Good evening. This post should make the gamers happy. I'm writing about my experience with Batman: Arkham Knight. It's the final installment of the Arkham game series. However, it's the first Arkham game I played. Naturally, I have both positive and negative things to say about it. I think it's nearly impossible to have a perfect gaming experience. Just relax and enjoy the read.
I usually start with the good news. There are actually quite a few positive elements about Arkham Knight. First of all, Batman is awesome! How can you possibly hate Batman? I have seen many versions of Batman through the years. This one is a very serious, dark, and stoic model. He tends to be pessimistic and is constantly haunted by nightmares. I find him appropriate in a comic book setting that caters to adults. He's not really a kid friendly type of Batman. I doubt the whimsical and kid friendly version would be effective in this dark and gritty game.
Let's quickly review the plot. Some of the elements are very interesting. This game takes place after the Joker died. The Scarecrow wants to cover Gotham city in his signature neuro toxin. It would be an apocalyptic event. Hundreds of people would tear each other apart. So, Batman needs to save the city. That's the basic center of the plot. It's simple, but completely appropriate for a video game.
By the way, I love this version of the scarecrow. He's creepy and diabolical. The voice work by John Noble is very good. This is the freakiest looking Scarecrow I've ever seen. He's downright gruesome and hideous. I guess his face was mutilated in one of the previous games. The Scarecrow's current appearance is ghoulish and he doesn't wear a mask anymore. I would show you a picture of him, but it might give you nightmares. Awesome character for those who enjoy horror films. His role as a villain is also excellent. Gotham city is in huge trouble if Batman doesn't save the day.
The gameplay is amazing and unique. It's hard to explain. Arkham Knight doesn't use the traditional hand to hand combat system that we see in most games. You have to combine physical combat, gadgets, aerial assaults, sabotage, and stealth attacks. I wasn't very good at learning the combo system, but some people can learn tactics to wipe out large numbers of enemies at once. Inherently, the gameplay should be awkward, but it actually works very well. The player can level up some of Batman's attributes, like his weapons, suit, and the Batmobile. It helps the gameplay become easier along the way.
Gotham city is gorgeous and dystopian at the same time. Arkham Knight has an open world environment and I fell in love with that part. You can maneuver through Gotham on foot, on the rooftops, and driving with the Batmobile. You can glide from one location to another and Batman's grappling hook is a helpful tool to make long treks faster. Many of the large buildings are fun to scale and make good launch points for gliding. Gotham is stuffed with both enemies and allies, increasing the difficulty while you progress through the story. For those 0f us who enjoy dystopian fiction, Gotham is an awesome environment.
Arkham Knight takes a lot of characters and elements from the comic books. You'll see classic allies, including Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, Oracle, Nightwing, and Lucius Fox. Everyone plays a very important role. Robin and Nightwing sometimes tag along with Batman, giving the player a co-op style of gameplay. It's a lot of fun. Likewise, you'll see Batman's classic villains. The Joker might be dead, but you'll still see him a lot. Other big characters include Poison Ivy, Two Face, the Penguin, Cat Woman, the Riddler, the Man-Bat, and several more. I love the artwork for the villains. They fit very well in the adult dystopian environment. I noticed one drawback concerning the characters. The game assumes you already know everyone. So, this game will be a little confusing for people who aren't familiar with the Batman franchise.
The game has a lot of fun and interesting side missions. They help you learn more about Gotham and its dystopian nature. If you take the time for side missions, it will make Batman level up much quicker. Some of the villains are only found in side missions. It's a good way to utilize the open world environment and explore various areas. Take advantage of the side missions because they're quite helpful and cool.
I'm going to bring up a topic that has both perks and downsides in my opinion. What about the Batmobile? On one level, it's absolutely terrific. It's a very powerful vehicle with a lot of abilities. The Batmobile can blast through walls, move in stealth mode, and even climb surfaces with a grappling hook. It makes a great tag team partner for Batman. In fact, some sections of the game will expect you to alternate Batman and the Batmobile. This version of the Batmobile is almost like an A.I. or robot. It seems to be very independent and can bail Batman out of trouble. I'm glad it's on our side. Now I'm going to transition into my less favorite parts. The Batmobile was my Achilles heel. In the more advanced levels, the player needs to have expert racing skills. I'm just not that type of player and it limited my progress. Some of the Batmobile levels are ridiculously hard. Many of the enemies are practically indestructible and can easily overwhelm the player. I found the difficulty lopsided between the Batman levels and the sections that only focus on the Batmobile. It ruined a great part of the gameplay.
One of the primary antagonists is the Arkham Knight. His fighting style, gadgets, and costume is very similar to Batman. I didn't like his character very much. He's whiny and has some type of grudge against Batman. The Arkham Knight plays a big part in the storyline and it actually hurts the game. For example, the Scarecrow's part of the plot is solid and a little bit scary. The Arkham Knight's part of the story is much weaker and predictable. I'm going to spill a huge spoiler, so look away if you don't want to read this section. He's actually Jason Todd, one of the former Robins. Batman thought Jason was tortured and murdered by the Joker some time before the main storyline. That wasn't the case. After months of demented torture, Jason grew to hate Batman for abandoning him. For those of us who know the comics, it's very clear that Arkham Knight is Jason Todd. It's the most logical choice and the same vendetta. He's just called the Red Hood in the comics instead. Okay, you can read the next paragraph without any spoilers.
The gameplay is great, but it's easy to forget about the controls. I had trouble remembering a lot of controls when several days were spent away from the game. How do I use the Batarang again? Simple things like that.
I also got lost a handful of times. Usually, everything is very straight forward and the game includes a beacon that helps you navigate through Gotham. However, I ran around in circles several times, trying to find doors, secret passages, and whatnot. The open world environment is great. Problems arise during the main gameplay in much tighter or enclosed areas. I literally got lost for an hour once.
Here's a bonus. I'm going out on a limb, but it seems like Arkham Knight has some steampunk influences. It has zeppelins, anachronisms, a dystopian industrial environment, and the cyberpunk element of high tech versus low life.
Who else played this game? Leave a comment and tell us about it. Keep watching because I'm going to have a lot of posts this year. I'm attending several events, interviewing candidates, checking out several movies, and participating in the Steampunk Hands Around the World project. We'll talk more about that project at a later time. My second novel will also be released in 2017. Yeah, a lot of stuff is happening and that's a good thing. Enjoy the rest of your week and we'll meet again soon.
Thanks for checking out my blog for another fun interview! Today, I’m having a conversation with Nathan Seekerman from the Star Wars Steampunk Universe, aka the SWSU. Some of you are probably more familiar with his alter ego, Captain “Solo” Seekerman. He’s a very dedicated cosplayer and sci-fi fan who participates in a lot of charity work. The SWSU takes all of our favorite characters from the Star Wars films and gives them an elaborate steampunk appearance. How can we ask for more? Star Wars and Steampunk in one package. It’s a beautiful thing! Thanks for joining us, Captain.
Q: Some of us aren’t familiar with the Star Wars Steampunk Universe. What should we know about it?
A: The Star Wars Steampunk Universe is a charitable cosplay group. Therefore, our members donate their time and are not paid cosplayers. Our goal is to support a broad number of charities without becoming tied to just one specific area. It was three years ago when we were discovered by Lucas Film Ltd. and given permission to be the only charity group who was approved to use the trademark name Star Wars as part of our group name. From then on, we were assigned a contact at LFL to help us offer our support to charity events. This also has allowed us to raise money for those charities and we can boast several thousands for 2016. It’s our hope to do even more in 2017.
Q: I know the SWSU runs charity work sometimes. What causes do you support?
A: We have supported some of my favorite charities like the Salvation Army that gave food and clothes to my grandmother when she was a child in great need. Other charities have included Deaf Awareness, ALS Fundraiser, Autism Awareness, Boys and Girls Club and even Make-A-Wish invited our group to come out and support their annual events twice last year.
We are based in SoCal, so we have done events as far North as Turlock and all the way South to San Diego. With members living in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, it has been possible for SWSU to attend multiple events in one day. Another great event was the STEM Fair which supports creativity and technology among our young students.
Q: How big is the SWSU? Do you have a lot of members from various areas?
A: We are still growing with 20 members in SoCal, but we have new prospects coming into the group all the time. The process is simple, - We ask that you create a Star Wars Steampunk mashup and come join the group with no expectations. If you have a fun time and enjoy our camaraderie, then we hope you will join us again. We are mostly organized via Facebook Forum where we post all our events and Facebook messaging lets us communicate quickly during hectic conventions should there be a media request. And when we first meet someone at a convention or online, we tell them about our charity events as the priority because Comic Cons are best promoting what we do.
From the members, we look for interest and creativity which has led to some really great dynamics. We include siblings, parents with kids, and a broad spectrum of backgrounds. Some have a background in theater. Others are writers and myself, a programmer. Therefore, we combine our collective skills and help each other with ideas or improvements. I really enjoy talking about circuit board programming via Arduino or Plector Labs with my fellow member, Cog Bane.
Q: Who created the SWSU? I’m sure it started as a really interesting concept from a specific person or group.
A: I was attending “Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium” on the Queen Mary and met Chris Canole or Dude Vader. He suggested we pose together for photographers, since we could be opposing characters. Dude Vader was facing off with Airship Captain Seekerman, when a photographer said, “Hey, are you Steampunk Han Solo?” and Dude Vader said to me, “I told you this was going to be fun!”
He was right, and we continued into the weekend acting out Solo eluding Vader all over the ship. His idea was so strong that we organized a group of cosplayers to create Star Wars Steampunk photoshoots at a Train Museum. Kansas Johnson took all the photos of Baron Von Maul (Shaylor Duranleau), Slave Leia, Lady Sith, Luke Steamwalker (Esteban Sandoval), and Lando Chronos (James Graham). Some characters have stayed and others have come to join us like Sabé Sprocket (HotNerdgirl) Ahsoka Gira (Poppy Appleton), Cog Bane (Treb Padula), Lady Fett and Sir Chewy of Bacca (Rebecca and Matt Eusey).
Q: Let’s get to know your identity as Captain “Solo” Seekerman. Would you mind explaining the details about your steampunk persona?
A: When I created the character, I was thinking about ex-military as an homage to my grandfather’s service in WW2. The allure of airship pilots is where the military cap for my character originated. After deciding on the cap, then I started to outfit the character with a belt, boots, jacket and vest. With a military background, the Lanard X8 gun made sense and if an airship captain becomes a smuggler, then he might need a quick get-a-away with wings.
The wings took over six months to build because I had gone through many iterative ideas. Eventually, I found that an air driven system would be exciting and audiences could imagine they were steam powered! Then it was time to fabricate and a few months later, it needed lights too!
So my ex-military, airship captain is a smuggler who travels the world for adventure. Switching that description to the Millennium Falcon traveling the galaxy was not a far stretch, so I enjoy supporting the SWSU as their steampunk captain.
Q: I love your costume. The wings are so impressive. Did you hire a costume designer or was it the DIY approach?
A: The wings are a collaboration of many YouTube videos, some fabrication from designers, and my own creativity to make something unique. All the parts can be found online, so it’s just a matter of assembly based on what a person likes. I started over three years ago with this simple DIY tutorial - http://bit.ly/2j8qDBU. Since then, I’ve seen similar videos with even more detailed info, but in the world of Steampunk, there are endless options! For me, this was an expression of creativity that had no references to a comic book hero, so whatever I chose would be unique. Granted, it started out very simple with just a vest, boots, and an officer’s cap. The wings include fire extinguishers as jets and a jewel box holding a pocket plasma light
Q: What types of events do you attend?
A: For me and the SWSU, there are two kinds of events and all of them are volunteer. We attended several charity events in the month of December - Toy for Tots, Jefferey Foundation for Special Needs Kids, and the Shriner’s Hospital Toy Drive. The month before, we attended Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con (formerly Kamikaze Con) and the Palm Springs Comic Book Convention. Stan Lee is a particular favorite, since he signed the wings this year which became an invitation to do the Channel 5 morning News in San Diego with Stan Lee during the San Diego International Comic Con.
Ideally, we do events like the Wild West Steam Fest and the Oxnard Steampunk Fest where they asked us to judge the costume contest and we created custom charity patches. These patches are endorsed by Lucas Film Legal Dept. and are Copyright and Trademarked by LFL. This is part of our support from LFL as a sanctioned charity group who is invited to do events around SoCal like the Star Wars 1/2 Marathon happening in January.
Q: I’m more of newbie when it comes to cosplay. Do you have any advice for people who are trying cosplay for the first time?
A: We have one thing to offer all newbies - Please come talk to us or join us with your first cosplay. It’s our goal to encourage creativity and foster modern story telling. So much is online and getting over looked, but at a charity 5K or Comic Con, those creative souls will find kindred spirits who want to expand the creative process.
The most amazing creative places are the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) events or Maker’s Fairs. At these events, audiences are offered hands-on experience with electronics, CNC, 3D modeling, and laser cutting machines to help explore new ideas. Someone with little or no experience can see how these machines work and create something that day. These events are a cornerstone of steampunk creativity because it’s all about letting someone create whatever they want.
Q: How would you define steampunk? There’s no right or wrong answer. I just want to hear your opinion.
A: Steampunk is a mashup of two distinct elements - Steam is the power source in this sci-fi world and punk is the description of someone who is in a counter culture desiring change. Or the elevator pitch, “Steampunk is Victorian Science Fiction,” because we take many elements from the Victorian age and blend it into a gritty aesthetic that is intertwined with a Steam driven society. To make steam powered devices, it’s often akin to gears, oils, and exhaust of steam, so combining these elements gives you a rough and dark color palette that needs accents of color.
Notice I’m being intentionally vague, because in the end there is no wrong answer to Steampunking. You have to make it your own. I lean towards brass and leather elements, but always integrate some filigree or other textures in my Steampunk expression. Others have found that a Western slant is more to their liking. Our opinion - “There is no wrong answer, so give it a try.”
Q: It seems like steampunk is becoming more popular and inclusive. What are your thoughts about that phenomenon? Is it a good thing for steampunk to include a wide variety of people?
A: Steampunk will always find its way in and out of pop culture, since its inception back in the 80s. (This is a shout to a founding father of Steampunk, Tim Stone)
Q: There’s a never ending debate about the stylistic elements. Is steampunk a subgenre of science fiction, fantasy, or both? Again, I’m just looking for your opinion.
A: Steampunk can be a subgenre if it’s not the main style used, but our group is meant to portray a mashup of Star Wars and steampunk. But certainly both are science fiction because they are both fantasy worlds conjured from the imaginations of the participants. Unlike the 501st or other screen specific costume groups, we ask the person to find a Star Wars character and show us the steampunk version. Therefore, we encourage debate as a point of interest and allow others to find a character that fits their personality or design goals. This has made our group very friendly and welcoming to first time builders and even new members from other groups looking for something new.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: Growing the group and offering a place that welcomes cosplayers who want to do a Star Wars steampunk mashup will always be a group mantra. In 2017, I hope we can do more fundraising patches and double the amount of money we raised in 2016. Seeing those dollars go to worthwhile causes is extremely rewarding. For me, I must finally finish my SteamTrooper cosplay!
That wraps up our interview! I think you’re a really interesting and unique guy who’s doing a great job in the world of cosplay. Kudos for your efforts and best wishes for 2017!
I hope you guys enjoyed this interview. Nathan shared a ton of information about the SWSU, cosplay, steampunk, and more. His group brings a lot of positive things to the sci-fi community and I appreciate it. Please, leave a comment if you having anything to share about this post. Check out the links if you want to learn more about Captain “Solo” Seekerman and the SWSU. Maybe some of you will feel enticed to join their organization. Why not? They seem like a very open minded group of cosplayers who are using their creativity for good causes. Thanks for reading the interview and I'll write another interesting post next week.
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