The Art of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City & Arkham Knight (Book Review)

Rocksteady’s trilogy of Batman games have become gaming legend in recent years. Never before has a studio nailed the feel of a comic/movie icon so well in gaming form. Behind every great game though, are reams of artwork inspiring ambitious mechanics and design. The creative mind’s eye uses the page to provide the provisional jumping off point for others.

This hardback book is a celebration and homage to the journey of the Batman series’ aesthetics from concept through completion. It’s an absolute beast of a book too, a true coffee table piece if ever there was one. Weighing in at 2KG, The Art of Rocksteady’s Batman has 304 pages containing 400 high quality images. Concept art has long been an unlockable feature in video games, but high quality art assets are much better appreciated on the page rather than your TV screen.

Inside you’ll find detailed concept art for Batman himself and many members of the Rogue’s Gallery. Images go through multiple gestation stages of sketches, monochromatic character studies, graphic novel-quality images, all the way to their final in-game 3D renders. There are plenty of alternate styles that were drawn up and dropped, some of which would have arguably been better. For example, did you know the original Titan Joker wasn’t a hulking beast, but a leaner, jagged creature that was (in my opinion at least) much more sinister than another familiar Croc/Bane mass of muscle? There are even some concepts for Poison Ivy and Catwoman wearing manly jeans instead of a thong/skin-tight leather. I’m joking of course. Can you imagine?

There are a small number of render images that have either been blown up a little bit too far, or are a shade or two too dark, with some clarity being lost in the transition to page. But we’re talking a very small number.

Interviews with leading Rocksteady team members go into detail about where they wanted to take the characters, with one striking quote in particular brilliantly summing up the design brief, “Ugly men and beautiful girls.” Of course, the depth in the ideas went so far beyond that, aided even further by the reliable talents of the voiceover actors, many of whom have voiced animated takes on the characters for years.

The worlds of Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and Gotham are also examined in careful studies of environmental concepts. With three distinct settings across the trilogy of games, there’s plenty of material to examine. So many of the double page spreads will have fans considering how to delicately liberate the pages and mount them on their walls. That reminds me, I really need to get some of those black and white (with a tiny bit of red) marketing images put on canvas.

There’s a real sense of progression as the book makes its way through the trilogy. When talking about the view of Gotham City from the island in the first game, Art Director David Hego said, “A bit farther on the horizon we created Gotham City’s backdrop. Back then it only used a few dozen triangles. Seven years later [on Arkham Knight] we would create a new version, but this time with hundreds of millions of polygons.”

With the book originally releasing close to Arkham Knight, it’s weighted a bit more towards the first two games, but there’s still a sizable chunk dedicated to the epic finale of Rocksteady’s trilogy. It’s important to emphasise, that while there are plenty of exclusive interviews in the book, this is primarily an art book and you’ll be able to ‘read’ through the whole thing in a few hours.

It’s all about taking in the images at your own pace though to be honest. Rocksteady’s Batman has rocked the gaming world and having a chance to dive deeper into the development process is something that fans out there should experience too. An essential purchase for those of us not quite ready to let Rocksteady’s Batman go.
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Authors: Daniel Wallace and Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Abrams
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The Art of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City & Arkham Knight is currently cheapest at Amazon.

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