DLC Report: The Arkham Episodes
Dear readers: I recently finished the Arkham Episodes contained within Arkham Knight and I was stuck with something of a quandary. Do I make my (already long) review of Arkham Knight even longer by examine the individual episodes or do I make a separate article? I will leave you to guess which direction I went with. Needless to say, I want to try a new format for a possible new series of articles.
I hope that this might be interesting to you when it comes to deciding if you want to spend your hard earned money on good DLC. Time of play provided and price of entry will be taken into account along with the unique elements the DLC offers (Location, powers, characters and gameplay will considered.) Art style, graphical fidelity, gameplay found in the base game and performance will be ignored as the base review will cover them as per normal.
Overview of the series:
The overarching problem of the Arkham Episodes is that they are too short. Each episode can be completed less than half an hour at most. As a result, interesting spins and concepts get introduced and are never allowed to be taken full advantage of. The narratives too, end with a numb sense of anti-climax. The pacing is so fast that characters barely have any room to breathe or grow. One could argue that for R20 ($1.38 at time of writing) that is to be expected.
However from a narrative perspective it does not really present a compelling beginning, middle and end. They kind of start then end with a shrug and 100% completion status. I can understand the reasoning behind the price tag but I wish it had been paced better. The combat system is very much the same with some minor tweaks.
One could argue that for R20 ($1.38 at time of writing) that is to be expected. However from a narrative perspective it does not really present a compelling beginning, middle and end. They kind of start then end with a shrug and 100% completion status. I can understand the reasoning behind the price tag but I wish it had been paced better. The combat system is very much the same with some minor tweaks.
For a while you get to play as Harley Quinn as she rescues Poison Ivy from GCPD. One aspect I love from a gameplay perspective is the inability to perform silent take downs. As Harley Quinn herself puts it “Quiet is not in my vocabulary.” This makes the supposed stealth sections less about the isolation of targets and avoiding being seen but rather on reflect. To take out before instantly jumping into the rafters.
Rocksteady twist their mechanics to deliver something that is uniquely Harley Quinn.
There are also some other neat little touches. Harley Quinn’s ‘Mayham’ mode can be activated by successful punching people and take downs. It is very much like Batman’s fear take down with a neat twist befitting Harley Quinn, recognizable enough so that the player can understand the mechanics but different enough to make sure that it is not a copy and paste job.
Harley Quinn’s psychosis mode is interesting from a character perspective, highlighting both her mental state but also the split between her persona and Harleen Quinzel as the former desperately ignores the latter. A nice bit of storytelling in a project that is otherwise far too short and ends way too abruptly. A lovely concept that is never allowed to grow properly.
Much like Harley Quinn’s story pack, Red Hood suffers from interesting ideas that are not given enough time flesh out. Red Hood is hunting down Black Mask, which he does, the end. That is as much plot you are going to get. Bare bones motive and little to no story, the bad per say but never the less underwhelming.
What I like the most is the use of guns. Namely that Red Hood’s dual pistols can is used instead of a normal takedown. It forces you to take a strategic approach, positioning yourself so take down electrified foes or others that cannot be taken by punches. It is a nice twist that adds a little bit of flavour to the standard Arkham style combat. It is nice to play a anti-hero instead of a villain (Harley Quinn) , provides a different perspective to the series that is often absent from the series. Otherwise not much to say. Rather underwhelming.
Out of all the Arkham Episodes. This one I would say is the best, Both from a narrative perspective and from a gameplay perspective. Set before the events of Arkham Knight, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) and Robin go to Seagate Amusement Park to save Commissioner Gordon. Unlike the rest of episodes which start then stop with all the narrative satisfaction of a power cut?
A Matter of Family has a clear structure with narrative stakes that both Batgirl and Robin are invested in. The use of location (fitting for Joker), is highly atmospheric and dripping with lore and personality. There is an decently challenging boss fight as well. It sets the skills of both Robin and Batgirl to the test.
I love the gameplay focus on hacking. Batgirl can hack environmental elements to take down foes as well as solve various puzzles. As a result A matter of family is able to stand out prominently as both the levels and the gameplay are changed to match Batgirl’s distinctive personality and style. It is highly enjoyable and satisfying to rig a mechanical device to explode, or to start up a dragon to scare goons. There is nice element of strategy involved as a result, you have to decide how best to distract opponents alongside the stealth takedowns. I deeply enjoyed this episode.
Set after the events of Arkham Knight. A grown up Dick Grayson is protecting GCPD, which under siege from Penguin’s goons. In keeping with the rule with these Arkham Episodes it is both far to short and ends with a profound sense of anti-climax. We capture Penguin and the episode ends. The narrative has all the impact of a wet noodle. However it is saved by some great voice acting and character interactions. Nightwing is an extremely likeable guy, he playful and filled with righteous fury against the criminals of Gotham. His youthful good nature is very endearing, I would not say no to a full game starring Nightwing.
The combat is not too different from the normal Arkham system with a slight twist. Nightwing’s electrical Escrima Sticks. You can stun foes to start takedowns. A single tap instead a combo. However what I enjoyed the most was simply controlling Nightwing. Maybe it was the simplification in combat mechanics. An ease of flow that is simply wonderful to control.
Catwoman takes her revenge on the Riddler (after the events of Arkham Knight) by stealing all his money and blowing up his base of operations. Even if it is too short and lacking in emotional weight, there is some good writing. The Riddler’s attempts to threaten Catwoman.
While pretending to be talking to his lawyer is a legitimately funny scenario. Catwoman herself is an enjoyable character to be around (still waiting for that Catwoman game WB).Nothing much has changed from Catwoman’s experience in Arkham Knight. If you have played Arkham Knight then you will know what to expect.
Robin (Tim Drake) and Oracle (Barbara Gordon) work together to take down Two Face. The story don’t really matter, it is too short regardless. What is interesting is the chemistry between Tim and Barbara. They are very believable as newlyweds, still lingering in the afterglow of the honeymoon. They banter with each other, they are playful but with an underpinning of tenderness. They are a convincing couple.
Not much has changed from the gameplay perspective. The only unique element is the shield. A mechanic that is only needed once. You are not really at a disadvantage in most cases (as you do the normal sneak and pick off routine) for not using it expect that one single time. It is a little disappointing
The campaigns, despite their short length are a highly enjoyable snack. Their cheap price might offset the otherwise underwhelming time spent enjoying the different play styles/perspectives. But it might not.
Personally I wish I was allowed more time on each character. However the cheap price tag will make the hit less painful to swallow. The Arkham Episodes are like a nice desert to the modestly burned fillet stake of Arkham Knight. An enjoyable if inescapably underwhelming six piece pie. If you want more Arkham Knight, have an evening to yourself and a little money to spend.
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