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  • Gameplay Analysis: Batman Arkham Asylum

    [08.13.10]
    - Filip Coulianos
  •  Batman Arkham Asylum was released in August 2009 and took critics by storm. It scored 90+ on average review ratings and even got a Guinness World Record for 'Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever'. What is even more amazing is that according to the credits list only five level designers worked on the title, and it was produced in less than two years.

    As I played through the game I was astounded by its quality and started to do some serious research. I read articles, listened to developer podcasts as well as collected data to try to figure out what it really was that made this game stand out from a level designer's perspective.

    This article will first present a level design overview, in which I present the data I collected and then go through the games level design from various angles such as layout and progression, gameplay variation, challenges, new enemies and so on. In the end I make an attempt to answer the question that made me write this whole article: What is it that makes Batman Arkham Asylum such a good game?

    To fully comprehend everything this is presented in this article I strongly advice that you have played through the game at least once.

    Level design overview

    To get an in-depth insight in how Rocksteady has made Batman Arkham Asylum I played through the game with a stop-watch timing myself through all the events of the entire game and then put together the chart on the next page. The total playtime when doing this recording was a bit over six hours, which is a bit shorter than most people have reported on the Internet.

    The level design overview-chart presents the game where each cell represents one minute of gameplay and the color represents what type of gameplay. The chart is to be read from left to right.


    Puzzles

    The puzzle areas are areas in which the player had to use Batman's goggles to investigate crime scenes or find trails or clues. Puzzles could also be areas in which the player had to be "clever" in order to progress without using violence.

    Movement and dialogue

    These are areas in which the player simply moves in key locations, rooms or exploring the island. They usually include lots of dialogue between Batman and the Oracle or any of the games antagonists, but still allowed the player to move freely and have full camera control. These areas often include sporadic combat with less than four enemies involved.

    Combat

    These were areas in which the player had to fight more than four thugs at a time.

    Gargoyle room

    The gargoyle rooms, or as Rocksteady calls them "predator areas", are places in which the player has to sneak by, or kill, a large number of thugs with guns without being noticed. This is being accomplished by using Batman's grappling hook swinging himself between gargoyle-statues situated close to the ceiling.

    Cinematic

    Cinematics are those parts were the game presented a cinematic sequence.

    Boss Fights

    Boss fights are areas in which the player is fighting enemies inside arenas which the player cannot leave until she has defeated the boss. Half of these boss fights also include specially designed enemies such as Bane or Ivy.

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