In my earlier piece about Arkham Knight, I mentioned how I'd like to see Rocksteady try their hand at a horror game. So, I figured that I'd extrapolate a bit on that subject. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR ALL ARKHAM-GAMES! According to Wikipedia, Rocksteady has been responsible for four games since its founding in 2004. Those games are Batman: Arkham Asylum, City, Knight and Urban Chaos: Riot response. To me, this puts Rocksteady quite surely in the "untested" camp. They have showed great skill at making games, but they have also been under the cover of DC comics. Now I don't want to make it seem like DC is responsible for Rocksteadys success. They have proved their skill and credit is given where it is due. But! It would be cool to see them shed the protection of an established cannon and try their hand at something they cook up themselves. To me, that something could be a horror game. A really cool, truly terrifying horror game. So, let's break it down, shall we?
A Gothic setting
So, hear me out. The setting of Gotham in the Batman-series is not Rocksteadys creation, but the actual place in the game is. They manage to create a city that both feels huge and claustrophobic. When you're soaring across the skyline the building shoot up like towers of a certain evil ring-bearer, and when you're down on the streets, every corner feels like the wrong corner. The place is big and open, yet still claustrophobic and confusing. If you would take the world of Arkham Knight, and but it in a game where you play a relatively weak character. Maybe just someone trying to escape Gotham during the events of Arkham Knight. You would get a survival horror game. All the pieces are there. Big and scary city filled with bad guys. You could even make the various super-villains pseudo boss-battles.
So, picture if you will, what Rocksteady could make with the skill and knowledge they now posses. They have already made a world that can be scary, all they need to do now is make a world with the intention to scare.
Scripting scripted sequences
Some of the most memorable sequences of the first game in the Arkham-series were the Scarecrow-segments. The way that the game would subtly go from "real world" to "fear gas hallucination" were at first glance seamless. The first time around in the game, I would argue that many players were taken off guard by these sequences. While it's hard to say that they were scary, they were "upsetting". It's hard to make a game where you play a "justice-dispensing-robot with gadgets coming out of every nook and cranny" scary, but Rocksteady found a way to make players feel confused and vulnerable. I would call this a success in scripting and game-design. Now, in Arkham Knight, we are accompanied by the ghost/hallucination of the Joker. He pops up here and there to pester us, and it feels surprisingly natural. He will be sitting on a ledge that you just grappled up to, he'll be standing in a hallway you just entered, or he'll just pop up out of view and wait for you to turn around. This, again, feels like a success in scripting.
Now, imagine if you will, a game that has you being haunted by something less comedic and way more sinister. The thing appearing much like the Joker in Arkham knight. Imagine also, that the game world is working against you, much like the Scarecrow-sequences in Asylum. Imagine the paranoia you would feel if all of this happened in a game where you were just a regular dude/lady, not a "justice-dispensing-robot". That could be a truly terrifying experience.
I really like Rocksteady as a studio. They show great skill at game-design. I just hope that one day we can see something that is their invention, through and through.
Horror-games can almost be seen as "one-trick-ponies". The idea is that for every scare you put in, you will get diminishing returns. You can only scare someone so many times until that person starts to figure out your game and anticipate your moves. Then the scares are no longer scary. I believe that Rocksteady has the skill and knowledge to craft an experience that will both be rich in scares and have last-ability, since they have already proved themselves very good at scripting and world-building.
Whatever we see from Rocksteady going forward, I am certain that they have the ability to make something truly compelling. I just hope that WB allows them the resources and room to make something themselves.