After the extremely disappointing day one DLC that came with Batman: Arkham Knight, my optimism about the stand alone Batgirl DLC from WB Games Montreal, titled A Matter of Family, was understandably shaken. Both the Harley Quinn and Red Hood expansion packs were pretty pointless and added little to the story of the main game, let alone the Arkham series as a whole. With my expectations adjusted, I actually found myself enjoying Batgirl’s playable debut in the Arkham universe, though those expecting a meaty experience with Batman’s female counterpart are going to be left still hungry after this bite-size mini adventure.
For the sake of disclosure, one thing I think helped me enjoy A Matter of Family more is that I did not purchase the $50 season pass for Batman: Arkham Knight. Though I had to wait an additional week to play it, I felt more forgiving of its brief hour or so length having paid just $6 or so for it as opposed to gambling on the season pass. I strongly feel that some may be harder on this add-on as they expected more for the pricey privilege to get things early, but I knew from my experience with the Batman: Arkham City story expansion Harley Quinn’s Revenge, of which this is easily comparable to, that I would be getting something very similar to that and thus further confirmed my decision that passing on the season pass was indeed the correct decision.
Set before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum, A Matter of Family charges Batgirl and Robin with infiltrating an abandoned amusement park where the Joker and Harley Quinn are holding hostages, including police commissioner James Gordon. Even though this takes place long before the events of Arkham Knight, I actually feel that this could almost be added into the main game as part of a cold opening in a director’s cut. Batman through the events of Arkham Knight very much wants to keep the members of his extended family safe, making some questionable, and even reckless decisions, in doing so and Joke here speaks about how Batman seems less focused because he’s distracted by having to look out for others than himself, something the Clown Prince of Crime would like to rectify.This is only briefly touched upon and I wished that it was explored in greater detail, along with other things including Batgirl’s motive for donning the mantle in the first place, something we’ve never seen in the Arkham games. Instead the only real story focus other than the task at hand is the budding relationship between Batgirl and Robin, and even that is only lightly addressed.
In both length and scope this expansion feels a lot like Arkham City’s, but what I like about this much more is that you have an entire new environment to explore, whereas Harley Quinn’s Revenge just took place in a smaller section of the title city. The setting of a worn down amusement park is a perfect fit for the Joker, but the story you pick up from the random conversations from the Joker’s crew is that it once belonged to a wealthy oil tycoon who constructed the facility as his daughter’s dying wish. This makes exploring the facility overrun by the Joker and his crew even more eerie than what it already is and it was already haunting enough in the first place.
The downside is that there’s not really a lot to do within the location other than complete the main objectives through a series of fights, predator encounters and a terrible final boss encounter. The only other extra activties are gliding around looking for balloons to pop, chattering teeth to break and music boxes to activate. That all being said though, this is still the Arkham series after all, and doing all of those things is still a lot of fun and if you’re like me and have already gone through the story twice already, more of this game will never be a bad thing.
When they introduced Robin and Catwoman as playable characters in Arkham City, they played much the same as Batman but had their own signature moves and gadgets. Batgirl really doesn’t have any defining characteristics of her own other than she can hack objects in the environment to take down foes, like electrifying a floor trap, or dimming the lights to perform her version of a fear takedown. These activities are unique to Batgirl, but they all feel like things I could do with other gadgets while as Batman, much like how the thermal suit in Cold, Cold Heart melted things instead of powering them up like the electric gauntlets; Technically a new skill, but not really.
In reading this you would think that I didn’t really care that much for A Matter of Family, but truthfully I did enjoy the short adventure, I was just hoping for something a little bit more memorable for Batgirl’s Arkham debut, especially form the developers of the underrated Batman: Arkham Origins. I hate to be one of those people who equate monetary value to enjoyment of a game, but from a non-season pass holders standpoint, a little over an hour’s more content of an amazing series for under $10 is a pretty decent value proposition.