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Gotham Knights preview: needs more Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Gotham Knights and Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy are two very different action RPG games, but the group dynamic in one has better downtime than the other

Gotham Knights Robin stands between Nightwing and Red Hood

Gotham Knights is very much a Batman Arkham successor in the way it plays, but its team of ragtag heroes that don’t always get along bears striking similarities to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. While Nightwing, Robin, Red Hood, and Batgirl carry the RPG game’s story well in Batman’s absence, the developers at Warner Bros Montreal don’t explore their relationships as well as Eidos Montreal did with their intergalactic counterparts.

The fundamentals are all there. Gotham Knights is brimming with personality and each character is fleshed out with a wealth of history you can feel from the outset, even during our limited preview. A potty-mouthed Red Hood brings the big brother tones when I play as Robin, ribbing the youngest member of the group and expressing concern as I patrol without backup. For a brute, he shows surprising vulnerability and is far more outwardly affected by Batman’s untimely passing, likely drawing on the trauma of his own death and resurrection. Staying true to his origins, he also has a problem with authority figures, which regularly puts him at odds with Nightwing.

Nightwing, on the other hand, is playful and flirtatious, tapping into his comic book heartthrob status. It doesn’t even matter whether it’s friend or foe – some raunchy exchanges with Harley Quinn have earned him the nickname ‘Nightbutt’, a reference to his particularly perky posterior. Seriously, it’s a thing the hero is known for.

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Since you can play as any of the four heroes at any point in the story, there are essentially four versions of every interaction. These go beyond simple name-swaps, too, with elements that make every conversation feel personal to your current character.

“Well, well… if it isn’t Bratgirl. You here for a chat? Just us girls? I got ice cream,” Harley Quinn squawks as I step into the shoes of Barbara Gordon. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience the same segment with a different hero to compare, but this dialogue wouldn’t fit anyone else. A sharp script is key in building a dynamic, believable world I’m truly invested in, and Gotham Knights has its moments, but they aren’t consistent.

Gotham Knights sees Batgirl on the Bat Computer, with Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood watching

Much of your time between missions is spent in the Belfry, a belltower base of operations that the Bat Family uses for debriefing, training, and occasionally chatting. It’s essentially the new Bat Cave, where you can spend your upgrade points once you level up, change costumes, and switch between the Gotham Knights characters. I’m dating myself here, but it reminds me of Queen Tower in Smallville, albeit a bit blander.

Hub areas are a bit of a punctuation mark in pacing, serving a practical purpose as much as a narrative one. It seems as though the Belfry is treated no differently – the devs seem keen to get you in and out as quickly as possible. The layout of the Belfry is simple to navigate, so you can tick off your tasks before promptly heading off into the night again. I appreciate the coherence of it all, as it prevents me from getting as lost as I did in Monster Hunter World’s base, but it’s like I’m moving on a conveyor belt, making the space and its inhabitants feel less human as a result.

Gotham Knights characters huddle around an investigation board

The scripted moments are brilliant – we see each character grieve, investigate, and even exercise together as a family. The moment the cutscenes end, however, the heroes stand huddled, motionless, and simply waiting for purpose. They’ll occasionally deliver a walk-by one-liner, but this pales compared to other games that have already shown us exactly how this downtime should be handled.

In Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, exploring Star-Lord’s ship, the Milano, is a fun activity with characters that feel alive. Rocket Racoon is seen tinkering with parts on the workbench before pacing elsewhere on the cruiser, muttering and grumbling to himself. Groot sings merrily in his own language. And Gamora sometimes shouts across the ship in conversation to Drax and other crew members, like an obnoxious sibling.

Gotham Knights needs more Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, as Star-Lord chats to Rocket Raccoon and Groot at the workbench

It’s not just character interaction, but the world itself. There are Easter eggs in each person’s bedroom that dig deeper into their history, notes on cupboards to read, and a fridge door which you can choose to close but someone else will always keep leaving the damn thing open. The world feels like it continues to exist without you in it, much like the real world around us.

Gotham Knights is far from a bad action RPG game. It’s significantly more polished than Warner Bros Montreal’s Batman Arkham Origins; it has a seemingly sprawling open world with the biggest Gotham City we’ve seen yet; and every member of the Bat Family offers a unique playstyle that keeps combat fresh. It just needs to make the Belfry a bit more engaging, especially when the story is so character-driven.

It’s early days for the makeshift base, though. As you can see, everything’s still covered in tarps to protect the furniture, so there’s still a chance things might get a little more lively. We’ll need to wait for the Gotham Knights release date in order to answer that question.