Batman: Arkham City is an excellent sequel to Arkham Asylum. If you are a fan of Batman, then I assume you’ve already played the standard game. Arkham City is just like it except it’s more and better. Go play it now, although if you haven’t finished Arkham Asylum and intend to then do that first or Arkham City will spoil the ending for you.
It is the Mass Effect 2 of the Arkham series. Rocksteady has improved the combat with more animations, gadgets, and moves. I particularly like the smoke pellet and I can remember panicking and dropping down into a group of armed enemies in AA many times, so it’s nice to have a countermeasure. The boss fights are also better here. They are challenging but not stupidly so, there’s always a trick involved and they don’t require multiple deaths to figure out. There are no hitpoint sponges. In general, the game does a good job of introducing new mechanics, training you to use them, and then building on those with additional challenges. There are no sudden increases in difficulty, and no sudden shifts in play-style.
I played and beat the game on normal difficulty, which is the mode I usually pick. There’s a hard mode which removes the counter indicator and makes the enemies more difficult, but I prefer to err on the side of too easy than too hard. After all, I mainly play games for the story and the experience of the environment, not for any sense of achievement.
Besides the combat improvements, Arkham City has similar pacing to Mass Effect 2. The game’s plot is a combination of urgent main storyline and explorable open world with side-missions. I know that mix of pacing really bothers some people, but I’m not one of them. If you prefer to just focue on the main story, most of the side-missions are completable after the main story mission is finished (and the one or two that aren’t are obvious, or were to me). In some ways that might be a better way of finishing the game, since there are areas you can’t reach until you get certain gadgets which you don’t get until you’ve completed sections of the main story. I spent a lot of time trying to get to certain Riddler trophies before I had the means to actually do it.
One item I was a little worried about was the number of villains being added to the game. As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I’ve seen several comic book hero movie franchises including fall prey to the “too many villains” trap, where they try to pack so much into a single film in order to top the previous one that they don’t have from for plot, dialog (beyond one-liners), or character. Fortunately, Arkham City pulls it off. The main story focuses on Joker, Penguin, and Strange, and they are all fleshed out well (although the Joker steals the show as always). The cool part was the side-missions which included Bane, Mad Hatter, Deadshot, Riddler, Zsasz, and several others. The Catwoman/Two Face side story was fun too. With the exception of Joke and Riddler, I enjoyed the shift in focus from Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Killer Croc in the original game. Hopefully in the third (I’m assuming they’ll be one) game Rocksteady can pull out a few more interesting villains for Batman to face off against.
So like I said at the beginning, if you liked Arkham City then Arkham Asylum is that plus a little bit more. More combat, more gadgets, more environments, and more villains.