Not too long ago Warner Bros. announced both Batman: Arkham Origins, which is coming to Wii U, and accompanying 3DS title Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate. While the Wii U title will follow in the footsteps, stylistically, of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman Arkham City, the handheld Blackgate title promises a 2.5D Metroidvania approach; it's also being developed by Armature, a studio founded by prominent members of the team that produced the Metroid Prime Trilogy.
Speaking to Game Informer, game director Mark Pacini revealed more details on how the team is transitioning the style of the series' games to date with a 2.5D portable approach. Free flowing combat is on the agenda despite the limitations of the perspective, with plans for enemies to move in the foreground and background before engaging Batman. The Metroidvania aspect was also discussed, with confirmation that progression will be item based, without experience points to accrue. Overall, as this following reply shows, Armature is trying to make a seamless transition to the new style of gameplay, so that players will feel confident that the experience is relate-able to Rocksteady's titles to date.
That was actually kind of challenging in the beginning, because we wanted to give the player enough tools to unlock and progress in a world just like in a normal Metroidvania game. What we did is we went through the back log of the past two Arkham games and looked at the things that we thought would work well in our game. Climbing the grapple is our jump, so there’s no jumping in the game, you use the grapple to get up higher. We have glide – you know the glide allows you to go down over longer lateral spaces. Crouching and climbing and things like that are all from the console game so taking that small kernel of abilities, we are actually able to do quite a bit, and then we just supplement it with the gadgets that we thought would work well in a more 2.5D perspective. Things like the batarang and the gel launcher. The gel launcher is a slight adjustment to the explosive gel that’s in the console version, where Batman sprays it against the surface. We’re using it more like the movie version, where you can shoot it over more of a distance, so you can utilize the space on the screen a little bit more. Along with that there’s a bunch of gadgets that he has that we will reveal at another time.
One element that's potentially tricky to recreate in a 2.5D title is the Detective/Predator sections of the first two games, where you would typically use vantage points and gadgets to incapacitate enemies without being sighted.
We wanted to stay true to what was cool about previous Arkham games and their predator modes, which is kind of luring people around and picking them off one by one, and see a sped-up stealth aspect to the game. So because you can’t look around in 2.5D, we had to add a few more layers of feedback to the player. For example, you can see the sightlines of the enemies, which immediately allows you to know whether you are seen or not by enemies. When Batman is in detective mode, you’ll change color based on their proximity or based on how close you are to being seen. We have the same sort of vantage points, floor grates, silent takedowns, glide kicks, weapon use, and breakable walls – a lot of the same complimentary things that were in the console game, that you’ll be able to play in this game. But obviously the feel of it is a little bit different because of the perspective.
Pacini also touched on some of the reasoning why key members of the Retro Studios team left to start afresh with Armature. The suggestion is that working on three consecutive Prime games, and with the creative limitations when working on Nintendo properties, motivated the team to go independent. As the following passage makes clear, it was an amicable departure.
I was there for eight years. When you work for Nintendo, Nintendo’s an awesome company. They’re great to work for. It’s hard, challenging work, but it’s rewarding at the same time. But given that regard, there’s a limited amount of things you can do in Nintendo. You can’t work on other platforms. You kind of work on games that they would like you to work on, so after doing three of the same games in a row, we were kind of like, we’d really like the flexibility to do other things.
And that’s really what it came down to was we didn’t have anything against Nintendo or Retro or anything – they’re all great people, we still talk to them all the time, and we still have a great relationship – but having an independent studio, one day you’re working on Batman, the other day you’re working on something else, and that’s kind of what we wanted to do. We would have never been able to work on Vita, or 3DS – it wasn’t something that Retro was gunning for. And Armature as a studio, we’re hopefully able to make some announcements later this year on what we’re working on next, and those are, again, forward thinking on consoles, and things we weren’t able to do before.
Starting Armature when we did was a very difficult time in the game industry. And the game industry continues to be difficult. Right now as a studio we’re in a really good position and there are a lot of opportunities that we’re going to be able to pursue that we wanted to five years ago.
We do recommend reading the full interview for a few more snippets of information on the upcoming 3DS / PS Vita title. From what we've heard so far, is this one on your radar ahead of its October release?