Gotham Knights preview: needs more Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Gotham Knights is very much a Batman Arkham sequel in the way it plays, but its team of ragtag heroes who don’t always get along bears striking similarities to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. While Nightwing, Robin, Red Hood, and Batgirl carry the RPG’s story well in Batman’s absence, the developers at Warner Bros Montreal don’t explore their relationship as well as Eidos Montreal did with their intergalactic counterparts.

The basics are all there. Gotham Knights is full of personality and each character is filled with a ton of history you can feel from the start, even during our limited preview. A potty-mouthed Red Riding Hood makes big brother tones when I play as Robin, ribbing the youngest member of the group and expressing concern while patrolling without backup. For a brute, he shows a surprising vulnerability and is far more outwardly affected by Batman’s untimely demise, likely drawing on the trauma of his own death and resurrection. Staying true to his origins, he also has a problem with authority figures, regularly putting him at odds with Nightwing.

Nightwing, on the other hand, is playful and flirtatious, capitalizing on his comic book heartthrob status. It doesn’t matter if it’s friend or foe – some cheeky exchanges with Harley Quinn have earned him the nickname ‘Nightbutt’, a reference to his particularly cheerful backside. Seriously, it is one thing the hero is known for.

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Since you can play as any of the four heroes at any point in the story, there are essentially four versions of every interaction. These go beyond simple name swaps as well with elements that make every conversation feel personal to your current character.

“Well, yeah… if it’s not Bratgirl. Are you here for a chat? Just us girls? I got ice cream,” Harley Quinn squeals as I step into Barbara Gordon’s shoes. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience the same segment with another hero to compare, but this dialogue wouldn’t fit anyone else. A sharp script is key to building a dynamic, believable world I’m really invested in, and Gotham Knights has its moments, but they’re not consistent .

The Gotham Knights see Batgirl on the Batcomputer as Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood look on

Much of your time between missions is spent in the Belfry, a bell tower base of operations that the Bat-Family uses for debriefing, training and the occasional chat. It’s basically the new Bat Cave where you can spend your upgrade points as you level up, change costumes, and switch between the Gotham Knights characters. I’m dating myself here, but it reminds me of the Queen Tower in Smallville, albeit a bit more mixed.

Hub areas are a bit of a pacing punctuation mark that serves a practical purpose as much as a narrative one. The Belfry doesn’t seem to be treated any differently – the developers seem eager to get you in and out as quickly as possible. The layout of the Belfry is easy to navigate, so you can tick off your tasks before heading straight back into the night. I appreciate the coherence of it all as it keeps me from getting as lost as I did in Monster Hunter World’s base, but it’s like I’m moving on a conveyor belt, which makes the space and its inhabitants feel less human as a result.

Gotham Knights characters huddle around a survey board

The scripted moments are brilliant – we see each character grieving, investigating and even training together as a family. At the moment when the cutscenes end, however, the heroes stand crouched, motionless, just waiting for the purpose. They will occasionally deliver a walk-by one-liner, but this pales in comparison to other games that have already shown us exactly how to handle this downtime.

In Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, exploring Star-Lord’s ship, the Milano, is a fun activity with characters that feel alive. Rocket Racoon is seen tinkering with parts on the workbench before going elsewhere on the cruiser, mumbling and grumbling to himself. Groot sings merrily in his own language. And Gamora sometimes shouts across the ship in conversation to Drax and other crew members, like an obnoxious sibling.

Gotham Knights need more Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy as Star-Lord chats with Rocket Raccoon and Groot on the workbench

It’s not just character interaction, but the world itself. There are easter eggs in each person’s bedroom that dig deeper into their history, notes on the cupboards to read, and a fridge door that you can choose to close but someone else will always keep leaving the damn thing open. The world feels like it continues to exist without you in it, just like the real world around us.

Gotham Knights is far from a bad action RPG game. It’s significantly more polished than Warner Bros Montreal’s Batman Arkham Origins; it has a seemingly sprawling open world with the largest Gotham City we’ve yet seen; and each member of the Bat Family offers a unique playstyle that keeps the battle fresh. It just needs to make the Belfry a bit more engaging, especially when the story is so character driven.

However, it is early days for the temporary base. As you can see, everything is still covered with tarps to protect the furniture, so there’s still a chance for things to get a little livelier. We’ll have to wait for Gotham Knight’s release date to answer that question.

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