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How Batman: Arkham City hopes to avoid villain clutter


Arkham Asylum's expansion into a city has given the Dark Knight a much larger gothic playground, and enough room for an elaborate roster of power-tripping psychopaths. But is Batman: Arkham City's expanded lineup of rogues bordering on bloat? Rocksteady's Lead Narrative Designer, Paul Crocker, confidently shot down my concern over villain clutter in a recent interview.

"We're not worried about clutter at all," he said. "The main difference between us and film is that we're 25 hours long [laughs], and everything is in there to give the player more to do, more reason for every action, and to make their actions feel meaningful." In a way, Crocker considers the peril faced by Batman as an elegant, appropriate embellishment of what's really at the heart of Arkham City: a series of objectives that prod you into different areas and challenges. "We want you to feel like everything you do as Batman is meaningful." And when you're Batman, that meaning is found not in advancing to the next stage, but in foiling Joker's schemes or planting a fist in Edward Nigma's face.

Crocker also suggested there's more nuance to Arkham City's huge set of villains than just being boss fight fodder. "We like to call them encounters," he said. "So all of our encounters are very different. Our Riddler encounter is a massive, massive part of the game where you're trying to defeat Riddler, you're trying to find out where he's keeping his hostages, you're trying to get to the point where you have your hand around his throat and smash his face into the ground and get your revenge on him. And that's hours worth of gameplay, and none of it on its own you could call a boss."

While some villains are better suited to brawls, Crocker feels others need to be employed in other ways -- without robbing the player of a certain visceral satisfaction. "One of the things we've tried to fix this game is giving you the opportunity to punch every villain in the face. Because we didn't last time, and we know that, and one of the problems we had with the Joker at the end was, you know, Batman versus Joker isn't actually a very satisfying fight." If the endgame of Arkham Asylum felt forced, it's because Rocksteady attempted to grant Batman (and you) a decisive blow against his nemesis, without having Joker in "a funny helicopter, flying around, dropping bombs on you."

Crocker concluded, "We work really hard to make those encounters and I know some people don't like them -- some people do, though -- but it's not a Mario-like game, it's not about the bosses. It's about the characters, it's about the people you meet." And then punch in the face, naturally.

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