Familiarity is a double-edged sword.
Batman: Arkham Origins is the prequel to the highly acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. Batman: Arkham series is always famous for its compelling story, and outstanding gameplay system. So when it’s announced that Rocksteady will not be developing this game, and WB Montreal instead, fans are worried. At first glance, you can’t even tell the game was developed by a different studio. The same graphic, the same combat system and similar storyline. Heck, I can’t even hear the differences in the new voice actors unless I listen for it. But these are all the surface. Deep down, Arkham Origins doesn’t have the same layer and depth as its predecessors, and the game feels like a knock-off of the previous games.
The game takes place on the Christmas Eve in Batman’s early career. Black Mask puts a $50 million bounty on Batman’s head, and there are 8 assassins trying to claim it. Batman must stop these assassins from rampaging the City, and at the same time earning the trust of the GCPD and the civilians. It’s also a journey where Bruce must rediscovers himself, and understands that he is never truly alone.
The plot is great and intriguing at first, but it soon becomes dull and awfully similar to the previous games. It was great knowing that other lesser known villains might have a chance to shine, but when it turns out that The Joker is the main villains once again, everything goes down the drain. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Joker story like everyone else, but by this point, the entire Batman: Arkham franchise just seems like a long love letter from The Joker to Batman.
There are other potential villains to be the big boss in this game. It feels like WB Montreal really missed out on a great opportunity.
The break-out in Blackgate prison can get really redundant and annoying by the time the game is finished. First at the beginning of the game, one by the end of the game, and another one in Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate handheld game. This prison is way more incompetent than Arkham Asylum, and that’s a problem. The whole plot is way too similar to the previous games, and by this point, it just feels like WB Montreal is being lazy, and the game is just their way to make some quick bucks out of the popular franchise.
It is kind of interesting that we get to be in The Joker’s mind though. The little time we get to play as The Joker is perhaps the best storyline in the entire game.
Most of the plots in the game doesn’t really panned out in the main gameplay either. Not all 8 assassins make appearances in the main plot, and some interesting characters don’t have important role either. For example, we see a glimpse of Barbara Gordon in the game, but she doesn’t serve an important purpose in the overall plot at all. In fact, some of the side missions are actually more interesting than the actual storyline. My favorite one is the new Case File Report. You can scan clues in a murder scene and recreates the moment to find additional information. The result might always be the same where you have to go somewhere to beat up some guys, but the investigation process is really fun.
The gameplay is exactly the same as the previous games. You fight people with your gadgets, or you enter the predator mode and take them down quietly. I don’t remember how I felt when I was playing Arkham City, but I was really bored with the redundancy in this game. You either punch enemies or you hunt them down over and over and over again. There is not much variation to the game, and I was hoping something more to happen. Familiarity is a good thing, but too much of it can be boring as well.
I do enjoy some new gadgets in this game. The Shock Gauntlets is something your acquires from the Electrocutioner, and it charges up during battles where you can ignore all the special conditions from the thugs. No more riot shield, no more knives and no more armors either. It’s something great when you’re in a pinch. Funny though considering this is a prequel, why would Batman ever get rid of this gadget? Maybe it’s too powerful for his ethics.
The game is super glitchy. I ran into 3 glitches in one single playthough. One when Batman picks up a weapons, and wouldn’t put it down. He just keeps on admiring the weapons in a very creepy manner. Another one when Batman wouldn’t stop repeating a line where he needs to open a door that’s already opened. One more time when the level just wouldn’t load at all. These are all the severe glitches that requires the game to restart, not to mention smaller glitches such as loading problems, skipped frames or audio problems. The game introduced fast travel where Batman can skip through town with his Batwing. However, I haven’t done it once without running into some sort of glitch. Either the audio skipped, or no audio at all, the game will seemingly freeze sometimes but resume long after. The glitches are not too much a problem since the game saves all the time, but they can really frustrated the fun.
Mentioning fast travel, it can be really handy when exploring the city. I’m usually not a big fan of exploration, but the previous Batman: Arkham games have some really great Easter Eggs hidden in them. However, this is not the case anymore. The game only features limited Easter Eggs such as poster of Flying Graysons or Clayface’s movie poster when he’s still actor Basil Karlo. The coolest Easter Egg found in the game is the Zatanna show poster. Hinting a greater DC Universe, perhaps?
Also, while it’s understandable Gotham has no civilians in Arkham City, it’s eerily that there’s no civilians in Arkham Origins.
Batman: Arkham Origins isn’t the best game in the franchise. It lacks of new idea, and the story wasn’t as good either. However, it does set up possible and better storylines for the future games.
I haven’t play the online multiplayer yet. I might do another review after I tried it.
*Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate review coming soon.