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Forums - Gaming Discussion - Why Arkham City is a better role-playing game than Skyrim

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Yes, Arkham City does role-playing better 8 29.63%
No... joke article? 8 29.63%
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Why Arkham City is a better role-playing game than Skyrim

Friday, January 20, 2012
EDITOR'S NOTEfrom Sam Barsanti


"Role playing game" really is an odd name for a genre. I mean, don't you play a role in every game? If that's the interpretation we're going with, then it's tough to argue with Matt's reasoning here.


I hate my character in Skyrim.

My Khajiit is a slack-jawed douche that runs around ruining everyone’s life because he was given instructions to do so.

Seriously, he should be ashamed of himself.

Despite all this talk that you can do whatever you want in this grand world, I feel stunted and at the mercy of any number of organizations. My character has no agenda and makes no decisions. Like a child, he just does what he’s told.

For me, a role-playing game is about stepping into the shoes of a character and going through the emotions of being this person in this world. It means taking control of my character’s destiny and growing alongside them. In this regard, Skyrim is a complete failure.

Fortunately, there’s another 2011 release that more than makes up for Skyrim’s RPG shortcomings: Rocksteady’sBatman: Arkham City.

Using a carefully structured open-world storyline, Rocksteady pulled the player into the role of Bruce Wayne better than most games that let you customize every aspect of your character.

The Elder Scrolls franchise has always struggled to maintain a solid narrative. For some reason though, people give Skyrim a free pass when it comes to having a completely forgettable narrative. The world is on the line, yet there’s no drama or urgency.

Under-pressure decisions are what round out a character and make them believable. I have a laundry list of repetitive quests in Skyrim, but as far as decisions go, I can either complete the missions or turn my Xbox off. InFallout 3 (which was developed by the same studio as The Elder Scrolls series), I was given the choice to blow-up a town or eliminate the person that offered me the job. That made the story special and had a clear effect on the world I inhabited.

Is there a legitimate reason not to kill everyone the Dark Brotherhood assigns you to assassinate? Should I care that following the orders of the Thieves Guild makes me a bad person? Should I even bother with this whole “destiny” crap? In the world of Skyrim, not really.

On the other hand, Arkham City has a wonderful ebb and flow between its free-roaming elements and the exciting main storyline. Realizing the importance of the narrative and the natural reaction to an open environment, Rocksteady restricts the player from some side quests by requiring the use of equipment gained from the regular missions. Encountering a challenge you’re unable to complete gives you even more reason to progress further in the plot.

Besides, why wouldn't you want to see his pretty face again?

A well-told story implemented seamlessly is only part of bringing a character and world to life. The best way to engross a player is through the fundamental storytelling device exclusive to video games: gameplay.

Rocksteady ironed out a lot of the issues from Arkham Asylum, but not a lot needed to be done to the stealth sections and the smooth-as-butter combat. With a few tweaks here and there, these two crucial sections return better than ever -- which is great since they’re the ultimate reason Arkham City is a better RPG than Skyrim.

When I string together a 40-hit multiplier against a handful of thugs, three knife-wielding psychos, and a Titan, Ifeel something. When I perch myself on top of a gargoyle statue and execute a flawless plan to eliminate my enemies silently, I feel like Batman. Walking into a heavily-guarded room in Arkham City holds more possibilities than the whole of Skyrim.

An especially simple-yet-effective design decision brought over from Arkham Asylum comes in the form of a heart-rate monitor for each criminal. Being able to track the sanity of the enemies as their situation becomes more desperate reinforces the idea that this is reverse survival-horror and brings you closer to the role of the Dark Knight.

The problem with Skyrim is that it holds no surprises, and though you can get away with that in some franchises, The Elder Scrolls series relies on hiding how deep it truly is. The story didn’t matter very much in The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion because the world was so new and discovering its secrets and possibilities was enthralling. The reason most people put up with the awful combat mechanics in The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind was because there was nothing like it at the time. I could care less that Kvatch was burning and Dagoth Ur was chilling in some volcano.

Hey, your town will still be burning in like, 60 hours, right? Alright, I'll be back.

Bethesda has tried to recreate the feeling of discovery from Morrowind and Oblivion, but the developer should stop trying to recreate a feeling and start trying to simply produce it from scratch. Skyrim is such a safe game, which is rare for a series that broke so far from RPG norms.

Identifying with a video-game protagonist isn’t as easy as letting the player customize their character and setting them free in an open-world environment. Creating a believable world takes time, smart structuring, and subtle design mechanics. Unfortunately, I can’t find any of these qualities in Skyrim.

I don’t want to be a Khajiit reinforcing my own stereotype by being a slave/prostitute to just about anyone in Skyrim.I want to be Batman.

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Wait Arkham City is a RPG...I thought it was just action....


Edit: Nvm, roleplaying...


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BasilZero said:

Wait Arkham City is a RPG...I thought it was just action....


Edit: Nvm, roleplaying...

Well you play the role of Batman. I think the game does it damn well!

Because it works on the PS3*


pezus said:
BasilZero said:

Wait Arkham City is a RPG...I thought it was just action....


Edit: Nvm, roleplaying...

Well you play the role of Batman. I think the game does it damn well!

Havent played it myself so I wouldnt know but from what I've seen, I would say so, considering the fact you play a created character in Skyrim while the character in Arkham city was a pre-made character.


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If there's one thing that RockSteady deserves praise for, it's how they nailed the character of Batman in the video game world. Sure, it helps that Kevin Conroy gave his iconic voice to the Caped Crusader, but everything else, from Gotham City to Batman's own animations... those were on RockSteady, and they rose to the challenge.

*Minor Spoilers* There's this one part that sticks out in my mind as a true "Batman" moment. You're climbing up Wonder Tower to confront Dr. Hugo Strange, using all of your gadgets to climb the steel behemoth. And at one point, you use the elevator to continue your ascent. Once you reach the top floor and the elevator stops, you hear voices outside. Strange's TYGER squad is waiting to ambush you. Instantly I knew what Batman would do in that situation. I looked up, grappled up to the top of the elevator, and then used this new platform to drop down and sneak behind them. At that point the elevator door finally opened and the mindlessly started firing all their automatic weapons into the now empty elevator. That's when i struck. I was smiling ear to ear during that part because it was such a Batman moment. What an awesome game.

*End Spoilers*

Also, it looks like the Skyrim Pendulum is finally starting to swing the other way...

You can also be a kickass vigilante like Batman in Skyrim. Unless you take an arrow in the...

And yet it's still vastly inferior to Arkham Asylum.

these comparisions are always a one sided affair to try and prove a point. Someone could just as easily make a smear article about arkham city using the very same points this articles praised about that game.

Rocksteady despite such making such an extensive world, made it feel so linear by cutting off huge portions of the game until you unlock certain equipment which can only be gotten by progressing such and such amount through the campaign.

Batman's combat is rather bland by encouraging only one type of approach against each specific type of enemy. When I string together a 40 hit combo by mashing the square button and side side circle I hardly feel as though I accomplished something

Batman makes a lousy roleplaying game because you are given no choice but to go through the game as the dark knight beating all the same villians in the same order every time you play the game.

Batman's sidequests are outragously repetitive focusing mainly on either saving some random people you don't care about or solving a random puzzle that rarely requires much thinking.


I could probably make an article that very convincingly claims duke nukem is a much better game than bioshock and people who haven't played either game would probably believe it if that article is their sole source of information, but the truth is people might actually enjoy the apparant "faults" in a game and hate the apparant "good aspects" in a game. You really have to try both games before you can decide which one is better in your opinion.

enrageorange said:

I could probably make an article that very convincingly claims duke nukem is a much better game than bioshock....

So? What's the problem here?