Batman: Arkham Knight is a fantastic game — sadly, it's also the last entry in the series for the studio that created it.

Back in 2009, Rocksteady Studios wowed gamers with Batman: Arkham Asylum — finally, Batman fans had a video game to be proud of. Then, somehow, Rocksteady kicked things up a notch with Batman: Arkham City, a title many claim to be one of the best superhero games ever made. Now, with Batman: Arkham Knight, Rocksteady has managed to raise the bar yet again.

That said, no one wants to work on the same thing forever, and Rocksteady is no different. The studio has made it clear that Arkham Knight is their last game in the Batman: Arkham franchise — from here on out, it'll be up to another developer to continue the series.

So, with Rocksteady seemingly done with Batman: Arkham, what's next for the Dark Knight? Should fans expect another Arkham Origins, or is Warner Bros. going to leave Arkham Knight's story where it is and try something new? While there's nothing official yet (and probably won't be for some time), there are plenty of different directions the franchise could go...

Warning: Spoilers for the ending of Arkham Knight follow.

What's next for the story?

Somehow, the ending of Arkham Knight was left completely open while a lot of metaphorical doors were simultaneously closed. The Batman we know and love is gone — Wayne Manor has been destroyed, Bruce Wayne is seemingly dead and Gotham is left without its Dark Knight. It's pretty airtight... and then, that smoky Bat-creature pounces on a couple of thugs and the proverbial can of worms bursts open.

So, which way does Warner Bros. take the story? There are a few different ways the publisher could continue the Batman: Arkham story — though that doesn't mean it'll be easy.

The "Easy" Solution: Another Prequel

Frankly, it would be tough to include another game in the middle of the timeline. Batman: Arkham Origins may have been set several years before the events of Arkham Asylum, but with the expanded fiction in place, there's not a lot of wiggle room left. That's not to say there's nothing there — but it might be more trouble than it's worth. It'd be "easy," in the sense that Warner Bros. wouldn't have to worry about treading on the story that Rocksteady put in place, but otherwise, it could be a pain.

Ideally, a second prequel would simply focus on telling a great Batman story. Classics like No Man's Land and The Long Halloween are ripe for adaptation, and both have already been mentioned throughout Rocksteady's games. If Warner Bros. decides to go with another prequel, it shouldn't focus on trying to introduce more — it already did that with Arkham Origins. Just take the characters that fans already know, give them a good excuse to beat the snot out of each other and focus on a self-contained story.

The Likely Solution: A Direct Sequel

Just because the ending of Arkham Knight was bizarre and open-ended doesn't mean that Warner Bros. won't continue the story.

And frankly, Warner Bros. should continue the story of Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham games. There are so many potential avenues for that story: explore Gotham City without a Batman, focus on the Dark Knight's return, maybe introduce an entirely new character as Batman. All of these things have been done in the comics, and they all work as potential setups for an Arkham Knight sequel.

It'd also be a way for Warner Bros. to take things back to basics: Batman's arsenal in Arkham Knight is almost unnecessarily big; a game starring a new Batman, or Bruce Wayne rebuilding his empire, is a chance to slow things down and remove some of the extraneous gameplay elements from the franchise. Some fans still believe that Arkham Asylum is the pinnacle of the franchise, simply because of how inflated the sequels were — and Arkham Knight's ending could be the perfect opportunity to return to the series' roots.

The Long Shot: An Alternate Universe

Sure, Arkham Knight's ending left the story open — but why bother returning to it? Let Rocksteady's universe be its own thing.

Instead, use the framework of the Batman: Arkham games and try something entirely new. DC has introduced a huge number of alternate universes, each with its own Batman — using one of these alternate takes on the character could inject the franchise with new life. Sure, any game based on an alternate Batman would need a little more introduction than the Batman: Arkham games, but there's more than enough material there.

In fact, Warner Bros. was toying with the idea of a Batman: Gotham by Gaslight game before Rocksteady was brought on to create Arkham Asylum. It looked to be an extremely different take on the Dark Knight, and it's the sort of thing that could keep the series from feeling stale. If Warner Bros. is worried that Gotham by Gaslight is too niche, why not go with fan favorites like Batman: Beyond or The Dark Knight Returns? Both versions are hugely popular with fans, and Rocksteady has already laid down the foundations (Batman's gliding and Arkham Knight's tank, respectively) — why not try something different?

So — what about gameplay?

Of course, story isn't everything: Arkham Asylum was one of the first Batman games that actually made players feel like Batman, and the formula's stayed mostly the same throughout the franchise. However, as with the story, Rocksteady's departure opens up a few new possibilities when it comes to the franchise's gameplay.

First and foremost: if Warner Bros. continues with the open world setting (which they probably will), the worlds should start feeling like actual places — not just giant, empty sandboxes. That's not to say the Batman: Arkham games need to be filled to the brim with civilians, but there are only so many times a city can be completely deserted before it starts to feel forced (looking at you, Arkham Origins).

In addition to the occasional civilian, random events are long overdue. True, the side activities in Batman: Arkham games have always been great, but unless you're on a mission (story or otherwise) there's not much to do. It certainly shouldn't be overdone, but swooping in to stop a random mugging or taking down carjackers would be a welcome addition to simply beating down generic groups of thugs. Batman goes on patrol all the time — why can't players do the same?

When it comes to stealth, well.... everyone has different opinions. Some players loathe the game's Predator fights, others wish they had more opportunities to use gadgets, while still others think it's the perfect blend. In Warner Bros.' Arkham Knight follow-up, stealth doesn't necessarily have to change — that said, it should be used in new, unique ways.

Love him or hate him, the Mr. Freeze boss fight in Arkham City was unlike anything anyone had ever seen: it was a blend of stealth, environmental takedowns and straight-up beatings. Sadly, there was nothing like it in Arkham Origins or Arkham Knight (save for a single, arguably bland fight against the Arkham Knight himself) — clearing out rooms and beating down bosses is fun, but there's definitely room for more variety.

When it comes to combat, the gameplay is pretty much perfect. If anything, Batman's inflated arsenal could stand to lose a few upgrades — players are given more options than they'll ever use. Then again, Arkham Knight made far better use of the myriad gadgets than ever... but when there's so much going on that your fingers end up in a knot, it really doesn't matter.

Otherwise, it's more about unique setpieces and small tweaks than anything else. As with the stealth, the combat hasn't really evolved all that much over the past few games, and figuring out how to tie it into more unique situations, or into the environment itself, could keep the hand-to-hand brawls from feeling stale.

Of course, these rules only apply to the Arkham Knight sequel if Warner Bros. continues on in the Batman: Arkham universe. As with the story, venturing into alternate worlds could open up even more unique gameplay opportunities. It's not hard to imagine a Batman Beyond game hosting some sort of hacking minigame, or Gotham by Gaslight featuring only a few, low-tech gadgets. Again, it's a long shot — but switching up who Batman is could lead to some incredible setpieces down the road.

Who will be the next Batman?

Arkham Knight left Bruce Wayne's ultimate fate up in the air: the game's "True Knightfall" ending revealed that Gotham City won't be without a Batman for long — but is it the original Dark Night under all that mist, or someone else entirely?

Batman's identity is arguably more important than anything we've discussed so far: Warner Bros. has a seemingly endless number of options for handling the return of the Dark Knight, but narrowing them down probably won't be all that easy. Regardless of who's wearing the cowl, someone will probably be upset — so is there a right answer?

In all likelihood, probably not — but Arkham Knight definitely sets up some frontrunners for who will take up the role of the Batman.

Bruce Wayne, aka The Original

When it comes to pleasing the fans, Bruce Wayne is the easy way out. Yes, the Knightfall ending would become a simple bait-and-switch, but for Bat-fans, Bruce Wayne is the only true Dark Knight.

As we mentioned before, bringing back Bruce Wayne would also be a way for Warner Bros. to explain why Batman is suddenly at his weakest — it's not like someone can blow up their house and all of their possessions and act like nothing happened. On top of that, the "Batman" at the end of Arkham Knight looked a lot like the result of Scarecrow's fear toxin... could it be that Bruce is now using one of this greatest villain's weapons as a tool?

Dick Grayson, aka "Almost Happened"

Following his appearance throughout Arkham Knight, it wouldn't be that big a stretch for Dick Grayson (otherwise known as Nightwing) to take Bruce Wayne's place as Batman. On top of that, Nightwing's already an established superhero outside of Gotham, and he temporarily took over for Bruce during the "Battle for the Cowl" comic book storyline.

For Warner Bros., it'd be a chance to tackle a lighter side of the Batman mythos. We're not talking about something quite as campy as the '60s TV show, but Nightwing is almost like DC's Spider-Man: a wise-cracking 20-something who handles everything on his own. Plus, it'd be a rare chance for Warner Bros. to explore what happens when Robin doesn't have Batman to fall back on.

Tim Drake, aka "Definitely Maybe"

From a story standpoint, Tim Drake/Robin is one of the easiest options for Warner Bros. There'd likely be some backlash from fans, sure, but Arkham Knight already established that Drake is alive and well in Gotham. He was present at Bruce Wayne's unmasking during the game's finale — it'd make sense if he began using Scarecrow's toxin as some sort of pseudo-revenge for what Scarecrow did to Bruce Wayne.

There's one aspect that Warner Bros. can explore with Tim Drake that's exclusive to his character: the idea of a Batman with a family. His wedding to Barbara Gordon at the end of the game could be used as a setup for the next game, and seeing how they play off each other throughout could show a never-before-seen aspect of the mythos.

Jason Todd, aka The Obvious Plot Twist

Sure, Rocksteady handled the Jason Todd/Arkham Knight plot twist in a less-then-stellar manner, but it does open up the possibility of seeing Todd become a more active character in the Arkham Knight universe. Firstly, he'd provide an easy way to tie a prequel into the main story arc, as Todd was already "dead" before the events of Arkham Asylum.

Secondly, without Bruce Wayne's "No Killing" rule, Jason Todd using Scarecrow's fear toxin makes a whole lot of sense — then again, Warner Bros. probably won't be releasing a Batman game that's centered around psychologically torturing and then killing your enemies...

Regardless of whether or not fans want another sequel in the Batman: Arkham franchise, it's going to happen — the games make way too much money for Warner Bros. to pass it up.

That said, Rocksteady's done with the franchise, and that opens up a surprising number of opportunities for Warner Bros. and their development teams. While it's easy to assume that fans will get another Arkham Origins, there are plenty of different ways Warner Bros. could take the franchise and turn it into something new — all that's left is for the publisher to go ahead and take that first step.

If you're not quite ready to leave Rocksteady's take on Gotham City, the first major piece of Batman: Arkham Knight DLC, titled A Matter of Family, is set for release on July 14.


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