Game Breakdown: Batman Arkham Asylum

——————————————————————————–
Batman Arkham Asylum Breakdown
——————————————————————————–
I just had the pleasure of finishing the story mode on Batman Arkham Asylum and it was a great game. I played the PS3 version and it performed beautifully. It is no surprise that this game appears to be on its way to over a million sales in its first week. What makes it so good?
Love your source material
——————————
Rocksteady’s attention to detail is amazing. Having not followed Batman comic books myself, I cannot imagine how exciting this game must be for real fans as I was absolutely stunned by the number of small details that the game had to honor the original source material. These guys loved the material and it showed. From the main enemies of the game all the way to the hidden collectibles this game oozed quality.
For the brawlers
——————————
The fighting mechanics are brilliantly executed. You can dive in and fight upwards of 15+ henchman and kick some serious criminal butt. The controls are relatively simple. You could almost get by with one button and the left control stick. Being able to create an engaging experience with one simple mechanic is key to making the game accessible and fun right from the start. On top of that excellent base Rocksteady adds in a few special enemies that force you to use a few more of your moves. There are counter punches, evade maneuvers as well as a stun hit that is key for knife wielding enemies. The perfectly timed progression to revealing these additional classes and then having you mix them all in massive numbers near the end of the game always left me excited to get in a fight. And I haven’t even mentioned combos! On top of all of the aforementioned greatness, there are also special combo moves. When you really get into the butt kicking the game almost feels like a pinball game where you can send batman careening into as many opponents as you would expect such a super hero to.
For the stealth players
——————————
In addition to the brawl mechanic Batman has a silent predator kind of mode where you get to analyze the situation and strategically decimate your enemies. The detective mode is brilliant for this and allows the designers to show the state of the AI but at the same time it requires that the AI behaves appropriately even when they are not in eye site. You have plenty of options for dispatching your foes – Silent take downs from behind, inverted take downs from above, glide kicks off high objects, airborne batarangs, placed explosive charges, sonic discs to attract enemies and probably a few others. Having this strategic element raises the experience from being a simple brawler game and really requires you to think and strategize. The reward of figuring out how to clear out a room of 6-8 machine gun wielding enemies is awesome.
For the explorers/completionists
——————————
Unguided exploration is not my forte. Luckily the designers at Rocksteady added in a few maps that you can find that show you the location of the secrets. Knowing where they are only helps you as some are still difficult to achieve or impossible at the time you come across them. The game is designed to revisit locations and let you explore even more as you advance in the game. There are hundreds of collectibles and huge amount of variety in locations so exploring never gets boring and requires some acrobatic skill to find each location. More games should provide a mechanism that shows where you have to go to get secrets. Most games I don’t really care as I would have to look up the location of all the secrets online or just come across some. Knowing exactly where they were made me want to find them all! This was a very similar experience to Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow where the badges you would earn had clear exit criteria and made me interested in trying the various challenges.
For the story seeker
——————————
I don’t think I have heard a game as well voice acted as this one. Although the plot is VERY comic booky and I didn’t find that Batman was much of a character, this game delivered on the goods by pacing out and building each encounter in the game. From beginning to end I felt like the Joker was toying with me and that each super villain thrown in front of me had a serious beef with my character. This kept me engaged enough to always want to come back for more. I particularly liked the scare crow moments that were reminiscent of the dream sequences in Max Payne but done as side scroller awesomeness. Having variety in how you play really kept the 8-10 hour experience engaging for me.
For the boss fight addict
——————————
A good game can keep you entertained with regular troops and maybe one or two major boss encounters. Batman hammers you with no less than four major bosses and about the same number of minor bosses throughout the game. Almost any situation with “variety” involves a boss fight. Each of these encounters is surrounded by a key cinematic that really ties the boss fight into the progression of the story.
Lessons taken from this game
——————————
A Single player only game still works when done this well (The Bioshock example has not warn off)
Providing a list of achievements to the player increases the likelihood of the player completing the challenges
Keep a very simple base combat system and add strategic spices to the mix to broaden the core experience and build on it
Summary
——————————
Rocksteady did an amazing job with this title and not only put a great game out but also put their studio out as a major player. Judging by the credits, a small team put out a great game with depth and polish. If they can repeat this experience in a subsequent title they will prove their pedigree! As an example of an accomplishable design with a small number of features that build on each other I think Batman AA is comparable to Gears of War. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

I just had the pleasure of finishing the story mode on Batman Arkham Asylum and it was a great game. I played the PS3 version and it performed beautifully. It is no surprise that this game appears to be on its way to over a million sales in its first week. What makes it so good?

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Love your source material

Rocksteady’s attention to detail is amazing. Having not followed Batman comic books myself, I cannot imagine how exciting this game must be for real fans as I was absolutely stunned by the number of small details that the game had to honor the original source material. These guys loved the material and it showed. From the main enemies of the game all the way to the hidden collectibles this game oozed quality.

For the brawlers

The fighting mechanics are brilliantly executed. You can dive in and fight upwards of 15+ henchman and kick some serious criminal butt. The controls are relatively simple. You could almost get by with one button and the left control stick. Being able to create an engaging experience with one simple mechanic is key to making the game accessible and fun right from the start. On top of that excellent base Rocksteady adds in a few special enemies that force you to use a few more of your moves. There are counter punches, evade maneuvers as well as a stun hit that is key for knife wielding enemies. The perfectly timed progression to revealing these additional classes and then having you mix them all in massive numbers near the end of the game always left me excited to get in a fight. And I haven’t even mentioned combos! On top of all of the aforementioned greatness, there are also special combo moves. When you really get into the butt kicking the game almost feels like a pinball game where you can send batman careening into as many opponents as you would expect such a super hero to.

For the stealth players

In addition to the brawl mechanic Batman has a silent predator kind of mode where you get to analyze the situation and strategically decimate your enemies. The detective mode is brilliant for this and allows the designers to show the state of the AI but at the same time it requires that the AI behaves appropriately even when they are not in eye site. You have plenty of options for dispatching your foes – Silent take downs from behind, inverted take downs from above, glide kicks off high objects, airborne batarangs, placed explosive charges, sonic discs to attract enemies and probably a few others. Having this strategic element raises the experience from being a simple brawler game and really requires you to think and strategize. The reward of figuring out how to clear out a room of 6-8 machine gun wielding enemies is awesome.

For the explorers/completionists

Unguided exploration is not my forte. Luckily the designers at Rocksteady added in a few maps that you can find that show you the location of the secrets. Knowing where they are only helps you as some are still difficult to achieve or impossible at the time you come across them. The game is designed to revisit locations and let you explore even more as you advance in the game. There are hundreds of collectibles and huge amount of variety in locations so exploring never gets boring and requires some acrobatic skill to find each location. More games should provide a mechanism that shows where you have to go to get secrets. Most games I don’t really care as I would have to look up the location of all the secrets online or just come across some. Knowing exactly where they were made me want to find them all! This was a very similar experience to Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow where the badges you would earn had clear exit criteria and made me interested in trying the various challenges.

For the story seeker

I don’t think I have heard a game as well voice acted as this one. Although the plot is VERY comic booky and I didn’t find that Batman was much of a character, this game delivered on the goods by pacing out and building each encounter in the game. From beginning to end I felt like the Joker was toying with me and that each super villain thrown in front of me had a serious beef with my character. This kept me engaged enough to always want to come back for more. I particularly liked the scare crow moments that were reminiscent of the dream sequences in Max Payne but done as side scroller awesomeness. Having variety in how you play really kept the 8-10 hour experience engaging for me.

For the boss fight addict

A good game can keep you entertained with regular troops and maybe one or two major boss encounters. Batman hammers you with no less than four major bosses and about the same number of minor bosses throughout the game. Almost any situation with “variety” involves a boss fight. Each of these encounters is surrounded by a key cinematic that really ties the boss fight into the progression of the story.

Lessons taken from this game

  1. A Single player only game still works when done this well (The Bioshock example has not warn off)
  2. Providing a list of achievements to the player increases the likelihood of the player completing the challenges
  3. Keep a very simple base combat system and add strategic spices to the mix to broaden the core experience and build on it

Summary

Rocksteady did an amazing job with this title and not only put a great game out but also put their studio out as a major player. Judging by the credits, a small team put out a great game with depth and polish. If they can repeat this experience in a subsequent title they will prove their pedigree! As an example of an accomplishable design with a small number of features that build on each other I think Batman AA is comparable to Gears of War. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Game Breakdowns and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Game Breakdown: Batman Arkham Asylum

  1. mandrykart says:

    yep, dead on review. It was also paced incredibly well, you were never doing one thing for too long, and what you were doing always felt like it had a purpose…great design.

  2. Pingback: 2009 In Review « I, Game Maker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s