Gotham Knights is finally available for Xbox Series X/S, PS5 and PC, after being revealed in August 2020 and suffering some delays. The critical reception is above-average overall, and whether comparisons to the Batman Arkham series are warranted, this isn’t a follow-up in terms of story. Yes, despite Bruce Wayne seemingly sacrificing himself at the end of Arkham Knight, which would have been a perfect segue.
Instead, Gotham Knights takes place in a completely separate universe with its own story. In the beginning, Bruce Wayne/Batman is ambushed by Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of the League of Shadows, in the Batcave. Batman seemingly has no way to beat Ra’s and decides to self-destruct the Batcave, sealing him inside (while also sending a message out to the remaining Bat Family). So there you go – Batman is dead, gone, buried, and definitely not coming back.
Until close to the end, that is. Spoilers follow so you’ve been warned.
As it turns out, Bruce is dead but doesn’t stay dead (shock of shocks). Ra’s is but let’s back up. After receiving Wayne’s message, the Knights start investigating Dr Kirk Langstrom (who turns into Man-Bat in the comics) and his research. Langstrom is dead, and Talia al Ghul, Ra’s’ daughter, incinerates his corpse while warning the heroes of the League’s move on Gotham. Eventually, we learn of the Court of Owls and their leader Jacob Kane, Bruce’s uncle. Fun fact: He’s also the father of Kate Kane, who would become Batwoman in the comics.
The Court seeks the Fountain of Youth and possesses an army of undead Talons to assail Gotham. Kane is assassinated by Talia, and though the Talons are awakened to run rampant over Gotham, the League has an army of Man-Bats, created through Langstrom’s research and the Lazarus Pit. Furthermore, it used the Pit to bring back Bruce Wayne from the dead, while somehow brainwashing him to be the new leader. Yes, it feels somewhat contrived, but it also sets up an appropriate encounter for the Knights to make that final leap towards replacing Batman.
The Knights fight Bruce and bring him back to his senses, but then the Court shows up to claim the Lazarus Pit. Thus Wayne sacrifices himself – again – by ramming the Batwing into the Lazarus Pit to stop anyone else from reaching it. The story ends with the Knights proclaiming themselves as the protectors of Gotham while the Court of Owls goes off the grid and the League of Shadows leaves Gotham.
So there are quite a few things to ask, but also several things to clarify. The overall state of the Lazarus Pit isn’t entirely unknown (though it’s claimed to have been “blown to bits”). It could be destroyed or just sealed off, preventing anyone from getting to it. Also, Bruce Wayne could be declared dead for good this time…except, like the first time, we don’t see his body. So one can always assume that he’s still alive. Yes, he was in a crash and massive explosion, but never say never when it comes to a DC Universe title.
Why did the League of Shadows want to invade Gotham, to begin with? It’s all part of their never-ending mission to fight against evil and injustice, even if it means committing unethical acts in the name of this purge. As such, it made sense to take out the Court of Owls, which had been governing Gotham from behind the scenes for several centuries. It doesn’t quite make sense why the League would use the Gotham Knights to do their dirty work, but hey, two birds, one stone etc.
The question now is: Where does the story go from here?
The success of Gotham Knights will ultimately determine whether a sequel gets made, never mind if there will be expansions further adding to the story. Events may have wrapped themselves up quite nicely, but there are several different directions that Warner Bros. Montreal could go in.
For instance, Harley Quinn may have broken off from the Joker, but that doesn’t mean the Joker is dead. The Clown Prince of Crime could still be out there, planning his next move. It may even be something completely out of left field since Batman is gone. After all, without his long-time nemesis, what point is there to the Joker’s life besides random chaos? It’s hard to say, especially since we don’t know how this universe’s version of the Joker would act. With Red Hood having unfinished business with him, it could be an interesting twist on the classic storyline.
Another question to ask – how did Ra’s learn of the Batcave’s location in the first place? It may be due to Nyssa Raatko, his other daughter who would serve as his right-hand in the comic book storyline Batman: Death and the Maidens before becoming disillusioned with his approach. She would eventually control the League with Talia, while also having control of the last remaining Lazarus Pit. Nyssa knows the Batcave’s location and Batman’s identity, so she may have helped the League in Gotham Knights.
Other elements to be aware of include The Order of St. Dumas, with which Azrael is associated. He took over the mantle of Batman in Knightfall and subsequently turned into a menace before Bruce made his return. Bane, who was interested in taking over Gotham after conquering Batman, could also surface. Who knows? The story could see him assuming leadership over the League of Shadows, just like in The Dark Knight Rises, to fulfill Ra’s goals. It’s unlikely that the story will be lifted wholesale, so don’t expect to see all of the Fumbling Four getting their backs broken.
More than anything, I think it’s impressive how many loose ends the story of Gotham Knights has. Renee Montoya could go on to become The Question or replace the deceased James Gordon as commissioner of the GCPD. The existence of Damian Wayne, Bruce’s son with Talia who would become Robin, hasn’t been confirmed, but there may be something later. Perhaps we can see the events leading up to Gotham Knights from the perspective of Batman. Maybe we can play as Bruce, who’s revealed to be alive again thanks to the Lazarus Pit but leading a completely different life. It could serve as a nice little prologue to the entire storyline.
There are plenty of villains waiting in the wings, but the overall direction seems fluid. It’s almost like Gotham Knights was designed as a live-service game that could go anywhere once the main story wraps up. A minor villain here and there, some showdowns with Court of Owls and League of Assassins minions, and eventually, a new big bad in the yearly expansion. But that’s another thing entirely.
Whether it expands on its new timeline, adapting existing material to fit within its framework, or calls it one-and-done with this title is ultimately up to publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. An expansion featuring more Villain Arcs seems likelier than an actual sequel, given how easily they could slot into the current set-up. Time will ultimately tell, but at the very least, there’s some decent groundwork to build on for the future.
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