I just wrapped up the main story in Batman: Arkham City, and according to my save I’m 35% of the way through the game. This is a good indicator of just how much stuff there is in the game - extra skills, side missions, Riddler tokens, challenge levels, all available to find and unlock through the city. I’ve heard from many players who just love this stuff (and if you are that kind of person then you will love Arkham City) but I wonder if there’s a tipping point where it becomes overwhelming. I picked up the immediately obvious Riddler tokens, and unlocked the grapple boost because it seemed like a useful mechanic, but rarely sought out any objectives not immediately related to the main story. I did enjoy how the Riddler almost made fun of the achievement-hungry when he first introduced himself.
In addition to all the collectables, you’ll find a plethora of characters from the Batman universe. More than I even realised there were - for anyone but the most hardcore of fans you’d be hard pressed to name a character not featured in the game. At times it felt like they were there just for the sake of inclusion; Robin shows up in one cutscene for the sole purpose of giving Batman an upgrade, after which Batman chastises him and shoos him off. Killer Croc is present, but only if you search pretty damn hard. In many ways the game seemed to be attempting the role of ultimate Batman game, but as a result of its broad focus some characters seem to be just thrown in for the sake of having them.
I did enjoy the freedom of exploring the city, at least when I traveled between missions. I loved the combat enough that whenever I’d see a group of enemies, I’d leap down from the rooftops to beat the crap out of them. The almost slow and deliberate combat system feels very tense, and allows you to go up against a crazy amount of enemies at one time. Eventually, as the combat got harder, I’d keep to the rooftops, but occasionally I’d hear a thug shout ‘yeah, you better run, Batman!’ and I’d be forced to turn around and teach him a lesson.
On that note, the conversations you hear around the city were really fantastic. There are several factions of thugs, and they’d talk shit about each other, or spread rumours about events that I’d witnessed, or sometimes just hassle each other. When I’d be sneaking into a room they knew I was headed for, they’d argue about how easy or difficult it would be to kill Batman once I burst in. Impressively, you hear a lot of conversations but they hardly ever seemed to repeat. Like the odd radio mention in GTA4, when I hear people in the world talking about events that I was involved with, it really helps make the world seem dynamic.