BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY - Easter Egg Analysis
Things I've gathered towards the sequel from play the blockbuster game Batman: Arkham City. Check it out!
An apocalyptic force will strike Gotham. Arkham City will collapse. The criminals and lunatics held within it (some familiar, some new to the series) will spill out into Gotham City and even further afield. And something even worse and and more far-reaching than even that will happen. Batman will fight to save the innocent and to save himself, in a story which will take in multiple playable heroes, two different, brand-new cities, and heavy themes of personal responsibility and vindication. Batman will struggle to contain the spiralling doomsday scenario, while also being forced to defend his very existence as Batman. Oh, and a face from the past will turn up to mess things up royally.
How do I know this? I don’t yet. Not for definite. But I am very, very sure indeed that I’m right about a lot of it. Since I started playing Arkham City at the beginning of October, I’ve been fine-toothing it for every detail, clue and teaser pertaining to the storyline of the next game. Rocksteady like leaving those in, you see. And there are a lot. Quite a few more than you might think, in fact. If you want the explanations for my predictions, and a whole lot more detail, naturally, you’ll find them ahead, starting with plot and themes on this page, before moving to settings, heroes and villains over pages two and three. But naturally, given how much of Arkham City's plot I have to discuss in this article, you should know that
Right then, shall we crack on?
Batman vs. the angel of death
This is the most important clue dropped by Arkham City. Azrael is in Gotham now, and his arrival means very big, very serious business. He’s the mysterious ‘Watcher in the Wings’ you’ll track across Arkham City in the side-mission of the same name, and when you finally pin him down he spills some really big revelations regarding Batman’s future.
In case you don’t know who Azrael is, he’s the near-superhumanly conditioned enforcing agent of a centuries-old secret religious society called The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. Originally a splinter group from the Knights Templar, The Order is a fanatical sect of religious warriors, not dissimilar to a holier-than-thou version of Ra’s Al Ghul’s League of Assassins. The centuries-old Ra’s actually hung out with the original Dumas. He once appraised him as a vicious nutjob. Yeah, Ra’s Al Ghul described someone else as a vicious nutjob. Depending on its intentions, The Order's presence in Gotham could mean big trouble.
Azrael warns Batman that from the ashes of Arkham, Gotham will burn. He tells him that despite his victory in Arkham, Batman will eventually burn too. He states that Batman's saving of this current day will directly lead to the events he warns about. Ambiguous. Apocalyptic. Fairly terrifying. Batman is definitely going to be dealing with something much bigger and further reaching than a bunch of whackos and street thugs next time.
Gotham will fall to Arkham
Here’s what will happen. Arkham City is going to burst out into the main city of Gotham. Walls broken down, every major crime boss, super-villain and street-hood pouring out to engulf the city. Everything points in that direction. With Doctor Strange and TYGER gone, Arkham City is effectively done as a secure facility. During Arkham City’s extensive end-game you’ll hear repeated thug ponderings regarding the future of the place.
One explicitly muses on the stupidity of re-housing them in increasingly large prisons, while another assumes that AC will be shut down. Looking back to the original Arkham Asylum from a high enough vantage point in the Industrial District, it’s clear that Poison Ivy’s plants still dominate the facility, making it a fairly infeasible option for relocation. But I think something big is going to happen before the Gotham authorities get a chance to make a decision on what happens next.
There have been earthquakes in Arkham City. This is referenced in one of the unlockable Arkham City Stories files in-game. That’s why around a third of the city is broken and submerged. Hugo Strange glossed over the disaster as a one-off localised incident, but Hugo Strange, frankly, was full of shit.
While I don’t think Strange was in on the earthquake, I do think that it was artificially engineered. In fact I’m sure it was in one way or another. Consider the following. The Cataclysm/No Man’s Land storyline from the comics (by which Arkham City is arguably inspired) concerns an earthquake which rocks Gotham to its foundations, culminating in the city being officially cut off and left to fend for itself. Although a natural disaster, the Ventriloquist attempted to take credit, under the assumed guise of the Quakemaster. With the Sacred Order of St. Dumas now keeping an eye on things, it’s no great jump of logic to assume that they might be responsible for razing Arkham City to the ground in punishment for the moral crimes Gotham committed against itself in creating the place.
The Order could of course though be here purely in an advisory capacity, to warn Batman. As reader linorn has pointed out in the comments, Ra's Al Ghul's mining operations in aid of re-securing his Lazarus Pit could be the cause of the quake, though that would still further establish the theme of man-made disasters. Either way though, Arkham City is a powder-keg waiting to go off, and someone is about to light it up. The earthquake is foreshadowing at the very least. And that eventual ignition is going to be partly caused by the fact that...
The Joker has escaped (and is a dad)
He has not died. He has escaped. The shock ending of Arkham City is powerfully affecting, but look back over the evidence. He’s spent the entirety of the game bluffing and double-bluffing Batman regarding his state of health. He’s The goddamn Joker. His M.O. is to play sick pranks to sadistic ends, and in order to manipulate people into doing what he wants them to. And now, at the end of Arkham City, Batman has carried him right out of the front door of the very prison he wanted to escape from. Coincidence? I don’t think so. This is all part of the plan. Life-restoring Lazarus Pits now exist in Rocksteady’s Gotham. They could be part of the plan too. If he’s even really dead at all.
The Joker may well be part of the impending cataclysm. He’ll almost certainly be part of a jail-break plan from outside the prison walls. His escape bid may even all be part of a greater conspiracy with a third party. But the really mind-blowing bit? He's going to have a kid.
Yeah. Harley is pregnant. Fact. And she'll have had the baby by the time the next game comes around. If you spot her positive pregnancy test before you complete the game, you'll hear her rather venomously singing to the baby over the end credits. Unless she's already had the kid and has been hiding it throughout the duration of Arkham City, that obviously sets the next game around nine months later. This will have serious effects on The Joker's relationship with Batman, trust me. But I'll get onto that on page three.
On the off-chance that he is actually dead though, expect to see Harley on the warpath, gunning for Batman and possibly responsible for the incoming destruction herself. She does, after all, threaten to kill "the whole damn world" in her easter egg lullaby.
Breaking (and replacing) the bat
Okay, a brief history of Bats and Az. The first Azrael Batman encountered was Jean-Paul Valley, a college student unwittingly groomed since pre-birth to become The Order’s enforcer. He eventually broke free of their control, joined Batman, and swung between hero and anti-hero for some time. Being utterly rock-hard, Azrael made a great ally, but after years of conditioning as an angel of lethal religious retribution he had an unfortunate habit of being a bit nuts and not holding back on the killing when the mood took him. That obviously caused big problems when he took over as Batman for a while, when Bruce Wayne had his back broken by Bane in the Knightfall storyline.
The current Azrael though, and the one specified by Arkham City in his unlockable character bio, is Michael Lane. An ex-cop and ex-Marine, Lane is a supremely screwed-up individual. Once part of a secret military/police project to create three new Batmen in case anything happened to the real one, he had his mind broken by the horrors of the nightmarish conditioning.regime. He was later recruited as the new Azrael by The Order of Purity, a splinter group of The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. Madder and more volatile than Valley, he’s repeatedly carried out vengeful missions for his employers and others, including a recent Ra’s-Al-Ghul-sponsored bid to detonate all of Gotham, should the city’s heroes be judged unworthy or impure.
The secret project that gave Lane his abilities though, was a dark and sinister one run by the equally dark and sinister Dr. Simon Hurt, a psychologist, psychopath, and otherwise very bad man. Basically, this guy makes Dr. Strange look like Patch Adams, and has been hell-bent on replacing and/or utterly physically and mentally destroying Batman for a few years now. With Lane so inherently tied in to Hurt’s “Ghosts of Batman” project, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of that stuff, at least thematically, bleed over into the new game.
Batman on the ropes? Certainly. An over-arcing plot to destroy him personally at the same time as he deals with a devastating, wide-reaching catastrophe? Yeah, that would fit. Hush is now, after all, masquerading as Bruce Wayne in Gotham, and will probably wreak havok upon his reputation. Rocksteady need to crank up both the wider threat and the sense of personal Bat-trauma this time around, having dabbled with the latter a few times in Arkham City, and Hush would be a good starting point. Don't forget either, that Batman was sounding seriously weary and almost defeated by his ongoing situation just before The Joker died.
And with both the previously-mentioned Azraels having been loosely involved in replacing Bats before (benevolently and otherwise), I certainly think that the probable all-out assault on Batman might well lead us on to some interesting developments in the playable roster. And I'll detail those just over the page, along with both the new settings A tale of two cities
The next Batman game will not be merely set in Gotham. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the game will need to scale things up again, but I seriously suspect that neither Rocksteady nor fans will want to lose Arkham City’s immaculately detailed, meaningful density of world for the sake of a sprawling GTA-style metropolis. Two smaller, more detailed hubs are a better option.
Secondly, there’s another location just down the road from Gotham that’s hinted at very heavily during Arkham City, and which is thematically perfect for the characters and themes I think Arkham 3 is going to make use of. But first up…
No more Arkham City. We’re talking about the real deal now. The wider city at large is explicitly referenced by Azrael as a target, but this makes sense regardless of that. One of the coolest things about Rocksteady’s world construction in their Arkham games is the way that they use geography to create a tangible sense of cohesion, both spatially and in terms of the chronological narrative progression of Batman’s story. In Arkham Asylum, it’s possible to look ahead from the island to the North Gotham coast, with the rest of the city - including the shimmering Wayne Tower - visible further off.
In Arkham City, set in North Gotham itself, we can both look back to the island and ahead to the rest of the city. Wayne Tower is again clearly visible, but despite its closer proximity it’s still unreachable. It’s a powerful but subtle method of narrative signposting, which strongly states that the greater Gotham is the next destination.
And if we’re talking about some kind of apocalyptic disaster, it will be really easy to use the destruction to plausibly cut down the available area of playable city, meaning another dense, intricate, compact design will be possible without the need for anything as unsubtle as invisible walls or roadblocks.
And that’s fine, because to make up the sense of increased scale, we’ll have…
Bludhaven is just down the coast from Gotham. If anything, its levels of crime, gangland influence and police corruption are even worse than Gotham’s. It’s also really important in terms of the characters and themes that I think the next game is going to deal with. And what’s more, it’s mentioned repeatedly in Arkham City.
Loads of the street goons reference it as you pass overhead, mentioning it as the place they want to go when they get out of Arkham City. They mention that there’s a lot going down over there, and even more state that after being thrown into Arkham City they’re now done with Gotham completely. Rocksteady could hardly be more blatant with the hints here. Similarly, the unlockable Arkham City Stories files reference Bludhaven repeatedly. The infamous but still-unseen Falcone mafia family have already escaped there, leaving the rival Maroni clan to their fate within the city prison’s walls.
Above: A map of Bludhaven. Game devs like large expanses of water, you know. Makes map and scenery design way easier
The mafia contingent of Gotham is an important part of the Bat-universe, but so far the games have concentrated on the super-villains. There are however, far too many physical references to both families in Arkham City’s Industrial District to expect this to remain the case for long. So what I reckon is going to happen is this: Bats will split his time between dealing with gangland troubles and police corruption in Bludhaven, while shutting down the more traditional (for him, anyway) carnival psychotics in Gotham. The organised crime contingent in ‘Haven will consist of the Falcones, the Penguin and perhaps Black Mask. ‘Mask has worked with the Penguin before, and it makes sense that they might team up again, given the Penguin’s ongoing feud with Two-Face as of Arkham City.
Need any more evidence that Bludhaven is going to happen? A few years ago it suffered a devastating disaster itself, as part of a comic book cross-over event which saw it essentially nuked and irradiated by way of a chemical monster named Chemo. I’m not expecting the same thing to happen here, but Rocksteady know their comics, and they do like remixing existing Bat-themes into new, reworked storylines. As for who will be exploring these two settings, I reckon there could be...
Up to five playable characters
A quick look at themes at play here, the comic storylines they tie into, and the current evolution of the Arkham series’ gameplay implies that we might have a bit more of an ensemble piece on the go next time around.
First and most simply, with Catwoman Rocksteady have now established that switching between multiple characters and interweaving plotlines is both acceptable and something they can pull off rather smoothly in a Batman game. If we’re looking at a story playing out over two different cities this time, character switching to run parallel plot-lines will be easy to fit in. See the Catwoman stuff in Arkham City as a dry-run teaser of what they’re planning. Rocksteady have also dropped in more characters from the extended Batman Family, namely Tim Drake’s Robin and Dick Grayson’s Nightwing. Robin turns up (briefly) in the main story, Nightwing just pops up as a DLC character in the challenge maps. But both are fully formed, playable characters with their own move-sets and gameplay styles. That’s a lot of work for Rocksteady to put in for such relatively brief appearances. This won’t be the last we see of them. Overall, aside from Batman, I reckon we’re potentially looking at a roster taking in:
Bludhaven is Nightwing’s adopted city. When Dick Grayson graduated from being a sidekick to a hero in his own right, he moved to Gotham’s neighbour and began waging a one-man war on crime and corruption, taking a job as a cop to cut out the rot from inside. He and ‘Haven are synonymous, so we’re going to be seeing a lot more of him in the main story. In fact the campaign could even be split 50/50 with he and Batman taking a city each.
Robin (Tim Drake)
That brief cameo in Arkham City’s main story was a definite tease, and it implied two things for the future. Firstly, it told us that yes, Robin is active in this version of the Batman story and he’s keeping a protective eye on Bats’ activities. Secondly, it hinted very strongly at a frictional dynamic between the two, Batman almost seeing Robin’s attempt to help as an interference or irritation. There’s serious dramatic ground to be explored there, especially if Robin has to help out Batman at some point. Which I think, all things considered, it’s now pretty clear that he will.
Don’t balk. I’m talking about a different Batgirl to the one you might be thinking of. With a definite period of Bat-history established here by having original Batgirl Barbara Gordon appear in her post-Joker-inflicted-paralysis role as Oracle (not to mention the presence of Nightwing and Tim Drake), things are very much ready for the appearance of the second Batgirl, Cassandra Cain. Trained from birth as an assassin, all understanding of human communication drummed out of her in order to boost her understanding of physical movement as a ‘language’, she’s utterly deadly (sometimes literally), and certainly classifiable as a dangerous loose cannon. Her personal traits perfectly fit the brutal tone of Rocksteady’s version of Batman, as well as the themes of personal crisis and redundancy that may come along in part three. Also, she’s spent a long time operating out of Bludhaven assisting Nightwing. Pencil her in.
Azrael has been everything from villain to hero to anti-hero, so there’s an equally good chance he’ll be an ally as an antagonist. With the Jean-Paul Valley Azrael having replaced Batman in the past (albeit in a way that got out of control), the chances of him being a replacement playable character - even as just a brief nod to that plot-line - must be very high. We're probably looking at a whole bunch of villain/anti-hero back and forth flipping from him, but I'm damnably sure he'll be playable at some point.
Anyway, that's the heroes. Who are the bad guys, and what will they be up to? Well, And the villains will be…
The only criminal to escape from Arkham City (you can find his escape route in the south-east corner of the Industrial district), Roman Sionis is now back within its walls, whereabouts unknown. The completely insane, sadistic crime lord and occasional cult leader is too strong a character not to use, and the fact that he has already escaped Arkham City once pretty much cues him up for a major appearance in Arkham 3, guaranteed.
The serial killer has now changed his own face in order to masquerade as Bruce Wayne in Gotham. His voice has even started to sound like Batman's, implying that they're both played by voice actor Kevin Conroy. He's going to play hell with Bruce Wayne's public reputation. And if he works out that Bruce is Batman in the process and takes the impersonation a step further... Ye gods, that's going to get unpleasant.
The Sacred Order of St. Dumas / The Order of Purity
These guys are going to be at the centre of an over-arcing plot. And that’s going to create major friction with…
Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins
Ra’s isn’t dead. Well he is, but he isn’t going to stay that way. Batman's dialogue with Oracle near the end of Arkham City virtually confirms this inevitability, as does the later disappearance of Ra's' body and the lockdown of his inner sanctum. Basically, Ra’s and the League are too big a storyline and resonate too well with the apocalyptic themes I’m expecting in the third game to be swept away so quickly. With the appearance of The Order, Ra’s has both a potential ally and a potential foe. Depending on which way he sides, he could be a major part of the next game’s plot, possibly even an ally for Batman.
And Talia's not dead either. Her body disappears too. And she'll probably be out for vengeance against The Joker. Also, with the Lazarus Pits now established in Rocksteady's Batman continuity, and a whole network of them existing in the comics, expect to be tracking down and destroying a bunch of them as a side-mission.
The Ventriloquist and Scarface
Very much tied in to the original comic book Cataclysm storyline (he was responsible for the earthquake) and definitely teased in the last two games to the point where he must appear in the next one. His mobster-styled puppet Scarface (who either embodies his violent split personality or possesses him with one, depending on whether you interpret any supernatural goings on or not) was seen several times in Arkham Asylum, and it’s explained in the Arkham City Stories that The Joker now has several replicas. The Ventriloquist’s whereabouts are unknown following his release from Arkham previous to the first game, but with Scarface now (temporarily at least ) without a master, he must make an appearance in the next game. Hell, if there are enough Scarface replicas, finding and destroying them might even be a side-mission or Riddler challenge.
If there’s gangland profiteering to be had, the Penguin will be involved. He manipulated the suffering inflicted by Cataclysm for his own gain, and he’s more than likely to turn up in Bludhaven attempting to do similar.
These guys are already in Bludhaven. We’ve seen too much of them in Arkham City for them not to be a big part of the game. They’ll be in it.
A crime lord and casino owner under the delusion that he is actually the actual Zeus, Maxie has never been one of the top-tier villains, but he’s a very interesting one. Doubly-so, given that the reference to electro-shock treatment in his unlockable in-game bio seems to directly reference the disturbing-as-all-hell interpretation of him as an electrified, emaciated pseudo-messiah in Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum graphic novel. His casino still (just about) stands in Arkham City, but he is missing. As his Arkham City bio states though, he can’t be far away. Given that he was one of the more notable escapees from Arkham when Bane tore down the walls during the Knightfall storyline, I’ll put money on him turning up in Gotham or Bludhaven in the next game.
The Scarecrow’s mask is visible on top of the wrecked overpass leading into The Joker’s compound in the Industrial District, but while providing a cool little easter egg (not to mention a solved Riddler puzzle), it also points the way to an even bigger hint. The barge a little way over into Gotham bay from the broken road is where The Scarecrow is hiding out. Head over there, unlock the deck-hatch with the cryptographic sequencer, and you’ll find grimy interior awash with insects, containing a solitary goon held hostage.
If observed, he’ll freak out and then die. Oh, and did I mention that the password to the hard-to-hack vessel is “City in Terror”? The Scarecrow is up to something big. Rocksteady have already referenced the Tim Burton Batman films with Arkham City’s snow and the broken bell at the bottom of the church clock tower, so there’s no reason a hint of Batman Begins’ plot shouldn’t turn up in the next game.
When he comes back though, things are going to get really interesting. Rocksteady have done a beautiful job in Arkham City of establishing the true, co-dependent, almost sympathetic nature of his relationship with Batman. We know that Bats would have saved him at the end of Arkham City, given the chance. We know that The Joker has probably manipulated the situation for his own ends (namely surviving and getting out of Arkham) regardless of that intended favour. The fallout will be huge. And it will get really messy when you consider the fact that The Joker will be a dad by the time Arkham 3 comes around.
Bats will have more reason than ever to hate him, but he'll also have more reason than ever to protect him. If there's one man who will do anything to protect the bond between parent and child, it's Batman. Similarly, it'll be interesting to see what action The Joker takes if his Batman comes under threat from another villain. It was, after all, The Joker who took down Dr. Hurt. That quiet protectivity goes both ways.
If the Joker is dead though (or hiding the fact that he isn't from everyone), expect to see Harley in a major villain role, possibly even the biggest threat to public safety due to the rage incited by the loss (percieved or otherwise) of her baby's father. Would The Joker really be so cruel as to let her think he was dead? If it fitted his larger plan, of course he would. He's The Joker.
I guessed he’d be in Arkham City, but I still reckon he’s going to make an appearance. In fact, given his absence from the current game I’m even more sure that he’ll turn up in a big way. Long story short: Jason was the second Robin, (temporarily) killed by The Joker after Batman failed to save him. He eventually returned, insane and vengeful, and determined to destroy them both. Given the timeframe of Bat-history sketched out by Rocksteady here, his non-appearance sticks out like a batarang in a tight jeans pocket, so I can’t help but suspect that Rocksteady are saving him for something big.
He may even be responsible for all of the impending trauma soon coming for Batman. And hell, if he is, it will certainly give Batman and The Joker a seriously interesting shared enemy through which to explore their relationship. Not to mention one through which Batman can explore the guilt and sense of responsibility that’s just started to be hinted at in Arkham City.
After he died he was swept into a Lazarus Pit. Simple as that. He's back.
Could we definitely have an unlockable '60s Batman filter when we complete the game next time around, please? You know it would be brilliant.
So, that's my take on Arkham 3. What do you reckon? Anything I've missed? Any interpretations of your own you'd like to spin things with? Let me know.
P.S. Sorry guys, there would be pictures, but I am still unaware of how to add them.
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