The long-awaited reveal of the Gotham Knights trailer not only confirmed years of suspicion regarding the game’s title, villains, and release window, but it verified that Gotham Knights will at the very least take some inspiration from 2015’s Batman: Arkham Knight.
While the trailer may make it seem at first like Gotham Knights is a follow-up to the Arkham trilogy of games, WB Games Montreal has made it clear that its new Batman-less Batman game is actually set in its own universe unrelated to the Rocksteady universe. But even if that’s the case, it’s clear that Gotham Knights takes at least a little inspiration from the ending of Arkham Knight, which sees Batman activate something called the Knightfall Protocol, blowing up Wayne Manor and seemingly ending his life.
Since Batman’s death sets the stage for Gotham Knights‘ entire storyline, we’re going to examine what the Knightfall Protocol is and why it’s an most important event that set up Gotham Knights‘ own universe.
What is the Knightfall Protocol?
Near the end of Batman: Arkham Knight, Scarecrow reveals to the world that Batman has actually been eccentric billionaire Bruce Wayne all along. Knowing that he will no longer be able to serve the city as Batman now that his identity has been exposed, Bruce destroys the Bat-Signal and heads back to stately Wayne Manor where a small army of reporters is waiting for him. Bruce ignores their journalistic advances and heads straight to the front door. There, he is met by Alfred who asks him if he really intends to follow through with his plan.
Bruce must have answered in the affirmative since Wayne Manor explodes shortly thereafter. The impressive size of the explosion suggests that it killed both Alfred and Bruce. The “plan” Alfred was referring to was the infamous “Knightfall Protocol.”
The Knightfall Protocol was a plan that Bruce put into place sometime after the events of Arkham Origins (although he likely thought of it long before that). Essentially, he rigged Wayne Mansion and the Batcave to explode if his identity was ever uncovered. The idea was that if his identity was ever exposed, it would not only put those who were close to Bruce Wayne (as well as Batman) in greater danger but that it would increase the risk that Batman’s various allies would have their own secret identities exposed.
So how does killing himself help prevent that? While it seems logical that anyone who was interested in uncovering the truth could just dig a little deeper into Wayne’s connections and make some reasonable assumptions, you do have to remember that this is Gotham City we’re talking about. Batman’s identity remained a mystery for years despite a plethora of red flags neatly forming a path to Wayne Manor. Besides, we’re sure that the Batcave contained some choice files that Bruce didn’t want falling into the wrong hands.
However, the real purpose of the Knightfall Protocol may not be quite so simple as Bruce killing himself in order to encourage everyone to call it a day and go home. No, the true purpose of the Knightfall Protocol may require us to dig a bit deeper.
How Does the Knightfall Protocol Inspire Gotham Knights’ Story?
During the Gotham Knights trailer, we hear a newscast reporting on a massive explosion that soon confirms that the body of Bruce Wayne has been found among the rubble. This again seems to allude to the Knightfall Protocol despite the fact that the game doesn’t take place in the same timeline. Perhaps it’s just a wink at the Rocksteady games, but it’s obvious that WB Montreal wants to help fans establish a throughline between those Arkham games they loved and this new, Batman-less take on Gotham.
The trailer establishes that a coded message is sent to Bruce’s crime-fighting companions in the event of his untimely death. In that message, he tells his Bat-Family that he’s now relying on them to protect Gotham in his absence. He also informs his allies that he has left them access to his secret headquarters in Old Wayne Tower (the Belfry), which should contain the files and equipment they need to continue their mission.
This message seems to indicate that the Knightfall Protocol was as much about ensuring that Batman’s enemies didn’t come after Bruce Wayne as it was an attempt to ensure that Batman’s allies also didn’t continue to look towards him for a solution. Now that Batman is gone, Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, and Red Hood will need to look to each other in order to take down new threats to Gotham. Perhaps Bruce felt that the only way for his proteges to forge their own legacy was to make it so they no longer needed to rely on Batman.
Whether or not Bruce was right is seemingly what Gotham Knights will attempt to answer. Will Batman’s absence leave Gotham with more heroes than ever before? Or will his death spark a battle over who becomes Gotham’s next Dark Knight? Is Batman’s death just an elaborate ruse?
Those questions (and many more) will hopefully be answered when Gotham Knights is released sometime in 2021 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.