Why Rocksteady quitting Batman after Arkham Knight is the right choice

Don’t take that title as a slur on Rocksteady’s excellent work on the Arkham series of Batman games, or as an ill-judged prediction that Arkham Knight is going to be anything other than brilliant. Far from it. Batman: Arkham Knight could be the crowning achievement of the trilogy, the realisation of years of hard work and the culmination of efforts and ideas that were finally allowed to exist as gaming hardware caught up to Rocksteady’s lofty ambitions.

So why so keen to see them let the Dark Knight go after June 23rd (well, after the inevitable expansion packs at least)? Rocksteady have proved themselves to be an excellent studio and it would be cruel to tie them to making one franchise over and over again. Let’s see them and Batman go out on a high, before ideas become stale and before the studio becomes fatigued trying to come up with fresh ideas in order to better their own impossibly high bench marks. They’ve been working on Arkham games nonstop since 2007!

Rocksteady have earned enormous respect with the way they’ve handled the Batman brand and it’s been great to see them not rushed into annualising the series for a quick buck regardless of quality (hello, Assassin’s Creed). So as much as each delay for Arkham Knight has hurt, we’ve known that it’s been for the best as it was with their delays on the first game.

While working on the Batman IP must have been a dream come true, there are only so many things you can do with the series. How many times were the Rocksteady staff sat at home or chatting amongst themselves and suddenly having an awesome idea for a new gameplay mechanic, but had to file it away in an ‘other ideas’ folder because it wasn’t an appropriate fit for a Batman game?

Some of you may remember Rocksteady’s first title was the criminally underrated FPS Urban Chaos: Riot Response, where you played as a member of a riot squad taking down a group of arsonists with a rich array of lethal and non-lethal weapons. Perhaps a return to the FPS genre is just around the corner for the British studio? If they can inject such life into a third-person action IP, you have to wonder what they could do with the FPS genre, which has been playing things safe for way too long now.

Rumours are floating around that they’re going to work on a Justice League game, which isn’t a million miles away from what they’ve been doing (Batman’s code is good to go), so fingers crossed they wouldn’t become jaded by working on another superhero IP. That said, it’s about time Superman was done justice in video game form, and can you think of anyone more up to the task than Rocksteady? There’s definitely a danger of a Justice League game being a tad generic though. Unless a developer was given a deadline free time span to work in, it’s highly likely that characters would either handle like Batman or Superman, with little personality between them.

Rocksteady have made the best Batman games in existence because they were incredibly focussed on nailing the essence of ‘Being the Bat’. Trying to get that feel for multiple characters in the Justice League could be an ask too far. There’s probably a good reason there hasn’t been more complex Avengers/DC roster titles than the Lego games or the scrapper, Injustice: Gods Among Us. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself really with talk of a Justice League game. Let’s just assume there’ll be a Lego game when the movie eventually arrives.

Thankfully, there’s no sense of Rocksteady just finishing off some sort of three-game deal so they can move on. They really want to end their Batman legacy on a high. Rocksteady’s Dax Ginn told IGN: “Our attitude is, if we deliver on Arkham Knight, smash it out of the park, the opportunities we’ll have in the future will be massive. We will be able to control our own destiny in that respect.”

This could mean that they’ll be given the trust and respect to build their own brand new IP, or that they’ll be able to approach a license holder of another brand (film, comic and so on) confidently with some ideas for a game and be given the green light thanks to their staggering sales and critical success with Batman.

When you think about the last two Batman games (Arkham City and WB Montreal’s Origins), the excessive reveal trailers left little surprises for the final game. This time, it’s been different; I’m struggling to think what other villains are going to be the main headliners as the information hasn’t been stuffed in my face every week. It’ll be better than Origins’ cast of C-listers, that’s for sure.

Naturally, we’ve heard about the Batmobile -something we’ve wanted for years- and Rocksteady knew they couldn’t afford to do it wrong. That’s why they’ve waited until they were confident enough to give the most iconic vehicle in films and games the effort and respect it deserves. Chances are, if you’ve wanted to do something cool from the Batman universe, you’ve already done it or this final game will tick off that grin-inducing moment too. Ginn was also quoted as saying, “We’ve done all we can do here” and “It’s…it’s kind of time for us to walk away from it.”

The words of a team burnt out on the Bat? Or a proud statement from a team without regrets who have done everything they’ve wanted to do with Bruce Wayne’s world? We’re confident it’s the latter and can’t wait to see for ourselves on June 23rd. Rocksteady have become rock solid and hold their future in their own hands, which is more than most studios will ever be able to say.

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