So, as many people know, the Arkham games by developer Rocksteady were originally going to have their fighting mechanic as a sort of music game, which is why the fighting is so rhythmic. Think like a Guitar Hero game, where you hit the right button at the right time to keep the sequence going. It is a genius idea for a fighting game, and as the success of the Arkham games have proven it was a brilliant design choice. But, now, with almost every single game coming out utilizing a similar fighting style, do you think Rocksteady had any idea that every game that came out after the Arkham games was going to rip off the fighting mechanic?
I doubt it.
Fighting Mechanics BEFORE The Arkham Games
No matter what anyone wants to say, unless you were playing a game as fine tuned as God of War 3 or Bayonetta 2, we were all just button mashing for a long time in gaming. Seriously, that is how fighting games used to be (or even the fighting sections of action games). We would slam our fingers on the controller until the bad guys were dead. It was very straight forward. Fun, not very challenging, but very straight forward.
Then Arkham Asylum comes out and redefines video game combat forever. CombatMan. I like that.
Notice the Rhythm
I have played all four games and can tell you, the fighting is music. It really is. You land a few punches, counterattack another assault, flip back over and beat the ass of the first guy again. Then you lunge over his head and break the spine of the last guy. But if you noticed while you were doing it, it was ALL dictated to you by a simple system of showing you who was about to counter, who was about to tackle, and who was there just to take an ass whooping.
But make no mistakes. It is 100% rhythmic and timing based (just like a music game would be). The thing is, this is a music game disguised as a kick ass Batman fighting action game. Don’t get mad. That only makes it cooler. So much so, in fact, everyone is now ripping off that game mechanic.
You may think I am just being sensitive and that not many games have taken the battle system. Here are just a few to give you an idea. Keep in mind, pre-Batman, this fighting mechanic was not even a “thing”.
Middle-Earth: Shadow Over Mordor
Captain America: Super Soldier
Assassin’s Creed 3 and On
That is just 5 examples, but keep in mind Rocksteady’s trilogy is fairly new to the scene, so it will be REALLY interesting to see just how far it has reached in about a decade’s time.
So Why Are So Many Games Copying It?
The truth is, when people finished the first Arkham Game, everyone thought the exact same thing:
holy shit, that was fun.
It makes sense that developers would pick up on that, too, as they are also gamers. All it takes to inspire a developer is a good idea. In this case, that is exactly what the switch up fighting mechanic was. It was new, different than anything we had played up to that point, and most importantly, fun. It put the feeling of actually fighting and being a badass back into the hands of gamers. It is hard to feel that when one finishes a game from button mashing. But when it takes timing and rhythm, it takes the experience to a whole new level.
So Where To Next?
This is the most interesting question to pose because none of us know. Truth is, we didn’t even know Rocksteady were going to change the gaming landscape as much as they did with their stellar Arkham series. The real question here is just how much developers will attach themselves to this fighting mechanic, long term.
It is also worth asking what Rocksteady will be doing next. Many speculate a Superman game (but I don’t think the company wants to be “just a superhero” developer, but I may be proven wrong by time). Will Rocksteady themselves continue to use the fighting mechanic that has pretty changed the way action games play, or will they go in a whole new direction and floor us with something just as ingenious?
Only time will tell, friends. Speaking of Batman….