Saturday, January 2, 2016

Batman: OCD Knightmare

There. Just completed 100% on Batman:Arkham Knight. Collected all 243 goddamn Riddler trophies, threw the last of the major criminals into GCPD lockup, and activated the full KNIGHTFALL ending cutscene.

Hopefully now I can try actually enjoying this game.

Let me explain what I mean. The Batman Arkham games are beautiful graphically, and have pretty good plotlines, and (except for the forced Batmobile-tank parts of Arkham Knight) have great combat and exploration mechanics.

They really make you feel like you can play as Batman, but that's only AFTER you've actually completed the game.

You gotta earn it, son.

When you start a new Arkham game by Rocksteady (Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, or Arkham Knight) the city is always is covered in a ridiculous number of Riddler trophies. Its the Riddler trophies that drag me out of these games the most, as most of them are so ridiculously placed around the city for no purpose that they totally detract from the versimilitude of Bat-gliding around Gotham. See, the Rocksteady designers have painstakingly-rendered fantastic facsimiles of Gotham, so you'll glide down into a random alleyway or sneak into the Penguin's Iceberg Lounge and are awed by what you see. Everywhere has little nods to the DC universe hidden in the background, like old posters put up for a traveling carnival featuring the mystical Zatanna or something, and maybe rain is pattering down on some chalk outlines of a recent murder. Great stuff.

I am... the BAT!
Then you look to your left and see a giant upside-down question mark stuck to the underside of a fire escape that totally doesn't make sense. Its only purpose is to make you have to pull out your bat-grapple and snag it off the wall to 'collect' it. Its there just to up the count of Riddler trophies to collect. Has no criminal value to the Riddler whatsoever. This green question mark trophy puts you in no danger, its not a trap for the Batman or anything, it isn't a bomb the Riddler has planted to blast away the wall of the bank, or anything that's even remotely justifiable. Its just a green question mark in the middle of nowhere (basically hanging in space) totally taking you out of Gotham City and reminding you you're playing a video game.

There's that Riddler Trophy, just chillin' under the table for no good reason.

Mixed in around Poison Ivy's plants here, a giant green question mark that has no function. Sure, that makes sense.
Some of the Riddler puzzles are great. The ones where you have to save hostages, or defuse bombs, or what-have-you are totally rad. In the last Arkham release, Arkham Origins (the prequel by a different developer), they didn't use the Riddler trophies. Instead they had you go around and destroy the Riddler's network-scrambling relays instead, which makes total sense and had a purpose (you could then call the Batwing to drop you off in those portions of the map) was great. I love the Riddler, he's by far my favorite Batman villain. I like his motivation, his panache, and how he's usually just out to prove he's smarter than Batman. And admittedly a few of the trophy puzzles in Arkham Knight were really good, though once you pick up the trophy you wonder why the hell you did it ("Ping! You now have 126/243 trophies collected"). But 99% of the green trophies are totally superfluous to the world, and how in every game the number of them you have to collect increases before you can 'unlock' the final Riddler showdown is ...well, I'll say it, ALMOST CRIMINAL.

...we are Legion...
So of course like any good member of the Bat-family you'd make your first order of business to just collect all these stupid Riddler trophies in order get these glaring video game collectables out of your line of sight of beautiful Gotham City. But oh wait, you can't! 80% of them require you to use some specific Bat-gadget to retrieve, but when you start the game Batman's carrying almost nothing in his Utility Belt, and so you have to wait until you have the latest weird gadget to get the trophy.

Did you remember to bring your Bat-Crowbar Batman? No? Of course not.
You gain your Bat-tech gadgets here and there through playing the storyline missions, but it always feels very forced and unnecessary that you don't have all your gadgets as soon as you leave the BatCave. I mean, why did Bruce leave the BatCave without the Bat-Line Launcher? Or the Remote Bat-Hacking Device? He needs to use them all the damn time to get around Gotham City, so it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Can't even take a brisk walk without needing to hack a drone in Gotham City.
So you progress through the main storyline without fully engaging with it (because of all the distracting green question marks in the background everywhere), just so you can get all the damn gadgets, and then when you finally have the last Cryo-freeze Bat-bombs in your belt, you go out and collect the damn trophies for twenty hours. But then by the time you've cleaned up Gotham City enough to really get into being Batman, you've already beaten all the villains in the main Story Mode! Whoops!

Fortunately, someone at Rocksteady must be aware of this issue, because these games unlock a "Story+" mode after you beat "Story" mode, which is supposed to be like "Hard" mode in most games (tougher enemies, etc), except for the wonderful fact that they don't replace any of the dumb Riddler trophies you've collected already and you get to start with all the gadgets from the get-go. So in Story+ mode you can actually start over in the game but feel like an actual well-prepared Batman who's in a realistic-looking Gotham City. It doesn't matter if the enemies are a little tougher and the tutorial pop-ups don't appear to help you in combat, Story+ mode is the only way to really feel like Batman.

So only 40 hours into the game, and now we can start enjoying it.


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