Earlier this week, it was reported that WB Montreal, developers of Batman: Arkham Origins, had cancelled their Suicide Squad game in favor of something else. While it sucks that we’ll never get the co-op game that we think the world’s Worst Heroes Ever deserve, what is possibly coming from them is something even more exciting. The game supposedly in development over there is said to be yet another Batman game, but this time playing as the son of Batman, Damian Wayne.
Originally arriving in the comics as an unnamed child in 1987, Damian was formally introduced into the larger Batman mythos thanks to Grant Morrison in 2006. Not only is he Batman’s son–and technically his only biological son in the current comics, to boot–his mother is Talia al Ghul, whose father Ra’s is the head of the League of Assassins. Having grown up with Talia and Ra’s, the kid is brought up to kill any and everything, later sent to live with Bruce because Talia wanted to interfere with his work as the Dark Knight. Over the last decade, he’s become Robin, beat up other Gotham heroes, been beaten up by other Gotham heroes, died, and come back to life. (Because comics.) The new Rebirth universe has him leading the Teen Titans, and he’ll be headlining a book with Superboy in February.
It’s easy to understand why the idea of making a Damian Wayne game where he’s Batman is so appealing to WB, DC, and WB Montreal. It feels like a logical conclusion to take a character who can’t help but constantly be in his father’s shadow, and it may also potentially allow for more flexibility on the comics publisher’s “no kill” rule they sometimes have with these characters. If this Batman is seen killing, they can just wave it off as it being his kill-crazy son (or being directed by Zack Snyder, whichever is more plausible). Plus, because Damian’s relatively obscure compared to the other Robins, it allows for plenty of wiggle room to develop him and bring him into the games proper. That being said, it’s that flexibility that should be the reason to make a Damian game where he’s not Batman.
Let’s be real here: Batman at this point does not need another game to himself. Yes, he’s one of the most iconic superheroes around, but a new entry for him coming just a few years after Arkham Knight closed out that series wouldn’t change the fact that DC seriously needs to diversify their games lineup. This wouldn’t be something entirely new, but a good testing ground to highlight a character that many people don’t know about. Plus, if we’re being completely honest, there’s not much that can change enough to warrant another trip to Gotham City, unless you set it in the future (which we’ve already written about before). Both Arkham Origins and Knight had us explore every inch of that city from top to bottom, and not even playing as the Son of Batman would be enough of a hook to go back there.
But, if you give us Damian in a new city (either a real life one, or a DC-made city that hasn’t been used in a while), you’ve got a great new smashing ground for our hero to go through. It also allows for Damian to establish his own identity, both on a game and meta level. For good and for ill, Damian Wayne is always going to be in his father’s shadow, and not even eventually donning the cape and cowl would change that. A city with no heroes but plenty of crime is the only way for him to truly strike out on his own and be his own man, something that Dick Grayson accomplished when he became Nightwing. At this point, Gotham isn’t really in need of more heroes, and Damian would likely leave for a new city because he thinks he can handle it. Through this, it gives the game two draws that would separate it from his father’s games: the inclusion of the Nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor (which would be perfect for a kid who annoys pretty much everyone he comes across), and giving Damian a superhero identity of his own.
Dick Grayson is Nightwing. Tim Drake is Red Robin. Jason Todd is Red Hood. Stephanie Brown is Spoiler. All of them were former Robins who evolved into their own identities (or in Steph’s case, returned to her old one), either by force or by choice; even Duke Thomas, who became a Boy Wonder because of a teenage movement, has now moved onto his own identity, and that kid has only existed for a little over two years. It’s more than a little odd for someone as arrogant and self-important as Damian to not have established an official name for himself at this point, even if you want to chalk that up to him wanting to cement himself as the best Robin of all time. In the comics, he’s currently a teenager, and part of being a teenager means growing up and trying to make a name for yourself. There’s no better way to show that Damian’s grown up and changed than for him to give himself his own superhero name. But, you know, do it at the end of the game to really sell that this is him definitively stating, “this is who I am now.”
Could a Damian Wayne game as Batman work? Probably, but it would ultimately come at the cost of diluting a character who could be more interesting if he were allowed to grow out his own identity. We’re already seeing gaming franchises revitalize themselves by having the offspring of iconic characters take the reigns, as Dishonored 2 and Gears of War 4 have shown us. What makes Emily and JD more interesting as characters than their predecessors is how they’re more than just pallet swaps, and it’d be more than a little disappointing if that’s what a Son of Batman game ended up being.