Arkham Addendum

Still feeling a touch snotty and feverish from a recent head cold, I decided to stay in and finish off my game of Batman: Arkham Origins – a title, already mentioned here, suffering from a bad case of villainitis. It would be easier to make a checklist of the Batman villains who DON’T show up for this particular Christmas-Eve storyline than to mention the dozens who do. Suffice to say, the rogue’s gallery is overly represented, with prominent figures from Batman eras past and present shotgunned at us en masse.

What makes the classic Batman villains the best in the comic-book biz is that they’re all defined by their psychosis rather than some silly super power. Each of them is a dark mirror of The Bat, with every individual representing one fractured part of our protagonist’s own tortured pathology. It’s what made these characters timeless and so open to interesting interpretations and reimaginings over the years.

What defines the modern Batman villains is that they’re all good at martial arts. So they can…I dunno…kick ass and fight and stuff. Not quite the operatic duel of wits that would require the Dark Knight Detective to do much detecting. It’s really all about the punching which, I suppose, is what people look for in this sort of video game.

Now, I did enjoy it. It was one of the rare adventure storyline games I got all the way through, because I actually wanted to see how it ended. Personally, I would have preferred an epilogue with Alfred and Bruce microwaving turkey leftovers after a very long Christmas Eve of fighting crime and not stopping for food or a bathroom break. But it does end well enough.

I won’t pretend to be a game critic here. I’m no Yahtzee Croshaw – I would need to drink far more coffee to hit that manic a pace. But I will say this latest Batman outing has a virulent strain of the You’re-shitting-me-I-have-to-fight-Bane-AGAIN!?! syndrome. Look, I know he was the main baddie from the last movie, but he’s not all that interesting. He’s certainly not (spoiler alert) three boss-fights interesting. Sure, he’s one of the few semi-classic villains who can give Bats a fair fight, but couldn’t we have at least one boss fight that involves knocking a few teeth out of the Riddler’s arrogant head after all those irritating puzzles? Sure it would be one-sided, but it’s not like the game isn’t already feeding the computer nerds this year’s dose of bully-fantasy-fulfilment. Really, I started to feel bad for all those Blackgate escapees I “interrogated” (read “tortured by standing on their heads”) and then pounded into unconsciousness after gleaning some petty nugget of information. They probably had shitty childhoods, a difficult family life and hard economic times to contend with. They just wanted to get home for the holidays and somebody at the prison left the door open. Can you blame them for seizing the opportunity and simply walking out? I can’t. But the Bat can. What a fascist asshole!

After winning my three hundredth ten-on-one street brawl in a row, I found myself longing for my preferred type of video game – the strategic empire-building genre. Is it wrong to daydream about playing another video game while you’re in the middle of one of the biggest releases of the year? It feels like cheating. But if it’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right. Because the game mechanics that were going through my head, even as I pounded faces into blood pudding on the streets of Gotham, were those of the upcoming Banished.

banished

The end credits of most video games today roll for twenty to thirty minutes on average because there are so many people involved. They make movie end credits (which hardly anyone watches either) seem fleeting. When the credits for Banished roll, there’s only going to be one name, and one name only. Because Banished is a solo effort. One guy, doing everything. And the game looks fantastic. It’s a city builder, and although I haven’t played one second of it, I can already tell it’s better than the uber high-profile franchise remake (and legendary disaster) Simcity 2013.

Apparently you need an army of people to design, write, code and release a game as fucked up as the new Simcity. But it looks like one guy can nail it acting alone. I don’t even know the name of this one industry insider who threw up his hands, said “Aw, screw it” and skipped all the bullshit in favour of making precisely the game he wanted to make, but he’s my hero. Banished looks like exactly the sort of game I love to play, designed by someone with an equal taste for the genre. The game is due out any moment between now and the end of the year, and it’s certainly premature for me to endorse something I haven’t had the chance to try. But I’ve been following the devlog for a long time now, and I’m more hyped for this than any of the giant releases due in the next year.

If you’re interested in this type of game at all, I at least hope I’ve made you aware that this exists. Check of the Shining Rock Software website and its various social media links for all the details. This is the one that deserves your day-of-release dollar, not the latest crapfest from EA (the most-hated corporation in America two-years running – congratulations guys, well earned – if it can’t be Monsanto, I’m glad it’s you). Even though the wait through this final play-testing bug-squashing time is excruciating, at least Banished is being properly beta tested, unlike Simcity, which basically charged everybody a fortune for a pre-order of what turned out to be an alpha-test of a game with catastrophic design flaws that could only be fixed with a square-one rethink and a time machine. May Batman stand on all your heads, you bastards.

Not that I’m bitter.

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