A Tale of Batman’s Two Arkhams: Asylum vs. City

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My comic reviews have been suffering lately due to Batman, oh the irony. A month or so ago I picked up Batman: Arkham City for my PS3 after having really enjoyed Batman: Arkham Asylum. I loved the idea of a bigger, broader, battier world and after having beat both games I have mixed feelings I felt were best explained by juxtaposing the two games. To simplify things Arkham Asylum = AA, Arkham City = AC.

Gameplay

  • Both games have the same controls, you can play as a button mashing Batman punching machine or try your hand at combos that create extremely fun to watch Batman moves. I would rate both games equally here.

Gadgets

  • AA had a limited number of gadgets that you earned through the game and each was necessary to advance the plot.
  • AC starts with the AA gadgets and then you start earning more. Some are really cool, others I didn’t use so much.
  • The win here goes to AC simply because the gadgets give you more options for taking down baddies and create situations where you really have to think about which gadget to use to accomplish a particular task.

Storyline

  • AA was very linear but it was huge on depth, your exploration of Arkham Asylum had you going back and forth to the same places over and over but the bosses and detective puzzles were very detailed and created a story that really sucked you in. I found myself wanting to keep playing just to find out what would happen next.
  • AC is much more open, you have a fairly large city to explore and while you have a main quest to follow there are many side quests and tasks you can do to earn XP, additional gadgets and challenge maps. Throughout the main story you also get to play as Catwoman, which makes for a fun alternative although I found Batman to generally be more fun to play.
  • In AC if you largely play the main quest and don’t do a lot of side missions the game goes very quickly (not in a good way), I completed the main story but only finished 40% of the game. It does, however put you right back inside and allows you a bit more freedom to go and complete side missions and also opens up Catwoman as a fully playable character with her own set of side missions.
  • AC also really highlights Batman’s unwillingness to kill (although I don’t understand how some of the thugs he takes out survive the beating). It almost becomes a bit ridiculous that he realizes that Joker will keep killing thousands of people but he won’t kill the clown even in self defense. It’s a line he says he won’t cross but it feels a bit more like a soap opera than serious moral conviction.
  • This is a tough one to judge but just putting the primary storylines against each other AA was far more rewarding, there was more variety in the style of play required and AC didn’t take full advantage of its unique situations (one where you get to put the beat down on a Great White Shark, while epic could have been a lot harder and created more tension). I do fully plan to finish the 60% of the game I have left and am hoping to see more of the depth and variety come out in the side missions.

Bosses

  • The main boss in both games is the Joker. You have a lot more one-on-one interaction with him in AC, get to see more of his personality and he can be quite fun. For example, at one point Joker gets your cell phone number and just randomly calls Batman to chat. I really liked this element of AC.
  • I felt the bosses in AA were much more difficult than AC. Some would have me totally stumped and I would have to wait a few days before I could come back and beat them. I never had this problem in AC, some bosses were tough (Mr. Freeze, for example proved to be a very fun challenge) but I could always beat them with just a few tries. There were also a lot less bosses in AC (hopefully this will be made up for with the side missions I have remaining).
  • I am going to have to give the boss battle to AA. Each was quite different and required a variety of gadgets and moves. If nothing else the Killer Croc level in AA created enough tension to put AA into the top spot for that boss battle alone.

Overall

  • I would likely rate AA as the better of the two games but given that I still have more than half of AC’s open world to explore and conquer I might be a bit premature in my rating. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing both games and would recommend them to anyone who enjoys a third person action adventurer.
  • However, what may put AC on equal footing is its challenge maps. I haven’t yet jumped into any of them but the option to play as Batman or Catwoman along with playable downloadable Robin and Nightwing characters makes AC quite intriguing. AC also introduces Ra’s Al Ghul (you all remember Liam Neeson from the first Bale Batman movie don’t you?) and his daughter Talia (the mother of Batman’s child in some comic iterations).

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