It’s almost eerie how closely the strategy guide for Batman: Arkham Knight mirrors the game itself. Like its namesake, the guide is super-sexy and packed full of delightful surprises. Unfortunately, like the game itself, the book starts to fall apart in the third act, holding it back from being one of the all-time greats.
The Collector’s Edition of the Batman: Arkham Knight strategy guide is elegance personified. There’s an air of mystery and sophistication with the simple black cover, and the lithographic title adds a dash of playfulness and fun. It’s said you should never judge a book by its cover, but when the cover is this nice it at least deserves a nod. The book also comes with lithograph prints of some of the game’s characters, as well as the Batmobile, all of which look absolutely stunning. They’re of a quality that it wouldn’t be out-of-line to proudly hang them on your wall, they look that good.
Things only get better as you start digging into the content of the guide itself, which is chock full of gorgeous art from the game and in-depth descriptions of both Batman’s abilities, as well as the foes he’s about to face on this particular Halloween in Gotham. As you progress through the game’s story the guide pulls out character profiles in order to quickly bring you up to speed and build a bit more color into the experience, as well as doling out tips and tricks for new abilities and gadgets as they unlock. All these little touches add to an expertly-paced, informative walkthrough that does just enough handholding without being condescending. It’s a fine tightrope, and the guide walks it expertly.
Another small but appreciated flourish is the guide’s ability to largely avoid spoilers throughout. Arkham Knight is a twisty, turny game and there are a lot of impactful moments that could be potentially ruined if you read ahead in a book that plays fast and loose with the story. Impressively, the guide largely sidesteps this, so even if you flip to the wrong page or read ahead a bit it’s unlikely you’ll have any part of the game ruined.
Beyond the main story the strategy guide also meticulously details each of the game’s Most Wanted side-missions, listing locations, strategies and special considerations for taking out each of Gotham’s most-dangerous villains in their respective multi-part quests. While the guide is comprehensive, this is also where the first imperfections start to show, as it sometimes fails to point out that specific quests cannot be completed until certain points in the game. If you’re the type of player who likes to take a break from the story in order to knock out some missions along the way it can be frustrating to hit a hard stopping point in certain missions because they’re functionally impossible to finish until later. It would have been helpful if the guide had broken down the missions by chapter in which a certain section could be completed, because as it stands now it just assumes you’ve finished the main story and are doing everything after Gotham’s primary threats have been thwarted.
As I tore through the guide I was debating whether this might be one of the best ever created, in spite of its minor shortcomings. I found myself happily opening it up every time I booted up the game, keeping it close for reference, and sometimes flipping to the Arkham Universe preview in the back, which contains even more great artwork and a look back at the series as a whole. It was all going so well, at least until I hit the Collectibles chapter.
In most games the collectibles aren’t that big of a deal, typically amounting to little more than an Achievement and maybe an XP boost if found. However, in Batman: Arkham Knight, they play a key role in the Riddler’s Most Wanted mission, which in turn must be finished in order to see the game’s full ending. Therefore, I was crestfallen when I turned to this section in my hunt for Riddler’s 240+ collectibles and found a slapped-together, painfully unhelpful guide.
First off, rather than utilizing the in-game maps and icons to list out where the various riddles, trophies, and destructibles are located, the guide instead opts to create its own maps with numbered, colored boxes to denote locations. This is already slightly confusing, as you have to juggle in your mind what the various shades stand for, and flip across multiple pages to find the corresponding entry in the guide.
More egregious than the lackluster maps is the barebones entries for each of the riddles, which are practically useless. Each entry is comprised of a tiny screenshot that provides absolutely no context, alongside maybe a sentence-long explanation of how to attain a given trophy, and that’s if you’re lucky. The entries are vague, cramped and mostly unhelpful, and the entire section is a massive disappointment. I very quickly gave up on this section entirely, instead opting for an IGN wiki since it actually provided insight on how to solve the trickier puzzles.
The Batman: Arkham Knight strategy guide does almost everything right, with a big emphasis on the almost. Still, it’s one of the more informative, helpful and ridiculously good-looking books out there, so it’s easy to recommend. The Knight is dark and full of terrors, but this guide will light your path.