RETRO – „Always be yourself! Unless if you can be Batman. Then always be Batman!”. That is how the old joke goes though I think Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego would dispute. Our hero’s Christmas could not be any lousier: nowhere is the sexy Catwoman, his only companion is Alfred, the butler, but even with him he cannot have a peaceful breakfast, as a gang of killers are out for his blood.
Batman: Arkham Origins deals with the early adventures of The Dark Knight, that takes place eight years before Arkham Asylum. Based on the title you probably could figure out that Arkham City does not exist, although Goth City is not the place where I would go as a tourist at night. According to the game’s internal logic, though, the only reason there are still no civilians at night is because there is a curfew in effect, and only the criminals do not care about this. The logic of the developers was probably also not to mess around with the basics.
Always be Rocksteady! Unless you are Warner Bros Montreal or…
While Rocksteady has developed the Arkham series, Arkham Origins was crafted by a different team: Warner Bros Montreal. It seems that they were vehemently sticking to Arkham City’s old gameplay, as nothing has changed in that regard in Arkham Origins. We glide over a city that is empty besides the population of Earth’s entire criminal population.
We use Batman’s usual glide function or the grappling gun to navigate in the city. The movement system is rather impressive, but still not much has changed. The graphics are also excellent though the visuals do feel a bit samey after Arkham City, we do get to discover new buildings both inside and outside. Still those eight years did not change Gotham regarding aesthetics.
Ask and you shall receive
It also should not be surprising too much that the (otherwise stellar) combat system is still the same. We get a good paced, tactical and rather fast punch than with Arkham Origins. The only difference is probably that Batman has a harder time with the enemies, aka the game got harder because Batman is still a rookie a bit.
The boss battle against Deathstroke got sweaty by the end of it, although it was no Ninja Gaiden. The boss battles here are much more dynamic and exciting compared to the previous games. I especially liked the combat against the fire spitting Firefly. We also have parts where a lot of enemies will try to tear off our batwings, and in these situations, we need to defend good and conserve stamina. It is best to upgrade our melee skills, and our armor, but sadly even these upgrade options are pretty mundane and boring.
The good old Joker isn’t that young
Batman’s eternal enemies are also in this game: Penguin, Bane, and good old Joker is here. As this is an origin story, the developers allowed such ideas that this is the first time Batman meets Joker, who is a „new” show in town. Joker’s voice is, this time, Troy Baker, who does not disappoint regarding acting, and we could barely notice that it was not Mark Hamill’s voice. Just as how Roger Craig Smith did an excellent job as Batman instead of Kevin Conroy.
Rumors are that the reason for the voice acting switch was needed as they are working with Rocksteady on a big final epic sequel. The story is a bit rocky in the beginning, but later actually, in my opinion, becomes better than the two previous games. Although it still does not change the trend that the Batman games’ story is their strength. It is worth noting that not many people know about Batman, so we get to see scenes such as Gordon yelling at a news reporter „There is not such thing as Batman!
Is everything allowed for the defender of Gotham?
While Batman: Arkham Asylum was a linear level-based game, the sequel decided to go full blown open world game where besides the main story we had a lot of side missions to complete. In Arkham City, the side missions were fun and addictive (besides the Riddler collecting ones – I hated those). Unfortunately, in Arkham Origins, we have Riddler gathering missions again, but even the sidequests are mediocre here. I only handled those sidequests that were near the main story missions.
The most I did was the „beat up the gangs that are disturbing the peace” ones, I dealt with them quickly and moved on. The detective side missions were a bit better. We had to go and reconstruct the events with special gadgets. It feels like a fun episode out of CSI, and it is a shame that we do not get too many side missions like this. Between the city sections, we can travel with the Batwing but only if we neutralized the towers from the Riddler’s effect. As much fun the side missions were in Arkham City, they were a chore to complete in Arkham Origins. After a while, I ignored them entirely and focused on the main story and its missions.
Luckily the main story and quests are fun enough to ignore those pesky side missions. Warner Bros. Montreal did a fine job, although they did not change anything regarding gameplay. The graphics on the PC are excellent, the origin story, and the way the Batman universe was handled it is fantastic. Although Batman: Arkham Origins is probably the weakest of the three, it is still a fun TPS and a great prequel to the two games made by Rocksteady.
+ Interesting adaptation of Batman’s early career
+ Graphics are excellent on the PC
+ Gameplay is polished, and it is still the best
– Boring and unimaginative story
– Gets repetitive after a while
– Boss fights are insanely hard
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Inc.
Developer: Splash Damage, Ltd, Warner Bros. Games Montreal
Release date: 25. Oct. 2013.