In recent weeks, WB Games Montreal has been shedding new light on its upcoming Batman game sans Batman, Gotham Knights, and some details have left fans skeptical about the direction the game is taking with Bruce Wayne’s surviving Bat Family. First, a 13-minute gameplay video revealed that GK’s incarnation of Nightwing makes use of a jet-powered glider, while Red Hood has been endowed with wild “soul energy” abilities. By far the most troubling revelation came via a bio for Batgirl, published to the game’s website, that suggested she’d recovered from her disability through “raw willpower and determination.”
During a Q&A session in Gotham Knights’ official Discord channel, creative director Patrick Redding addressed the backlash over the insensitive Batgirl character bio, and provided insight into Nightwing’s glider and Red Hood’s new powers.
The character bio for Batgirl on the Gotham Knights website discusses Barbara Gordon’s history as both Batgirl and the Oracle. The Oracle was Gordon’s tech-genius alter ego who offered invaluable support to Batman after a confrontation with the Joker, depicted in The Killing Joke, left her paralyzed. The reason WB Games Montreal faced criticism for the bio is that it stated Gordon was spurred by the death of her father to “recover from her wounds so that she could return to active duty as Batgirl.” This led fans to call out the game for employing the tired comic book trope of heroes overriding their disability through sheer willpower.
Redding revealed in the Q&A that, in the wake of the criticism they received, the team worked in collaboration with AbleGamers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving accessibility in the video game space, “to learn about different types of spinal injuries and the potential for someone to regain mobility.”
“As with many of our characters and plot elements, the circumstances around Barbara’s injuries differ in some important ways from how it’s been portrayed in the comics,” Redding said. “Barbara has been through multiple surgeries followed by a lot of physical therapy and pain management [in Gotham Knights].”
Redding went on to say that the team acknowledges the criticism, and has replaced the contentious description to read: “With extensive training and rehabilitation, she recovered from her wounds, and returned to active duty as Batgirl.”
Redding went on to discuss the creative decisions behind Nightwing and Red Hood’s traversal abilities, chiefly Nightwing’s Green Goblin-esque glider, and Red Hood’s new jumping ability.
During the 13-minute gameplay demo, Nightwing is shown traversing rooftops with the help of a techno-glider called the Flying Trapeze. According to Eurogamer, Nightwing’s techno-glider is a throwback reference to Batman’s retro Bat-glider. Redding said the creative team liked the idea of Grayson utilizing one of Batman’s stealth drones in order to gain more altitude to perform his death-defying acrobatics.
“[The Flying Trapeze is] designed to feel a bit improvised, and dependent on his extreme athleticism, which fits Nightwing’s approach to everything,” he said. “Flying it has such a different feel from Batgirl’s cape-gliding, and it blends really well with his bigger parkour and leap moves, as well as with grappling.”
The most bizarre reveal in Gotham Knights’ gameplay trailer, for me at least, was Red Hood, aka Jason Todd, leaping through the skies of Gotham in a clearly supernatural fashion using his new ability, the Mystical Leap. Redding said the development team leaned on Red Hood’s origin story–which involves death at the Joker’s hands and subsequent resurrection in the Lazarus Pit–when approaching his new powers, intending them to serve as a manifestation of Todd growing into his own.
“We really liked the idea that as Jason starts to confront the trauma of dying and being brought back, he begins to be able to tap into some lost abilities,” Redding said. “In the same way that he’s tried to reinvent himself from anti-hero to hero while retaining his strengths, he discovers he can channel these mystic talents in ways he finds familiar: Through his physicality [and] in how he moves, but also in how he fights and even how he uses his weapons.”
Redding explained Todd’s new ability as one “just one manifestation of those powers” he received after being revived in the Lazarus Pit. I only hope those powers include fixing my son’s skull so he doesn’t have the bone structure of a Lego.
Gotham Knights is slated to release on October 25, now only for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S.