How Gotham Knights team took cues from Marvel's Spider-Man to create something new

·6 min read
How Gotham Knights team took cues from Marvel's Spider-Man to create something new

Most people working at WB Games Montréal have played Marvel's Spider-Man, the 2018 video game that helped spark a new era for blockbuster superhero gaming. "We're all gamers and comic book nerds," says game director Geoff Ellenor. Now, it's their turn to make their own open-world RPG full of caped saviors.

Speaking with EW over Zoom with lead writer Ceri Young, Ellenor confirms his team of game developers were influenced partly by Marvel's Spider-Man when making Gotham Knights. "Maybe more so than some of the other references in the brawler space because of the fluidity and speed that we were looking for with these younger characters," he admits. "But everything in Gotham Knights is really its own design because it has to be."

Not to be confused with the CW series in the works, this is DC's upcoming AAA game about Batman's four protégé stepping up to the plate to protect Gotham City after the death of the Caped Crusader. Arriving on Playstation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC platforms on Oct. 25, the title allows players to embody one of four of the titular knights of Gotham: Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Tim Drake/Robin, Dick Grayson/Nightwing, and Jason Todd/Red Hood.

Gotham Knights
Gotham Knights

WB Games Montréal Jason Todd, a.k.a. Red Hood, joins the fray in 'Gotham Knights'

The main campaign kicks off with the death of Bruce Wayne/Batman and Barbara's father, Commission Jim Gordon. An investigation into the Bat's last mission leads the heroes down a mysterious path to uncovering the Court of Owls, an elusive secret society that has been pulling strings in Gotham City from the shadows for decades.

"Batgirl is the one who's most like Batman. She takes a lot of her cues from Bruce, and I think they think a lot alike," Young explains. "Tim is the youngest. He's the protege, he's the mechanical engineer, and the one who has, in Batman's eye, the potential to surpass him in just raw intelligence. Nightwing is the big brother of the group, the leader, the person that is trying to make jokes and keep the team together and focused in the same direction."

Then there's Red Hood. EW can reveal an exclusive new look at the character as Warner Bros. Games showcases a character spotlight video of the supernatural brawler. "Red Hood is very much angry at injustice, and he's very driven," says Young. "He's always the one that's like, 'Let's go out. Let's do the thing. Let's get it done.'"

Unlike the other three, who have more grounded abilities, Jason's skills transcend the physical realm. His backstory, like in the DC comics, involves getting brutally murdered and then forcibly resurrected thanks to the mystical energy of the Lazarus Pit. He brought back a few tricks with him, including the ability to use his own soul's energy to leap frog across open air.

Gotham Knights
Gotham Knights

WB Games Montréal Red Hood rocks an alternate suit for 'Gotham Knights'

Ellenor describes him as ginormous. "A lot of his combat focuses on grabbing and throwing enemies, and utilizing that physicality that he has," he notes. "I'm not in charge of the story, but I think Red Hood changes the most over the arc." Ellenor also points to some obvious baggage that comes with Jason. "He was dead!" the game director says with a laugh. "And also having these mystic abilities makes him so different from the rest of the Batfamily."

"We really did not want him to just be this angry guy who wants to punch things all the time," Young says. "He's not that. Yet there are things that get him really mad. He doesn't like injustice, he doesn't like when things don't go their way, but he also is still part of this family and interacts with them on that level."

There's a lot of similarity between Gotham Knights and Marvel's Spider-Man. Both have a vast open world involving a hero swinging about the rooftops of a city. Both have side quests ranging from your average criminal and gang activity to larger missions involving notable comic book villains. The Gotham Knights map for tracking these missions, as well as the main campaign, will also feel familiar to those who've puppeteered the web-slinger avatar in the Spidey game. But Ellenor points to some key differences.

"We have our own set of constraints, especially being a co-op game," he explains. Players can team up with others online and patrol Gotham as the same or different heroes. "That influences us right down to a technical level [and] up to how everything feels and works," he continues. "It also needs to work online."

Gotham Knights
Gotham Knights

WB Games Montréal The 'Gotham Knights' crew assemble for one of 2022's most highly anticipated video games

Another key divergence is that these heroes aren't starting off as weaklings that need to build up their level and skill. Sure, players will still start off the campaign at Level 1, but Ellenor says they are already pretty powerful. "They are heroic personalities in their own right in our story," he adds. "They have fought alongside with and been trained by the Batman. They are capable, well-equipped people from the beginning. So that really influenced how the game feels, even when you're at Level 1. These are people you don't mess with."

The story itself further changes up what we think we know about the Court of Owls. In the comics, notably Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's famous series of the same name that served as the devs' inspiration, it's Batman who stumbles upon this hidden organization. In Gotham Knights, it's his caped successors.

"We had to talk about how that would happen and how they would uncover it and what it looks like for our game. So expect some differences from the comics, just in terms of how the story beats have to play out," Young mentions. Though, she adds, "I hope we have the same feel of The Court of Owls and what made it scary and cool, but put it in the hands of very different characters."

Other comic book figures will be hinted at, if not directly showing up in the game. One of Robin's tricks, for one, is to teleport short distances by hacking into the Justice League satellite. So we know the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman have already teamed up in this world.

"There are a few nods to DC characters," Young confirms. "We definitely all have some of our favorites. So you'll hear some of the characters talking to them or corresponding with them." As for what other members of Batman's classic rogue's gallery that could be showing up in Gotham Knights, beyond the known ones (e.g. Penguin and Mr. Freeze), both Young and Ellenor say more is to come.

"We're excited that you're excited to ask this question," Ellenor says. "We'll be sharing more information about that as we get closer [to launch]."

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