.
- In "Origins": Black Mask is advertised and set up as the Big Bad, only for a plot twist about a quarter way through the game to reveal that The Joker is the true villain, having kidnapped Black Mask days earlier and taken over his operation.
- Extremely Short Timespan: All of the games take place over the course of a single night. This isn't too bad if you just play through the main plot, but it starts getting silly as you tackle the sidequests and try to find all the collectibles.
- Fingerprinting Air: The detective mode vision lets Batman pick up on all sorts of clues and track people through obtuse methods, such as traces of bourbon in the air. Later series get better about it, as while the Everything Sensor is still better than life, the clues themselves are more realistic and believable (like tracing bullet holes and impact points to identify its firing origin).
- Genre-Busting: Has elements of stealth, beat-em-up, RPG, survival horror, and Metroidvania, so it's hard to classify. The third game's multiplayer adds Third-Person Shooter elements. The fourth game will add driving and vehicular combat sections.
- Have a Nice Death: Dying in the games earns you a taunt from your enemies.
- Heroes Fight Barehanded: In Combat Mode, it is very possible for Batman to take on dozens of heavily armed enemies without using any gadgets. Batarangs included.
- Hijacked by Ganon: City had shades of this, with Hugo Strange and Ra's al Ghul's plotline being wrapped up in a single cutscene and the Joker having by far the most screentime. Origins is full bore; despite hyping Black Mask up as the Big Bad, it was Joker the entire time. Although, an observant player can notice the various hints dropped from the start of the game that this is the case.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The first game had relatively few characters involved in the main plot, but had cameos, references and bios of tons of Batman villains. Played completely straight in the sequel, which manages to give actual screen time to a lot these characters, both through the main story and side-quests. To date, the only major villain to never even be referenced in these games is Man-Bat.
- Mook Horror Show: When using stealth ("Predator Mode"), you can not only use gadgets to spook enemies in a variety of ways, but you can use detective mode to see their steadily increasing heartbeat as you pick them off one by one.
- Mushroom Samba: Once per game, Batman will be drugged somehow and experience surreal and creepy hallucinations.
- Asylum has the famous Scarecrow sequences.
- In City, Batman gets poisoned by Joker and suffers a few hallucinations as a result. The same thing happens when Batman drinks some from a Lazarus Pit. Finally, a side quest has the Mad Hatter try to take over Batman's mind, taking him to a bizarre dreamscape.
- In Origins, Copperhead uses a hallucinatory poison and the Mad Hatter returns for a repeat performance. In addition, we get to see a few scenes from Joker's insane perspective.
- In Origins Blackgate, Catwoman uses some sort of hallucinogen during the final boss battle.
- Notice This: Only in Detective Mode, though, since it highlights objects of interest.
- Ret Canon: Bane's appearance in Asylum and City initally inspired his redesign in The New 52, though it's since been revised to add a vest and cargo pants.
- Role Reprisal:
- From the DCAU: As noted above, the first two games see Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their respective Batman: The Animated Series roles of Batman and the Joker. Asylum also sees Arleen Sorkin reprise the role of Harley Quinn. While none of the three return for Arkham Origins, it does see two more reprisals from the the DCAU: Robert Constanzo as Harvey Bullock and in The Stinger, CCH Pounder as Amanda Waller. Blackgate also sees Adam Baldwin reprise his role from Justice League as Rick Flag, in addition to Pounder as Waller. Conroy does return as Batman in Arkham Knight and Assault on Arkham, the latter also seeing Jennifer Hale as Killer Frost and Pounder as Waller yet again.
- From the Animated Adaptation of Batman: Year One: Grey DeLisle reprises the role of Vicki Vale from Year One in City and Origins (the former being released the same day as Year One). Origins also sees the return of Jon Polito as Gillian Loeb.
- From Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Blackgate sees Gary Anthony Sturgis return as Bronze Tiger. In addition to Frost, Jennifer Hale also reprises her role from the episode "Chill of the Night!" as Poison Ivy in Assault on Arkham.
- From The Batman: Hynden Walch reprises the role of Harley Quinn in Assault on Arkham, replacing Sorkin and Harley's vocie actress in City, Origins, and Knight, Tara Strong.
- Rogues Gallery Showcase: One of the series' selling points is that players get the opportunity to meet and beat up Batman's rogues.
- Scenery Porn: Oh yes. City takes it further because, well, it's out in the open city, and Origins as well, being even more of the city (along with some Scenery Gorn in the Firefly sequence).
- Schizo Tech: CRT televisions, cigarette vending machines, and magnetic audio tape all exist alongside LCD monitors, electronic restraint collars, and advanced broadcast encryption technology. In Origins, there are even advertisements for trans-Atlantic zeppelin flights, while Batman spends most of the game flying around in a supersonic jet.
- Spiritual Successor: To the Batman-related parts of the DCAU, especially because its writer wrote for the first two games.