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Batman: Arkham City players finished the game without fully understanding the combat system

Nvidia are running a two-day conference in Montreal right now called ‘The Way It's Meant to be Played’, best pronounced in the bassy boom of EA Sports’ ‘It’s in the Game’ chap.

There’s been a lot of talk about shadow and fog rendering and shadow-in-fog rendering, but yesterday afternoon Warner Bros Montreal senior producer Ben Mattes took to the stage and said something really interesting: most Arkham players haven’t been very good at being Batman. Even after completing the last game, some of them twice, they still didn't managed to embody the dark knight.

“A lot of the players who play this game, let’s face it, will have played Arkham City,” said Mattes during his demo. “And they’ll have finished Arkham City, two years ago probably, and they’ll be decent. They’ll be very decent at the game.”

But in building the game, Warner Bros Montreal have learned “just how few” people really understand how deep the series’ trademark free-flow combat system is, or how useful its predator and navigation systems can be.

“They finished Arkham City, and then they maybe did it a second time, and then maybe even did some challenge maps, and they’re still just sort of scratching the surface,” said Mattes. “They’re not yet that black-belt in being Batman or the true dark knight we want them to be.

“We want players to be awesome at this game before they’ve finished it, so that they can have that very empowering experience of being Batman right at the heart of these central, meaningful events that are happening in our game’s story.”

As luck would have it, the young Batman of Arkham Origins has to grow from a beaten-down vigilante to the dark knight over the space of one very busy Christmas Eve. It's a fictional tarpaulin provides the perfect opportunity for the player to do the same.

To that end, WB Montreal have plonked a training gym in the Batcave.

“You go back to the Batcave, you set up a training challenge to help you practice against a martial artist for example, or use a new gadget like the concussion detonator,” explained Mattes.

“And you practice, and in practicing you get experience points that allow you to upgrade your character, so that Batman’s evolution and the player’s evolution are increasing in lockstep. Just as Batman is becoming the dark knight, the player is getting better and better at the game by practicing before they have to go out in the world and do it for real.”

You can watch the whole demo courtesy of PC Performance from about the two-hour mark. It’s almost certainly the most uninterrupted footage of the game we’ve seen to date, and makes it appear dead good.

Do you consider yourself to be a competent Batman?

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MrJoose's picture
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I completed the main story of both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, but it wasn't until I tried the challenge mode that I realised how bad I actually was at the game. I had managed to get all the way to the end without using fundamental things like taking my time, letting people come to me to start off a combo, including the quick use combat skills in the middle of a fight and so on. You really don't need them in the main game. In the main game its no big deal if someone gets a few hits in, because as long as you survive the fight you will get a bunch of your health back. As there was no impetus to learn the system properly I just didn't. You wont get anywhere near completing the challenge mode without mastering the combat system though, and what's good enough for the normal game will leave new game plus is near impossible to complete.

If they can make it so you learn the combat system properly as part of the main game it will leave you feeling much more Batmanly.

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elvismiggell's picture
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So if I were to do challenge mode first, would that make the game too easy?

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d20diceman's picture
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Yes and no. Personally, I played the game on Hard first time, and really struggled in some places. Then I got maybe 10% through the game on Hard New Game+ (in NG+ counter symbols don't show up and enemies are more aggressive) before I went and tried the combat challenge modes. I played the challenges for a while, got good at them, and then when I came back to NG+ every fight was totally trivial in comparison. The predator bits were still challenging in places though.

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icheyne's picture
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Not at all. The game will still be challenging - you'll just be much smoother when you play.

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MrJoose's picture
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Exactly right. You wont find the story any easier exactly, you will just feel like more of a badass.

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avatar
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So it sounds like they should have put some challenge into the main story instead of just leaving it all in the challenge mode, where most people probably won't touch it till after they run through the main story a few times.

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d20diceman's picture
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To my mind, there's only one combat challenge which requires you to be actually good at the combat system, and that's the Joker's Funhouse fight. You're on a time limit to get as many points as possible against endless enemies, with the target being 1,000,000 points. You can "bank" to get more time, but if you get hit without banking you loose what you've built up. The longer you go without banking the tougher the enemies get (Thugs, then tasers/bats/knives, then ninjas and body armour, then guns, then one of those hulking one-armed twins, then a titan thug at the final level). You also get a hefty point bonus when you bank at higher levels. If you keep fighting at the final level without banking it eventually automatically banks for you and gives you a 1,000,000 point bonus. Trying to keep fighting through that whole cycle without ever loosing your freeflow bonus is one of the most satisfying experiences I've had in gaming.

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Gwathdring's picture
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That's not precisely true, in my experience. The game becomes a lot easier when you understand the combat system well; I think this improves the experience, though, because it's an active skillset. It's not easier in the sense that changing the difficulty to Easy is. It's easier in the way that juggling is easier after 100s of hours of practice--it still requires focus and deft execution. But rather than playing not to drop the ball, you're playing to come out of a fight unscathed or with a high multiplier. Further, it means throwaway fights don't take you very long. They happen and they're gone. you can get on with being Batman properly and moving through the story. And if that's not satisfying (or if you've already played the plot and don't want to do it again), you move up to the harder difficult where you lose all of the prompts, or New Game + with tougher enemies. And if that's not satisfying, you play something else. :)

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UntoldAv3nGer's picture
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I never memorized some of the evasions of Arkham City, they were a pain.

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