Gotham City has long been a staple of most open-world Batman games. But the developers at WB Games Montréal decided to reinvent the wheel when starting work on this fall’s Gotham Knights. This is largely thanks to the Court of Owls’ role in the story. The Owls have strong ties to Gotham’s origins and its subsequent transformation into a sprawling beacon of commerce and industry. Now, a new video from IGN examines how paying attention to the city’s past resulted in the most immersive version of Gotham we’ve ever seen.
The game’s setting can trace its origins back to the 1650s, when five families – the Waynes, the Cobblepots, the Elliots, the Arkhams, and the Kanes – left Europe in favor of the “rain-swept” American islands that would eventually make up Gotham City. Each of the families settled in different boroughs, which came to be known as North Gotham, New Gotham, Downtown Gotham, Historic Gotham, and Lower Gotham. Within the next 200 years, the city had asserted itself as a major trade hub. But its founders’ varied economic interests led control of its fate to bounce from one family to the next.
IGN executive news editor Joe Skrebels notes that Gotham Knights’ developers established this history of the city early on in production to tie into the larger storyline involving the Court of Owls. More importantly, the five boroughs were designed to reflect the disparate personalities and worldviews of each of the founding families. As level design director Kristofor McMahan explains, certain parts of the city are “stuck in time.” That means they were completely abandoned or under construction. This allows players to experience what life in Gotham was like “back then” and see how the city has evolved. In other words, the environments tell a story without anyone having to utter a single word.
Certain neighborhoods also force gamers to re-think their traversal and combat strategies. Some regions, including the slum-like Cauldron part of Lower Gotham, are more conducive to stealth and parkour movements. But more open areas like Robinson Park don’t give players many options for staying hidden. Regardless, fans should delight in seeing a number of recognizable fixtures from DC’s comic book universe. For example, Noonan’s Bar, which originally debuted in Garth Ennis’ Hitman comics and currently appears in HBO Max’s Harley Quinn animated series, will show up in the game.
In the long run, however, everything leads back to the Court of Owls, and the Bat Family’s investigation into this organization will lead them from the city’s tallest skyscrapers to caverns deep below its streets. That’s why creative director Patrick Redding says it was just as vital to “build down” as well as up, burying secrets about the game’s villains in every nook and cranny imaginable.
“[The Court of Owls] represent a threat that is so embedded and so intrinsic to Gotham City that even Batman doesn’t know about it,” said Redding. “That’s a very intimidating and scary idea. With that in mind, what we knew is that we needed to give you a sense of Gotham’s history in order to be able to show all the ways in which the Court is embedded in that. That feeling that Gotham is kind of an adversary and that the Court of Owls is the embodiment of that and the personification of that.”
Gotham Knights will be released on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on October 25.
Are you excited to explore WB Game Montréal’s vision of Gotham City later this year? Let us know in the comment section below!
Recommended Reading: Batman: The Court of Owls Saga
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