Gotham Knights accessibility review

Carlos Moscoso5 minute read

Gotham Knights is the latest offering in the Batman mythos to be released since 2015’s Batman Arkham Knight. It’s the first to be released exclusively for PS5,  Xbox series X/S consoles, and PC. Set in a separate universe not related to previous entries, it tells the story of the bat-family as they grapple with the consequences of the void left by Bruce Wayne’s sudden passing, and attempt to bring the mysterious Court of Owls to justice.

Booting up

Booting up, players are presented with a photosensitivity warning, and the boot menu consists of New Game, Heroic Assault, settings, and New Game +, which permits replaying the story with all stats and gear acquired during players’ initial run. Menus here are fairly easy to navigate because they use the traditional highlighter instead of a cursor like most recent Action-RPGs. Going into the settings will allow players to choose difficulties ranging from very easy to hard, and also allows tweaking of the typical video and audio functions like brightness and dialogue volume. A dedicated accessibility menu is available, but is sparse compared to others in the genre. It features things like filters for tritanopia, deuteranopia, and protanopia. Also featured here is the ability to turn holds to taps for interactive objects and breaking free of ice, along with aim-assist but many of these are made ineffective by things I’ll elaborate on further. 

Traversal and combat

Many bat-fans may be going into this title expecting iteration on the free-flow combat that made the Arkham series so iconic, but this team was eager to set itself apart from past entries, resulting in them building Gotham City from scratch to fit 400 years of history and with it came a combat and traversal system reminiscent of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The majority of traversal in the open-world is done either by grappling hook or by bat-cycle, each of which by default are mapped to L1, and up on the D-pad respectively. Unfortunately controls aren’t customizable in any capacity, so they are as they come.

When a waypoint is placed on the map, the bat-cycle’s navigation computer projects arrows onto the road which indicate where players must go to reach a location, and this is one of the title’s most well-implemented visual aids. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the grappling hook whose prompts appear far too small and sometimes lead to aimless wandering because the icon is the same color as the compass, and the two blend together.

Nightwing grappling a masked enemy in the foreground, while Red Hood stands opposite another masked opponent in the background.

Players can play as either Red Hood who is the tank, Bat-Girl whose movement most closely resembles Batman, and a hacker, Nightwing the tonfa-wielding acrobat, or Robin, the staff-wielding gymnastics expert. Despite having what at first glance appears to be four radically different play-styles at your disposal, lack of variety in enemy types means that while combat does have its moments, most encounters can be surpassed solely by using the square button to punch, tapping it will produce quick strikes so that you can shuffle quickly between foes, and holding it produces a heavy strike intended for breaking the guards of shielded foes. The advantage here is that motor-impaired players don’t have too much to worry about in terms of fatigue, however, it also means combat wears out its welcome quickly because there is no strategy involved.

There are special attacks called momentum abilities which can be unleashed when a bar at the bottom of the screen is filled, but these do little more than help to complete bonus objectives which earn you extra crafting ingredients. Like in other RPGs, gear boosts stats, and mods can be slotted but how this works is never explained clearly. 

Another motor barrier stems from interactive prompts like bomb disposal requiring a meter, and that is that regardless of whether they are set to taps or holds, you can still be hit while interacting with objects, which cancels the meter’s progress and requires you to restart it. While admittedly a small barrier, it does create problems during the string of missions tied to Harley Quinn, nearly all of which involve bomb disposal. 

Case Files and optional Boss Fights

Gotham Knights does get building anticipation for boss battles right, and these are where the title is strongest. Unlike titles that preceded it, Gotham Knights doesn’t meld all of the Bat-Family’s villains into one overlapping tale, but instead gives a select few their own time in the spotlight. This is done by making them the culprits of crimes that are separate to the main narrative. Evidence linking each villain to the crime must be found, and then properly connected before launching a mission resulting in their arrest. These missions make wonderful set-pieces, and while bosses don’t have vulnerabilities to exploit, or the smart use of gadgetry to defeat them, as the majority can be beaten with basic attacks, the encounters are still memorable. Certain objectives will involve puzzles, these are a welcome change because they offer opportunities for critical thinking, but should any player not be able to solve them, turning CSI Assist on in the settings will automatically solve them at the push of a button. 

A view of Gotham City at night, seen from high up.

Visual and Auditory accessibility

As mentioned in the traversal section the Bat-Cycle’s GPS is an excellent navigation tool, it almost never points incorrectly and even navigates well in tight spaces. However, at times when exploring on foot, the waypoint icon may disappear. This is particularly prevalent when a character is required to scan an object to progress. An objective marker will lead you to the objects general vicinity, but after getting there, nothing is done to indicate whether the player is closer or farther from the object, and since you can’t move while using the scanner, yet it’s the only way to reveal switches hidden behind objects, if you are too far from the object in question, you’ve got to turn the scan off, move closer, and scan again. The developers missed an excellent opportunity to use vibration to signify hidden objects.

Subtitles here are excellent however, as they can be adjusted from small to large, and whose color is dependent on who’s speaking, I.E. Nightwing is blue, while Red-Hood is Red. Their background opacity is also adjustable using a percentage slider. Lastly HUD-scale is adjustable, but this is rather ineffective as it only seems to affect the size of momentum ability icons but not the map or compass. It does a fairly good job indicating direction of attack, and sound doesn’t present barriers. I do however, believe dodge indicators for the bruiser enemies don’t give players enough time to react. 

Conclusion

Gotham Knights is a title that despite not being as refined as some of the titles that inspired it, takes the Bat-Family in a new direction and shows that a future without Bruce Wayne is possible. It’s not perfect, and it misses the mark in key aspects of accessibility, but it gets it right where it counts most. A future patch should be just what’s needed to fix most accessibility short-comings found here.

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