What if: WB made Batman Arkham Knight 2 with Batman’s son?

A cancelled Batman Arkham game was rumoured to be set in the future, but what if it had actually come out?

Batman's son, Damian Wayne, as Robin in Injustice 2

2015’s Batman Arkham Knight is arguably the ultimate Batman game, and certainly among the greatest comic book games ever made. It boasts an open-world Gotham City that still looks good today, you come up against most of the franchise’s stellar rogues’ gallery – even an undead Joker – and it features the perfect evolution of developer Rocksteady’s influential combat system. So what happened to Batman Arkham Knight 2?

Rocksteady has since moved on to Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, with Batman Arkham Origins developer Warner Bros Montreal working on Gotham Knights. Granted, they’re not in the same universe, but both games are seemingly Batman-less.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, however. While Batman Arkham Knight apparently concludes with Bruce Wayne’s death, the true ending offers a flash forward to a potential future-set sequel. In this new world, Commissioner Gordon is mayor, Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon are married and have retired from fighting crime, and an almost demonic Dark Knight has appeared on the scene.

This references a 2007 comic by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert in which Damian Wayne, son of Batman, becomes the heir to the cowl and actually makes a deal with the devil to secure it. However, unless Rocksteady calls back to it in Suicide Squad, this ending currently leads nowhere. What if it did though? What if either Rocksteady or WB Montreal had made a Batman Arkham Knight sequel set in a future Gotham, with Bruce Wayne’s son as a much more sinister vigilante?

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Reportedly, a sequel to Batman Arkham Knight that continued this idea was in development at WB Montreal, but it was cancelled. On the surface, Batman Arkham Knight 2 would likely play a lot like its predecessor, with an expanded open-world Gotham City, a blockbuster main story that’s bolstered by side quests, and a similar fighting system, with some new moves, enemy archetypes, and gadgets.

A screenshot from Batman Arkham Knight

While the gameplay may not have needed any significant changes, the open world itself would be almost unrecognisable. Various pieces of allegedly leaked concept art show a dystopian Gotham, with Wayne Tower in ruins and crime running rampant through the streets. Arkham Knight 2 could have looked more like a sci-fi dystopia with streaks of Robocop than any recent depictions of Gotham City. This being set in the future, the villains would have to be older or reimagined, and the concept art suggests we would encounter Two-Face as a crime boss, a female Black Mask, and a reborn Poison Ivy.

The game could’ve easily brought in elements of Batman Beyond – the futuristic spin-off of Batman: The Animated Series – and had an ageing Bruce Wayne coaching his successor. Beyond featured an almost Iron Man-like batsuit with full flight capabilities, which would be a fantastically fun way to get around Gotham.

The city itself could play more of a role, too, perhaps with certain areas being ‘occupied territories’ owned by the supervillains, which Batman would have to clear out in order to travel through them safely. Maybe other DC heroes could make an appearance, as Superman does in Batman Beyond.

A dystopian view of Gotham City in Batman Arkham Knight

The Damian Wayne Arkham game would need a darker tone to go along with its more severe hero. After being trained by Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Assassins, Damian is much less restrained than Batman. The other major DC gaming series, Injustice, positions Damian as being firmly on the side of the fascistic Superman, opposite his own father. Whether all this would translate to the player being allowed to kill people in an Arkham game is another matter, but the various combat and stealth takedowns would be considerably more brutal as Damian.

It would be a wildly different experience to the other Batman games and it’d be an unexpected, but welcome, change of direction for the Arkhamverse. Gotham itself hasn’t changed all that much across the series, so it would freshen the formula up considerably to play in a version of the city that’s even more chaotic and unruly; imagine Escape From New York’s anarchic urban sprawl with a DC twist. Rocksteady changed a lot with Batman Arkham Knight, but the format, setting, and tone still felt overly familiar – Akrham Knight 2 had the potential to avoid being just another Batman game.

Of course, that’s probably why the sequel was cancelled. Another Batman game so soon after Arkham Knight would be difficult to build hype for, and it might have been just as difficult to sell audiences on a nearly unrecognisable Batman in Damian Wayne, roaming around a truly nightmarish version of Gotham – certainly not instead of a Superman or Wonder Woman game. Besides, as Injustice players will attest, Damian Wayne is kind of obnoxious, so the idea of spending more than 20 hours in his company might have been more than even the most ardent DC Comics fan could handle.

Batgirl from Gotham Knights

While it’s frustrating that it’s been seven years without a DC game like Batman Arkham Knight, it’s probably a good thing that WB Montreal scrapped it in favour of Gotham Knights. Batman might be missing from the game’s roster of playable heroes, but choosing between Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood, and Tim Drake’s far more likeable Robin, all in a more recognisable, but massively expanded Gotham City, sounds like a lot of fun.

There’s a lot more variety in DC’s upcoming line-up of games, and that’s probably what comic book games need right now. When Batman finally does return, it’ll probably be Bruce Wayne wearing the cowl again. Still, while all this is probably for the best, that doesn’t stop us from wondering just what a Damian Wayne Batman game would be like.

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