Before there were Titan-enhanced monsters, Arkham Asylum riots and madmen in charge of super prisons– there was Batman – Arkham Origins.
Now, just like a lot of people (including new game developer WB Games Montreal)– I didn’t want to see Batman’s real first night fighting crime. As much fun as it might be to see him struggle not to trip over his cape or barely make a jump between buildings… That’s not my idea of a good game. Thankfully, WB Games skips all that, giving us the Dark Knight’s first encounters with many of his infamous rogues gallery instead. Major foes such as Bane, Joker, Lady Shiva, Mad Hatter, Killer Croc, the Riddler (and others) are all in the mix.
Before I mention any of my problems with the game, let’s talk about the things I enjoyed. First: The Premise. I love participating in Batman’s first interactions with his major enemies. It’s a very intriguing idea– especially when it’s done well. This game certainly delineates how his rogues take The Bat from an urban myth and shape him into The Dark Knight. It also shows just how much he has to adapt in order to survive. It’s completely different fighting common street thugs and mobsters than it is duking it out with “super” criminals– and the developers do a good job showing how Bruce Wayne is forced to up his game.
I got a real kick out of this early version of Batman. He’s nowhere near as refined– and much more brutal than he is in later years. You can really feel how angry he is at Gotham Society and its corrupt core… And no civil workers sicken him more than the heavily stained Gotham City Police Department. There’s hardly a G.C.P.D. officer who doesn’t have ties to the mob. They only do their jobs to a certain point– before allowing their underworld connections to influence their decision-making.
I also loved the “detective” gameplay. Batman’s “investigative side” has rarely been seen in any other media outside the comic books and episodes of Batman – The Animated Series… So it’s very refreshing to see it here.
Please Note! The following firmly wades into SPOILER TERRITORY– so if you haven’t played the game and don’t want to know plot twists and reveals… STOP reading and come back after you’ve played it!
Batman – Arkham Origins features one of the best Jokers not played by Mark Hamill. Troy Baker does a really good job with what he has to work with. So much so, he should be strongly considered to voice the character in any of DCU’s animated films. On the negative side, Batman voice favorite Kevin Conroy is not back for this game. Which is bad (for me)– even though newcomer Roger Craig Smith acquits himself more than ably. (If you really need your Kevin Conroy Batman fix, go play Injustice: Gods Among Us.)
Unfortunately, there are other problems too. I liked the game and enjoyed it for what it was– but my love of almost anything Batman can’t hide the fact that the writing for Arkham Origins is nowhere near as good as the previous 2 games.
I have 2 reasons why I believe this is so: There’s no Rocksteady Studios involvement and Batman video overseer/expert writer Paul Dini is nowhere to be found. Both are missed greatly. While the creators at WB Games Montreal clearly love the character and want to do him justice– they seem to be trying way too hard to live up to the last 2 efforts.
This game also has A LOT of foreshadowing and predictably. Sometimes this works out well (like at the end, when the Joker creates a riot at Blackgate Prison.) But there are plenty of instances where these story hints are unnecessary and even have the potential to ruin a gamer’s enjoyment of the overall story. Example: The foreshadowing of the Joker/Clayface baton switch with Joker/Black Mask– making Roman Sionis (Black Mask) a completely useless character.
Then towards the end, Bane takes a drug called TN-1– which is just a ripoff of the Titan Formula from the earlier Batman – Arkham Asylum game. This action makes no sense and brings continuity errors to the fore… Such as Batman telling Oracle (after defeating Bane) that he has NEVER come across anything like the TN-1 formula! (Not quite sure how the developers thought they could put that in this game and fans would let them get away with it.)
Once again, the Joker’s introduction saves the day… As writers Corey May and Dooma Wendschuh detail the relationship between the two arch-enemies quite well. Up to this point, Batman has figured out how to deal with the super criminals– but the Joker changes everything. The madman is nothing but a random ticking time bomb of violence and chaos for the sake of it– an insane adversary who kills, maims and tortures people to get a laugh. You can actually hear Bruce Wayne’s moody banter change to angry, confused, shocked and horrified as he reacts to the Joker’s senseless murders of hotel employees (and even his own henchmen).
Be aware: My pre-knowledge of the 2 creative forces missing from this game left me with a specific mindset NOT to get my hopes up. I knew whatever I got simply would not be the game I would expect from Rocksteady Studios or Paul Dini. As I am sure you’ve heard by now, the gameplay is pretty much a copy/paste of Batman – Arkham City… But this usually works since players can explore all of Gotham City. (The developers even add a fast travel option via the Batwing– so players can move quickly over large distances.) I’ll add the side missions and challenge maps are extremely well executed too.
And yes, enemies you encounter are exactly like the previous game and the (amazing) combat system is still in effect. (They kept my personal favorite from Arkham City– the Predator System– intact.) I always enjoy being stealthy and using the shadows to shock and incapacitate armed thugs. This all plays the same– and I’m actually grateful for that. But I had problems with several of the gadgets– like the Glue Grenade (which is a knockoff of the freeze blasts you’re given after the Mr. Freeze Boss Fight). That’s just one example, of course, and I did have fun with a few of the new fight tools– like the Remote Claw. (You acquire it after you defeat Deathstroke in an awesome Boss Fight– and it foretells how Batman got the idea for his line launcher used in the previous two games.)
Before I get too far bogged down with any other minutiae (I do love my Batman!) I think it’s time I gave Batman – Arkham Origins my rating. I’ll give the game 7 (out of 10) stars. The 7 Star rating is for WB Games Montreal having the balls to pick up the critically acclaimed franchise and then slavishly attempting to honor what has come before. But the game also loses 3 Stars for trying far too hard. The predictability was just a too much for even this Batman fan to bear at times.
What about you? Have you had time to play the game? If so, what do you all think? Comment below and let’s have a discussion!