No worries at all! I understand how busy and hectic it can be handling us (on top of everything else you probably have going on!)
Now I'll go ahead and give MY feedback!
- What you liked
I loved how it was all sold as "one TERRIBLE night," in the same was Arkham Asylum was. Throughout the story Batman gets increasingly angry and short and that comes off very well. I actually really, REALLY liked the back-and-forth between Catwoman and Batman, and was hoping for a lot more of that. On that note, I have similar feelings to the Harley Quinn's Revenge DLC. However, I do think you guys were smart to make sure Batman was the main character and it didn't become "Batman and Catwoman: Arkham City."
- What you think improved
For the most part, I think your inclusion of other villains was better this time around. In Asylum, bosses would often times show up just for a few moments before you fight them and then disappear afterwards. In Arkham City, the villains felt more like an active part of the world that were involved and moving around, not just a convenient plot device to lead to a new boss fight.
- What your favourite part of the story was
Honestly, the twist ending.
Waaay back when Arkham Asylum came out, after running into him in the secure wing, I told myself that Clayface was going to be in Arkham City and that you guys were going to make it a surprise twist that we wouldn't see coming. I thought it would be perfect, clever, and easy to get a nice surprise out of. You'd think you were going to meet up with Catwoman and it would really be Clayface, that sort of thing.
Despite that, you caught me COMPLETELY off-guard with the twist, and did it in a much more beautiful fashion than a "surprise boss fight" like I was expecting. You guys really pulled that off very well. Kudos, kudos, kudos.
- What you didn't like
If you're scrolling through and you see how big this section is, don't think that I hated the game and didn't like it; as a matter of fact I LOVED it. There were only a few things I didn't like, but I happen to have a lot to say about them. AND, since the point of these threads is to help make a better game, I thought it prudent to spend most of my time on "things to improve for next time" instead of "I loved this, and this, and this, and this." =)
At the end of the game... there were a lot of big issues not at all resolved. For instance... uhm, what about the people of Gotham City? Many of them were infected with Joker's blood, Batman had TWO vials of the cure (one for himself, one for Gotham/Joker). He used his personal vial, and then Joker smashed the other vial. ... and then, Batman just... ... carries out Joker and leaves? What happened to all the infected citizens? We know Freeze didn't make more - Freeze says "I can't make any more than this, the process takes too long." According to Oracle, Batman, AND Joker, most of the citizens of Gotham if left untreated would be dead by morning. Why did it look like Batman just forgot about them and went home? That seems really irresponsible of Batman and very out of character.
I also didn't like Batman's wounds as much in this game as compared to Arkham Asylum. With the exception of the bullet he takes for Catwoman, all of his new wounds seem to be random and unrelated to the events that occured. In Arkham Asylum, you witness Batman get each new bit of wound or battle damage as it happens. In Arkham City, there'd just be a cutscene and Batman would walk out with a random new piece of his suit missing. I didn't like that very much.
Also, Protocol 10 was cool and all, but I was expecting something more than killing all the inmates. BUT, you know what? You sold me on it. That was cool. I liked it, unexpected.
But you know what I DIDN'T like? That there was a "Protocol 11," and it wasn't some contingency plan or diabolical plot, it was just... a self-destruct sequence. Don't give "self destruct" a really cool name that sounds like it's a plot twist when it's just an explosion, you got me all excited because I thought there was going to be more behind Strange than we realized.
FINALLY, in the drama of Joker's death, you kind of... uhm... forgot about Talia. I know Batman feels guilty about Joker dying and all, but he carries out Joker's body and just... ... leaves Talia's? If you want to say her body got snatched by the League of Shadows or whatever, that's cool, but you should have thrown in something to address it - Batman looking for her body and not seeing it, or something. Because it kind of looked like you guys just forgot Talia's body was in there >_>
- What could be improved
As beautiful as the ending was, and I absolutely loved it, I think you really shirked the real meat of the story in order to pitch it to us. The whole premise of the game, the whole intro sequence, the whole MYSTERY of Arkham City is: How does Hugo Strange know who Batman is? What is Hugo Strange going to do with Batman's identity? What is Strange's plan?!
But the game never addresses how Strange knows Batman's identity. Beyond Strange's threat in the opening of the game, the fact that he knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne NEVER gets brought up again; which is odd particularly given that it was the central plot device of Strange's character. Strange's plan is revealed near the very end of the game, but here's my other big grievance: Hugo Strange, arguably the primary antagonist for the entire game, only really is relevant in the very introduction of the story and the very end. At the very end, not only does his leverage over Batman mean nothing, but he is defeated in a cutscene. We, as Batman, don't get to beat him at all. And it's a SHORT cutscene. AND, Strange is revealed to have been nothing more than a puppet to Ras!
Now, that's all well and good - I LOVE Ras, he makes an awesome puppet master, and it totally fits his character. ... but you know what? Ras, as quickly as he is revealed to be the true master behind Arkham City, is also defeated in the same one minute cutscene. I was expecting Ras to reveal more of his plans, or some sort of a second, final showdown with Ras. ... but, nope. Two of the three biggest antagonists of the entire game are revealed AND defeated in the same one minute cutscene. It left me feeling like the whole driving point behind Arkham City went completely unresolved. Granted, this then got followed up by the amazing Joker ending, which, again, was AMAZING, but... ... I felt cheated by the conclusion to the Strange/Ras story. ... Which, again for emphasis, seemed to be the primary/main story behind the game.
FINALLY, a quick note on Harley Quinn's revenge. First of all, I liked it. SECONDLY, in the scope of Arkham City it seems kind of... odd. Nothing is really different after Harley Quinn's Revenge than it was before. There was no new twists, or developments, or ideas, it was just kind of... a continuation. Harley's mad, she's got Batman, go rescue him. It felt like after it was over... things were just the same as they were before!
Now, that's fine and well and good if what you're going for is to make mini Batman EPISODES, like of the TV series or a random comic. But if that's the case, you should have multiple random, self-contained episodes that don't really pertain to the main plot; more like a mini-series (show or comic).
If, on the other hand, you're only releasing ONE story DLC pack, and you proclaim it to be "Arkham City's Final Chapter," it should have some sort of impact on the story of Arkham City. But it seems like it doesn't, really. Like you could play Arkham 3 without having played Harley Quinn's Revenge and you wouldn't have missed out on anything (story-wise).
- Your thoughts on HOW the story was told
Part of this is actually sort of a follow up to my "what I liked." First of all, for as much as I loved the Catwoman side-story, it felt very disconnected from the main narrative. I can see why you would want to do that, but I think it would be a lot more engaging if their stories interweaved a lot more. For instance, after Catwoman got captured by Ivy I expected Batman would have a run in with Ivy; and thus Catwoman. I think having their stories interact and twist and weave a lot more would make their stories significantly more interesting and engaging to the player. I ESPECIALLY think this if you're considering having us play more than just two characters in Arkham 3 (IE Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin).
Something that I think would be particularly interesting is if you tried to sort of blend my above recommended approach and the approach you took instead (with separate, distinct stories). For example, you could have a Batman and a Nightwing story; Nightwing is over in Bloodhaven and Batman is in Gotham.
They'd start off doing their own separate things, but after a while it would become clear to the player (and then to the characters) that their paths would have to cross. So then they'd come together and their stories would weave and interact, and then maybe they could split off again. This type of dynamic I think would make the multiple-character stories more interesting.
As far as the main story is concerned (moving on from my comments on the Catwoman DLC), as much as I hail you for your inclusion of other villains, I think you could do an even better job next time. With the way the story was told, I expected more from each villain. Two-Face, for instance, you defeat within the first 15 minutes of the game, and then you never see him again (until the final Catwoman DLC mission, which I don't count). This was particularly bothering because 1) I LOVE Two-Face, he's one of my favorite villains. 2) You cast a GREAT voice-actor for Two-Face, and I was really looking forward to hearing him do more stuff. 3) His GANG continues to be a very active, powerful, prominent force in Arkham City after this point. 4) He makes a "you haven't seen the last of me, we're only getting started!" threat, which I thought meant he'd... be back later, with a plan or something. But we never saw him again after that.
Penguin I think you wrapped up fairly nicely, but I was expecting him to escape and have one last hoorah, too. Heck, maybe he and Two-Face would have teamed up to take out Batman? I guess what I didn't like about the way you handled the villains is it made the game feel very segmented. "The first part is the Two-Face part. The second part is the Joker part. The third part is the Penguin part."
I think it'd be neat if there was more ebb and flow - "You run into Two-Face at first, and then Joker, but then Two-Face is back for more. Next you move onto Penguin, but after that you have to track down Ras al Ghul. You think you're onto something, but Joker is back to bother you again. You put him down, and are back to your mission, but then out of nowhere is Two-Face again, and it turns out he's teamed up with Penguin to take you down!"
This would have made the game feel less like it was made up of clear, definable story arcs, and more like it was a living, breathing story where ANYTHING could happen and players wouldn't know which villains to expect next.
- Any Arkham Asylum/Arkham City comparisons, whether favorable or not
All in all, I think you guys did a great job with the open-world concept. The thing you have to remember is that when you make it a big open world like in Arkham City, you lose the ability to keep the narrative as tightly paced and engaging as in a game like Arkham Asylum where you can direct the player and have more control over the envrionment.
Perhaps for a third game you should consider putting some restrictions (at certain points in the story) on Batman's ability to do whatever he wants. It seems kind of silly to have Batman say "oh no, I'm dying, and Gotham is dying, and we only have a few hours to live... ... but I'm going to go rescue some political prisoners, hunt Riddler trophies, and maybe track down Deadshot." I recognize that is very difficult to do in a game where you want it to feel as open and free as possible, but I really do think the driving, primary narrative of your game would benefit as a result.
I THINK that about covers it. If I think of more to add later, I'll go ahead and make a new post. Please keep in mind that I LOVED this game, I think it was fantastic and it was one of my favorite games of 2011, I just think there are a few things to keep in mind for hopefully making the third Arkham game EVEN BETTER.
P.S. If the plot for Arkham 3 is going to be Scarecrow reaking havoc upon Gotham at large and the whole city becoming the asylum, I think you should consider the title "Arkham Outbreak."
P.P.S. It'd be swell if in Arkham 3 the mafia played a role, whether as an antagonist for Batman or Nightwing or whatever. Obviously Batman's rogue's gallery are more memorable and spring to mind easier than the Falcone and Thorne crime families, but the organized mafia has long been one of Batman's biggest enemies, and it'd be neat to see them play a role in a future game.
P.P.P.S. Seriously, why no Batman Begins/The Dark Knight Batman skin? Or "Armored Batman" from Arkham Asylum for that matter? Come on!
Thanks for reading, I hope you guys get something out of my thoughts here to improve the next game and don't think you've wasted your time. =)