This Place Is A Prison

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a brilliant game. It’s the rare title that’s overflowing not just with action and puzzles but an overwhelming sense of place. Not only did it completely nail the tone of a Batman comic (or the much-loved 90s animated series), but it truly made the setting a character in the narrative. The Arkham estate was just as threatening and foreboding as The Joker or Killer Croc – because we were stuck there, it might have been even more threatening.

I finished the game, riddles and all, in a long weekend. I haven’t done that in years, and I was hungry for more.

I mention this so you know how much I wanted to love the sequel, Batman: Arkham City. But I don’t, and it’s completely because of the setting.

In our Arkham City discussion on the Conference Call, Shawn Andrich called the game the perfect sequel “on paper.” It’s got more of everything: More bat-gadgets, more villains, more of the Riddler’s OCD on display. His theory – and I know I’ll regret trying to quote him – is that more of the same gameplay mechanics isn’t always a good thing. He found the FreeFlow combat system more stale this go-around, something I personally attribute to his machine-like mastery over the brawling in the first game.

I want to agree with him (don’t tell him that), but having three different variations of Batarangs or four different combo options at my disposal while beating down thugs never got on my nerves. More missions? Distracting, but I imagine that’s what it’s like to be the Detective. Don’t worry, political prisoner, I’ll save you from a mugging as soon as I tag this Riddler trophy.

Instead, it all comes back to the city itself. Arkham Asylum in the comics is an ever-present force, but never well defined. Grant Morrison’s landmark graphic novel, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, comes closest to pinning down the feel of Gotham’s nuthouse, but what it really shows is a clear picture of the insanity contained within. Because Arkham Asylum the game is loosely based on the graphic novel, it gets the best of both worlds. Asylum put the feeling of the comic into tangible dimensions, then dropped you head-first into the space.

What was always a plot point in Detective Comics is now well and truly fleshed out. I wanted to explore its nooks and crannies, finding references to Amadeus Arkham or the horrors those walls have contained over its imaginary history. There’s a lot of mood in that game, and mood is hard to pull off.

Arkham City, in contrast, has you exploring Gotham’s repurposed slums. Again, on paper, that should be amazing – There’s the theater Bruce Wayne left with his parents when Joe Chill shot them down! – but the urban sprawl often feels generic as you’re soaring over it. Apart from the Monarch Theater, there are few recognizable spots in Arkham City, and the game does little to build them up as more than a setting for another 20-on-1 combat encounter.

The problem is that Arkham City, as a setting, has no character of its own. It’s a setting that’s designed to give you a jungle gym to play in, but it’s not integral to the plot. The construction and setup of the open-sky prison in Gotham’s slums is barely set up in the game itself, and aside from making allusions that it’s a “bad thing,” none of the game’s named characters seem all that eager to leave. You’ll often hear petty thugs complaining that they miss their high-def televisions or Facebook statuses on your handy-dandy Bat-Radio as you launch yourself across rooftops, but the game never shows you that it’d be hard to actually leave.

In fact, midway through the game you find that Robin, the boy wonder and ever-present sidekick, can somehow leave and enter as he pleases. That continuity gaff alone makes the “impenetrable prison” seem more like a myth, and certainly doesn’t give it an ever-present character. I’m only in Arkham City because the game needs to put me somewhere.

Unlike exploring the halls of Arkham Asylum, I feel like I’m grappling and soaring over Liberty City. Even with all the new villains included, it feels like Arkham City left out its most important antagonist: the setting in which you’re trapped.

Also, and it’s a small point, but come on. Someone convinced the people of Gotham to turn half their city into an open-air prison? Even for comics, that’s a hard pill to swallow. But I digress.

Having now finished the game, I don’t feel the same draw to find all of Riddler’s secrets, a game mechanic that I loved in the first game. I don’t care enough to track down Deadshot’s clues or wait around for the mysterious stranger – who totally isn’t mysterious if you’ve read Knightfall – to show up while I’m failing AR challenges. I’ve come to the conclusion of the story, watched how Rocksteady tied the threads of plot together, and I feel done. It was fun while it lasted, but I can’t see myself cleaning up the streets all over again.

Unlike Batman at the end, I’m ready to leave Arkham City to its own devices, letting the thugs and criminals and freaks tear themselves apart instead of scouring the streets for a way to save it from itself.

Which makes me a really crummy Caped Crusader.

Comments

So, I've been meaning to keep the sexism thing out of the Catch-All because I'm not really sure how it is going to go. Since it's been mentioned here, though...

I've played probably 5 or 6 hours of the game so far. As I recall, every single female hero or villain has been referred to as a 'bitch', occasionally by prison workers rather than inmates. The only time Harley Quinn seems to come up in an overheard conversation is when inmates discuss how she's all 'hot', but also a 'crazy bitch', and 'the Joker's girl [and/or bitch]' so it would be inadvisable to pursue her. More or less the same thing with Poison Ivy, except for the Joker part. Sure, it is plausible for the characters of this world to talk that way. Please understand, though, that the use of the word 'bitch' is ubiquitous. It isn't just after Catwoman has beaten them up or Harley has wronged them in some way, it is the number one descriptor for any female character all the time. Much worse than that is the time I heard an inmate allude to how Catwoman is likely to be raped running around a place like Arkham City being as attractive as she is. Yes, it is again plausible that this huge red flag is simply an example of realistic writing for your T-rated video game about a character very popular with children, I guess.

Another thing is that the Catwoman character is reduced to something I might describe as bombastic girliness; talking about how she'd feel 'JUST NAKED' without her accessories (she may have called them 'toys'), saying things like 'you sure know how to make a girl feel welcome', et cetera. Now, while I am aware that she uses this persona to distract people and to cause them to underestimate her, she behaves this way even when narrating to herself. The designers could easily have used this narration as an opportunity to add some depth to her character (the way they do with Batman), but they did not. That could have been a time constraints thing, I guess, and of course Catwoman is not all that central to the story.

I suppose it is plausible for a prison full of sex-deprived, violent male prisoners to behave this way (and true to the fiction for Catwoman to behave as she does). The thing is, the writers chose to set the game in an environment that is arbitrarily 99% male, and chose to have it inherit the hypersexualized features of the comic book characters. Where they could have made Catwoman at least a little bit more like a real person (which would have been EASY TO DO), they did not. Where they could have bended the fiction a little to have the inmates avoid gratuitous references to sex and occasional references to rape, they did not. On the bright side, I'm grateful they haven't yet started in with the upsetting 'pound-me-in-the-ass prison' cliches so prevalent in other media.

Here are some questions to ask:
-Why are there only male inmates? Does Gotham City have no low-level female criminals? And if you ask me, 'ESRB bullsh*t' is not a good enough reason. Have some women hanging around who you aren't able to beat up so that the inmates can talk about something other than the grotesquely-contrived 'lone woman in a sea of probable rapists' scenario.
-Surely these inmates should not spend their entire day talking to each other about sex. I don't think I've overheard a single conversation about, say, people's families, what they were up to before Arkham City, or what they want to do when they get out (unless I guess it's having sex with Harley Quinn). Or about movies, or really anything except a) The current plot of the game and b) Sex. Instead we are frequently reminded that all of the inmates are basically monsters and some given the opportunity would be sexual predators as well. As the creator you can choose to either humanize the dudes or conveniently omit the sexual ramifications of their being monsters; by making them monster/potential rapists, you are taking the worst possible path.
-If you choose to create an environment that more or less exclusively contains sexist people saying sexist things, is that not complacent with sexism? Is it the best choice to make for your audience?

To me, this whole thing seems like they're importing every sexist genre trope available to them, making not a single progressive decision with the narrative, and then adding a really weird fixation on sex to a storyworld where the only possible kind of sex is the bad kind. At best you could call it sexism through laziness, but I think it is somewhat worse than that. I personally would have preferred to see a more gender-equal environment where the negative side to sex is not prominently featured, and where Catwoman is a smart person who lets you in on how smart she is.

In regards to the original topic:

I think the problem is that the two games are actually different styles while retaining similar mechanics. Arkham Asylum is like a Metroid or Resident Evil game, where it's about puzzle solving and navigating the environment with the right tools. Arkham City is a lot more like inFamous or Assassin's Creed.

As such, to me, the games both scratch a different sort of itch. I started playing Arkham Asylum again to warm up for City, and while it helped keep me in the mindset required for combat, the two are very different. At first I actually hated the jump. The interface seemed overly complex, not friendly at all, and everything seemed so much more complicated (in fact, my first reaction to a lot of the new Riddler trophies was "Are you kidding me? What the f*ck do I do here?"). However, all of that stuff went away after readjusting. I loved the side missions, and even though I beat it I'm totally addicted to just wandering the city collecting trophies.

For me, the difference in game style is a great idea. I have reason to go back and play Arkham Asylum. It feels different, and the more simple Riddler Trophies and other mechanics work.

I will confess, though. The city's character only goes as far as "Okay, these areas are most populated with guns, and these ones are mostly brawlers".

In regards to "sexism":

When it comes to the inmates, I feel like everyone is forgetting the context that these are rapists, thieves and murderers. What are they supposed to be saying? They really appreciate Poison Ivy for her mind?

When dudes get together, they often talk about whether or not they'd bang certain chicks. This happens often with fictional characters and/or celebrities. Calling certain women bitches and talking about whether you'd do it or not is totally not out of character, considering we're talking about criminals here. Not exactly intellectuals.

Catwoman acts like Catwoman. Period, end of story. If you have a problem with her being sexualized, then you have a problem with every variation of Catwoman. It's not the game, it's the Batman universe that you hate in that regard.

I already wrote a long ass post on another forum that I'd rather not copy and paste here, but in truth, after playing the entire game, well, it's not really very sexist. I don't have the tolerance to read that entire article, but they're ignoring a lot of stuff right from the beginning. Two-Face isn't dangling Catwoman over a vat of acid because he hates women. He is doing it because there's a rivalry going on there. Guess what? The same is going on between Two-Face and Penguin and Penguin and Joker and everyone in the damn city. In other words, they're all trying to kill each other. Catwoman just happened to get caught, but you'll read why there's some issue after photographing some of the environment and reading the history. The two of them have been chasing after the same loot since before the game started.

To me, the whole "GAME IS SEXIST" stuff is a knee jerk reaction to people wanting to see a problem. Inmates are being violent and crazy. All the villains want to kill each other, including Catwoman. Catwoman is super sexual femme fatale. The only one of those that is reasonable to hate is Catwoman's personality, but if that's the case then take it up with the comic writers and not the game.

ccesarano wrote:

What I wanted to say.

Going off ccesarano's characterization of Arkham's gameplay, I have completed both inFamous and inFamous 2, twice each, one for each karma choice; and I think that inFamous 2 is a better realization of the open-mission superhero game than Arkham City is. The map indicators are clearer, the map design is better, and the gameplay being TPS as well as RPG-lite makes it a more complex combat scheme from the get-go,

4xis.black wrote:

-Surely these inmates should not spend their entire day talking to each other about sex. I don't think I've overheard a single conversation about, say, people's families, what they were up to before Arkham City, or what they want to do when they get out (unless I guess it's having sex with Harley Quinn). Or about movies, or really anything except a) The current plot of the game and b) Sex.

Then you haven't been listening very closely, since they also wonder out loud what's on TV right now, complain about not being able to update their social networks, complain about how cold it is and how none of them have been given seasonally-appropriate clothing, make disparaging comments about other inmates who they believe to be more "sick" than they are (particularly Zsaz, Mr. Freeze, and the Riddler), talk about how much they want to get out and where they would go if they could, etc. etc. etc.

It's not that some of the points you make aren't real issues or that they couldn't have been handled better, but across the board I think you're making some pretty broad exaggerations about their severity.

I believe I described their severity as 'somewhat worse than sexism through laziness'. You consider this a broad exaggeration?

4xis.black wrote:

I believe I described their severity as 'somewhat worse than sexism through laziness'. You consider this a broad exaggeration?

No. An exaggeration, perhaps, but not a broad one. I consider the following statements broad exaggerations:

4xis.black wrote:

Please understand, though, that the use of the word 'bitch' is ubiquitous.

No it isn't. It doesn't feel at all out-of-place in context, for reasons you mostly give yourself but then seem to dismiss out-of-hand without explaining why you're doing so.

The thing is, the writers chose to set the game in an environment that is arbitrarily 99% male, and chose to have it inherit the hypersexualized features of the comic book characters.

It's not arbitrary. Arkham City is made up of the (predominantly male) former inmates of Arkham Asylum and the (entirely male) inmates of the all-male Blackgate Prison, plus a handful of political prisoners added to the population later. Historically, prisons have nearly always been segregated by gender. The remarkable thing about Arkham City is that it has ANY female inmates, not that it has so few.

-Why are there only male inmates? Does Gotham City have no low-level female criminals? And if you ask me, 'ESRB bullsh*t' is not a good enough reason. Have some women hanging around who you aren't able to beat up so that the inmates can talk about something other than the grotesquely-contrived 'lone woman in a sea of probable rapists' scenario.

Gotham City probably does NOT have very many low-level female criminals. Women make up something like 8% of the American prison population. It's entirely plausible that Gotham's female criminals are shipped to an all-female facility elsewhere in the state, with the exception of super-criminals like Poison Ivy who can only be safely housed at Arkham Asylum (which is, technically, a medical facility and not a prison). At WORST, the under-representation of female prisoners is a bit of a stretch. Characterizing it as a "grotesque contrivance" is the sort of broad exaggeration I'm talking about.

-Surely these inmates should not spend their entire day talking to each other about sex. I don't think I've overheard a single conversation about, say, people's families, what they were up to before Arkham City, or what they want to do when they get out (unless I guess it's having sex with Harley Quinn). Or about movies, or really anything except a) The current plot of the game and b) Sex. Instead we are frequently reminded that all of the inmates are basically monsters and some given the opportunity would be sexual predators as well. As the creator you can choose to either humanize the dudes or conveniently omit the sexual ramifications of their being monsters; by making them monster/potential rapists, you are taking the worst possible path.

A broad exaggeration for reasons I've given above.

-If you choose to create an environment that more or less exclusively contains sexist people saying sexist things, is that not complacent with sexism? Is it the best choice to make for your audience?

They chose to create an environment full of people for Batman to beat the crap out of, for the same reason that the creators of shooter games tend to populate them with Nazis and zombies: because it's more fun for the player to beat up on despicable people and monsters than decent people.

Seriously. At this point you are willfully ignoring the context of the game. People who commit the sort of crimes that get one put into maximum-security prison tend not to have very enlightened attitudes about women. That is not a contrivance or a stereotype or a cliche, it's verisimilitude. To answer your rhetorical question, no, setting a work of fiction in a prison and depicting the prisoners in such a manner, while very clearly depicting them and their attitudes as unsympathetic and monstrous, is NOT complacent with sexism. If Batman and Commissioner Gordon were trading japes about about what a hot piece of ass Harley is, it would be one thing. They don't. The people making these comments are the bad guys.

Again, I'm with ccesarano on the whole sexism thing. The comic is sexist. It follows that any material made with the comics in mind that will adhere to its roots would be sexist as well. It's not a forgone fact. We may eventually get a Batman antagonist who's a fanservice treat for gay men, or for the ladies, but it hasn't happened yet. For that matter, we don't often see Bruce Wayne showing off his body in sexually exciting poses in a shower scene, though I would be totally cool with that, if it happened to be included.

It's a fault with the material, and only secondarily the game as it holds itself faithful to the material.

4xis.black wrote:

I believe I described their severity as 'somewhat worse than sexism through laziness'. You consider this a broad exaggeration?

How is it sexism when the sexist characters only exist so object of their derision can beat the sh*t out of them?

LarryC wrote:

For that matter, we don't often see Bruce Wayne showing off his body in sexually exciting poses in a shower scene, though I would be totally cool with that, if it happened to be included.

IMAGE(http://posterous.com/getfile/files.posterous.com/alexfvance/hvkCrEBqqkIcpCDozGwcmodBctoufgycmrxgfEEAuEsyGJmCsssfuAxHAiyD/media_http27mediatumb_tnrme.jpg.scaled500.jpg)

I'm not getting aroused by that. It might be uncomfortable for late teeners who are just getting into their sexuality, but it's not what I would call a sexy pose. It doesn't show off any of his assets favorably.

That said, I'm neither a woman, nor gay. Maybe we can get someone appropriate to comment?

I was just goofing around. Yeah, that's it. Just goofing around.

Mmm... those pixie boots....

I mean, just a goof! Yeah, a goof.

How is it sexism when the sexist characters only exist so object of their derision can beat the sh*t out of them?

I honestly can't respond to this without derailing much further into P&C. The short answer is that revenge fantasies are not good forces for social change.

I might as well bow out of this discussion by saying that Arkham City is probably not worse than the comic book status quo when it comes to sexism.

LarryC wrote:

I'm not getting aroused by that. It might be uncomfortable for late teeners who are just getting into their sexuality, but it's not what I would call a sexy pose. It doesn't show off any of his assets favorably.

That said, I'm neither a woman, nor gay. Maybe we can get someone appropriate to comment?

I dunno, looks like Robin's "ass"ets stand out awful nicely.

Also, I do enjoy how these discussions on sexism never mention

Spoiler:

Talia al Ghul anywhere

.

Then again.... (major spoiler for the end here)

Spoiler:

I guess the fact that she is killed at the end could be construed as sexist, as opposed to, I don't know, tragic. Or maybe her character as a whole is sexist. I dunno. I always found her to be an awesome love interest, seeing as she wants to do good, but has that same off-center morality her father has. Makes her much more interesting as a character than, well, Catwoman ever was.

Honestly, at this point, I don't even know what is and isn't sexist anymore.

4xis.black wrote:
How is it sexism when the sexist characters only exist so object of their derision can beat the sh*t out of them?

I honestly can't respond to this without derailing much further into P&C. The short answer is that revenge fantasies are not good forces for social change.

I might as well bow out of this discussion by saying that Arkham City is probably not worse than the comic book status quo when it comes to sexism.

Couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks for your input throughout.

ccesarano wrote:

What I wanted to say, RE: sexism.

I think this is a better game in all aspects *EXCEPT* combat. I spent hours and hours getting good at AA's combat, and when I was done - I could gold star all the challenges in one try. The combat had a system and rules - it was challenging, but made sense (except for shock and awe extreme - and I will not speak again of that evil room). In AC - the combat is so EASY that I don't feel as Batmaney. Maybe on my hard new-game plus it will be different.

AA's combat was excellent because it was so tight. You had a limited number of attacks and abilities, and you had to use them correctly to get the results you wanted. AC's combat is overwhelming with choices - 5 gadgets and loads of combo moves - and you don't even need any of them! You can just use counter punch and dodge - boom, there is your 50+ combo. The game is still excellent so far, so I don't agree with Mr. Banks, but the combat gives me a sad.

Also - I wanted to point out that I never felt in either AA or AC that Batman was actually trapped in either location. He could always bat-jet out if needed, or use grapples or something. Seriously, he is the goddam Batman:) I was under the impression that he was keeping himself there in order to kick ass and take names.

Also about the intro -

Spoiler:

I am under the impression that Wayne allowed himself to be captured as it was part of his plan all along.

Is this the biggest problem? Batman: Arkham Asylum had the same problem, too, I still loved it. I mean before the game, I thought Arkham Asylum was a brick and mortar madhouse on mainland. In the game I find out that it's not a madhouse, but an island with a mansion, a hospital, a cave and a freaking botanical garden. (Oh, yeah, it had a madhouse, too.) What does a botanical garden do there? I mean, they know about Poison Ivy, right? It's like they would have a cryogenics lab there for Mr. Freeze. And they have goons from Blackgate? You know, to have some enemies besides crazy people. Because it would look like, you are in a madhouse.

So, when I was fighting totally sane tough guys in a mansion, who were looking for papers, I didn't feel at all that I was in Arkham Asylum. I knew that the Arkham Asylum has such a part, because the game told me, but I didn't think that the game was thematically about Arkham Asylum. It was a dark and gritty Batman game with the Arkham Asylum story there only to explain why the game world is so small. Just like in Arkham City the prison walls are just an explanation why Gotham City doesn't have normal flow of traffic and normal people. (I'd really love a Batman game with a populated Gotham City.)

Oh, and why couldn't Batman get out of the island? I mean he called the Batwing to the botanical garden to bring him a batrope or what, but he couldn't use it to get out of the botanical garden and travel around the island? Come on. It wasn't explained at all.

If in Arkham City (I haven't played it, yet) Batman is actually one of the inmates, that's at least some explanation, why he can't leave. In Arkham Asylum it wasn't explained at all why he couldn't use the Batwing or the Batmobile (I know, it was trashed, but he still used it afterwards).

SallyNasty wrote:

Also about the intro -

Spoiler:

I am under the impression that Wayne allowed himself to be captured as it was part of his plan all along.

The fact that the game isn't clear on this one simple point speaks to how inconsistent the narrative is.

That's a different article, but I almost wrote about that.

Re: sexism

In Arkham Asylum I was wondering, why did Harley change to another outfit? I mean she was originally dressed as a harlequin, because she's called Harley Quinn. And now she wears a mini skirt? But I thought, okay. Then Poison Ivy appears and she didn't wear much more, than panties. I thought I don't see right when I saw that cinematic. And I don't think that this would be Paul Dini's fixation. She wrote the episode Harley and Ivy which, in my opinion, had a decent depiction of these female characters.

On a sidenote: I don't mind if the characters are sexist or have no clue of some basic liberal ideas, like civil rights. I mean I had a really bad feeling at the start of Arkham Asylum, like: This is really how we treat these people? I mean, I know, joker is a maniac murderer, but do we really have to use electric prods on them? I didn't feel at all that Arkham Asylum is a necessary evil, I felt that it's evil in itself, a bad place in this world which should be defeated. I didn't feel the Warden was my ally. I felt that it's all wrong what they are doing. I didn't feel that anyone would mind if Batman would've killed joker in that cinematic where Joker tempts Batman. I was like: kill him, dude!

I can't help but think you might not be familiar with the character of Arkham City. You cite the Grant Morrison Arkham Asylum comic when talking about the first game but make no mention of the No Man's Land event that is clearly the inspiration for Arkham City.

Having read No Man's Land, being my favorite of the Batman storylines, I loved the character that is Arkham City. It felt like the pulled the setting straight from No Man's Land. Gotham is ruined, destroyed, and over-ran with criminals. Villains stay because they are in control. They can run their rackets without fear (Until Batman shows up, of course) and carve out their homes in the lawless lands.

I also think it's amusing to me that you pick on the game for having Robin show up, breaking into the "impenetrable prison". That's a super common comic book trope. Heroes and Villains are constantly getting into or out of places they shouldn't be. Heck, in No Man's Land they seem to come and go as they please. Not to mention Arkham Asylum being a revolving door.

Maybe I'm wrong and you have read the No Man's Land series. For me, the character of Arkham City is amazing. It feels like it was pulled straight from the comics.

As noted above, I am loving the game - but in Cory's defense, prior reading shouldn't be necessary to enjoy a game. If he isn't liking the game it isn't his fault for not having done his research - it is the game's fault for not plucking his love-strings.

I think it is a solid romp in a breathing city, but my standards are notoriously low:)

RobJustice wrote:

I can't help but think you might not be familiar with the character of Arkham City. You cite the Grant Morrison Arkham Asylum comic when talking about the first game but make no mention of the No Man's Land event that is clearly the inspiration for Arkham City.

Having read No Man's Land, being my favorite of the Batman storylines, I loved the character that is Arkham City. It felt like the pulled the setting straight from No Man's Land. Gotham is ruined, destroyed, and over-ran with criminals. Villains stay because they are in control. They can run their rackets without fear (Until Batman shows up, of course) and carve out their homes in the lawless lands.

I also think it's amusing to me that you pick on the game for having Robin show up, breaking into the "impenetrable prison". That's a super common comic book trope. Heroes and Villains are constantly getting into or out of places they shouldn't be. Heck, in No Man's Land they seem to come and go as they please. Not to mention Arkham Asylum being a revolving door.

Maybe I'm wrong and you have read the No Man's Land series. For me, the character of Arkham City is amazing. It feels like it was pulled straight from the comics.

I've read No Man's Land, but I didn't put together that Arkham City was supposed to be an inspiration. Mostly because there were a lot of other things going on in No Man's Land -- all of Gotham is devastated, for one, and the gang leaders are often trying to pull the city together far more than gets presented in the game. I can see the ties now, but that just makes me wish the ties had been stronger.

What I'm not clear on is how the Arkham City comics tie in, since I haven't read those. With the insanity going on at DC right now, I don't even know what's canon anymore. What a nerd problem.

But SallyNasty is ultimately right: prior reading shouldn't be required. You didn't need to read Morrison's graphic novel to have Arkham Asylum be an ever-present force in the first game. The designers handled that on their own. I stand by my argument. Arkham City doesn't have the personality the Asylum does, and I think the game suffers for it.

SallyNasty wrote:

As noted above, I am loving the game - but in Cory's defense, prior reading shouldn't be necessary to enjoy a game. If he isn't liking the game it isn't his fault for not having done his research - it is the game's fault for not plucking his love-strings.

I think it is a solid romp in a breathing city, but my standards are notoriously low:)

True, but if this is the case, then would you feel that any complaints about no real character development done with certain villains would be a good complaint? Or someone saying "This whole Ras and Talia thing makes no sense!" since it assumes you'll be somewhat familiar with these characters and their relationship to Batman?

I'm not saying that people should or should not read the extra material, but more wondering when complaints are and are not valid in a universe so deep in the Batman mythos. They pretty much pull no punches (Hell, I never knew who Zsasz was until AA, and even now I feel like he's an uninteresting villain that screams 90's creation).

Also: want to add to the "criminals talking about stuff", they can also be overheard discussing the fact that no one is dropping food in, as well as calling Bruce Wayne a "rich boy" and how badly they want to kill/beat the sh*t out of the guy. Why? Well, either the game is prejudiced against rich people and everyone at Rocksteady hates the wealthy, or that's just the sort of thing a bunch of convicts and criminals are going to say.

ccesarano wrote:
SallyNasty wrote:

As noted above, I am loving the game - but in Cory's defense, prior reading shouldn't be necessary to enjoy a game. If he isn't liking the game it isn't his fault for not having done his research - it is the game's fault for not plucking his love-strings.

I think it is a solid romp in a breathing city, but my standards are notoriously low:)

True, but if this is the case, then would you feel that any complaints about no real character development done with certain villains would be a good complaint? Or someone saying "This whole Ras and Talia thing makes no sense!" since it assumes you'll be somewhat familiar with these characters and their relationship to Batman?

I guess it depends on what you are playing the game for. I am not playing Batman for an in depth RPG, with lots of character development and stat-min/maxing. I am playing for a fairly linnear and guided cinematic experience. For me - I don't need character development, and I don' t think that the game marketed that there would be any.

I think that the complaint that this game requires some advance knowledge is a fair one - it absolutely does. I had to wikipedia some characters already.

I think that there is definitely an argument to be made that this game is perhaps too character dense. There is almost too much going on. Mind you, I am still in the first 3rd of the game, and already I am feeling a bit overwhelmed - but I am just along for the ride. I will need to finish the game before I can fully weigh in.

Demiurge wrote:

I've read No Man's Land, but I didn't put together that Arkham City was supposed to be an inspiration. Mostly because there were a lot of other things going on in No Man's Land -- all of Gotham is devastated, for one, and the gang leaders are often trying to pull the city together far more than gets presented in the game. I can see the ties now, but that just makes me wish the ties had been stronger.

What I'm not clear on is how the Arkham City comics tie in, since I haven't read those. With the insanity going on at DC right now, I don't even know what's canon anymore. What a nerd problem.

But SallyNasty is ultimately right: prior reading shouldn't be required. You didn't need to read Morrison's graphic novel to have Arkham Asylum be an ever-present force in the first game. The designers handled that on their own. I stand by my argument. Arkham City doesn't have the personality the Asylum does, and I think the game suffers for it.

I didn't mean to imply that Arkham City has required reading, I was hypothesizing that the love of the Arkham Asylum as a character may stem from a deeper familiarity with Arkham Asylum as presented in the comics.

As ccesarano points out, Zsasz as presented in both Asylum and City seems like a dull character but having read a handful of storylines featuring and expounding upon Zsasz I think he's just as fascinating as the other characters. In my opinion when you stop and really think about it all none of the characters in the Arkham games are fleshed out much in the course of the story. It's assumed we're already familiar with who Penguin, Two-Face, Joker, Freeze, Catwoman, etc are. In the main narrative they take no time to explain why Harley Quinn works with Joker. They assume we already know that.

I think the same could apply to the setting. Maybe Arkham Asylum (and in my opinion Arkham City) is a deep rich setting not because the game presents itself as such but because of the knowledge we already bring to the table. I'm not trying to say you're wrong, I'm just speculating on other possible causes.

Demiurge wrote:
SallyNasty wrote:

Also about the intro -

Spoiler:

I am under the impression that Wayne allowed himself to be captured as it was part of his plan all along.

The fact that the game isn't clear on this one simple point speaks to how inconsistent the narrative is.

That's a different article, but I almost wrote about that.

I played that very intro last night, and Batman is clearly asked by Alfred whether that was part of the plan, and he says, "Not exactly." The actor's tone, and the context of the conversation, suggest that this was a way of saying, "No."

ccesarano wrote:

Also: want to add to the "criminals talking about stuff", they can also be overheard discussing the fact that no one is dropping food in, as well as calling Bruce Wayne a "rich boy" and how badly they want to kill/beat the sh*t out of the guy. Why? Well, either the game is prejudiced against rich people and everyone at Rocksteady hates the wealthy, or that's just the sort of thing a bunch of convicts and criminals are going to say.

Rocksteady is the 99%.

4xis.black wrote:

I might as well bow out of this discussion by saying that Arkham City is probably not worse than the comic book status quo when it comes to sexism.

What a high bar to clear...

Thank you for your comments, 4xis. I just started the game, so I can't say much about its content, but I will say this: verisimilitude is a choice. Rather, it's a series of choices, where an author or authors decide what aspects of the real world to incorporate into their fiction. No work of fiction is an acurate reflection of reality; what's there has always been carefully pruned to create a situation where the story being told can believably unfold in the way it does.

Most of the time, what's left out isn't even noticed. The most obvious example here would be the way that most characters in stories, no matter how long they're in a situation, don't need to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom unless those needs are directly relevant to the plot. But consider the inmates in Arkham City: physically, they bear little resemblance to real prison populations. Where are the short prisoners, the skinny prisoners, the prisoners with glasses, with wheelchairs, with a hundred extra pounds? Where are the old prisoners, the Latino prisoners, the Asian prisoners, the Arab prisoners, the red-headed prisoners? They're not there not only because of the technical limitations of creating a variety of character models but because the game's designers wanted the inmates you see to conform to a certain idea of prison inmates: tall, muscular, bald and tattooed, with knuckles cracking as they loom over you. The whole other range of human shapes, sizes, and dispositions is quietly set aside, and chances are most players never even think about it.

Likewise, the things the prisoners say in Arkham City are the result of a series of choices. It is absolutely reasonable that the maximum security inmates from Blackgate should refer to Catwoman and Harley Quinn as bitches, but if they didn't, I doubt it would occur to anyone to miss it. Has it stood out to most players that these hardened criminals don't ever say "f*ck"? Probably not, just like it doesn't occur to most people watching Castle that police departments in real life are filled to the brim with foul-mouthed cops whose everyday language wouldn't fly on network television.

It was a choice for the writers to have the Blackgate inmates say, for example, "Catwoman! Agh, I can't stand that bitch!" instead of "Catwoman! Agh, I can't stand her!" The inmates could very well have had all their chatter about seasonably appropriate clothes, social networks, jonesing for a drink, and all of that without ever mentioning Catwoman and Harley Quinn (like they don't mention Talia), and the absense of those comments wouldn't be noticed by the majority of players. It's that choice that's being called misogynistic.

verisimilitude is a choice

Yes.

Exploring the meanings and ramifications of an expressive or creative work is perfectly justified. I won't go so far as to say that the devs are "bad" or "wrong" for making the game the way it is, for a number of reasons. But I will say that I wish the game were different.

The inmates could very well have had all their chatter about seasonably appropriate clothes, social networks, jonesing for a drink, and all of that without ever mentioning Catwoman and Harley Quinn (like they don't mention Talia), and the absense of those comments wouldn't be noticed by the majority of players. It's that choice that's being called misogynistic.

Actually, I think it would be weird if the prisoners didn't mention Harley Quinn. She's the one directly dealing with the goons early because:

Spoiler:

At the beginning of the game, it's revealed that the Joker is dying, and that the inmates know about it. A lot of the conversations from Joker's crew are about which other gangs are hiring. Considering that Harley Quinn is, quite frankly, batsh*t insane(and according to Batman in both AA and AC, "not too bright"), it would actually be pretty odd that the goons don't talk about her in that context.

But do they have to call her a bitch?

Murdering really isn't very nice, either. They should stop doing that as it offends my sensibilities.