Not too dissimilar to Arkham City, which is no bad thing I guess.
With Rocksteady stepping aside for this latest Batman game, the new studio of Warner Bros. Montréal takes control of the cape and delivers a prequel sequel that Rocksteady would be proud of. But is that only because the game is almost the same as the last Batman game? And is that a bad thing?
Arkham City was a damn good game, so why shouldn’t Arkham Origins replicate the formula to give gamers more of what they want, more of the same? Well, things need to evolve and gamers are an unforgiving bunch on the whole. If they expect something new, they had better get it. But, despite Arkham Origins obvious similarities to Arkham City, there are plenty of reasons to play the new game, one of which is that it is also a damn good game.
Gotham City is the open world setting for this particular outing of the Dark Knight. Arkham Origins is, as may have been given away by the title, a prequel and set before the events of both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. The Batman we come to play as in Origins is younger and less experienced, and even has a new voice actor who does a great job of bringing life to the Bat.
Despite being younger, Batman still uses the same methods in the gameplay. Combat has not changed for this younger Bat, with the gloriously flowing attacks and counters interspersed with dodges and such, making the player feel like a martial arts god with just a few simple button presses. The fast combat has always been a highlight of the Batman games, and nothing has changed here. That being said, the availability of certain gadgets later in the game does make the combat substantially easier, but at least the player has the choice to use them.
Stealth is another welcome return for players to enjoy, with the wonderful stealthy take downs available for the more patient player. Gadgets again play an important role in Batman’s arsenal, with a couple of new items being dropped in to keep things interesting, but not making that much difference. The chance to investigate crime scenes also returns.
So yeah, gameplay wise it is pretty much more of the same. It should also be pointed out that Arkham Origins has kept the same visual style and level of quality, which is something that should be applauded as it would be very difficult to make the game look any better, at least with this gen of hardware.
New to Arkham Origins is the open world setting of Gotham City. It is much larger than the previous playing areas, but missed opportunites have left it feeling less impressive. With a larger area, the player will have to spend more time traveling across the map. This has been countered by including fast travel points. But the missed opportunity comes from not including the chance to use the Batmobile to cruise the roads of Gotham. This is perhaps one of the most requested features in a Batman game.
Then there is the fact that this Gotham City feels underpopulated. There are plenty of gangs loitering around, and the player will be able to find plenty of secrets and little side stories to cause diversion from whatever they were doing. But this is supposed to be a thriving city, where are all of the Gothamites? Civilians are few and far between, and it leaves the city feeling lifeless.
The other missed opportunity comes from the story and where the developers could have taken it. Very early in the game the crime lord Black Mask puts a contract out for Batman, and the contract is picked up by eight assassins, including Firefly, Deathstroke and Bane. But, for some strange reason, this is not where the story focuses. Further down the line, The Joker turns up and proceeds to steal the show. And why shouldn’t he? The Joker is freaking awesome, even with his new voice actor.
But with some massive characters in the Batman universe available for the writers to play with, why were none of them given bigger, more impressive roles. Most of the assassins act only as boss battles and the criminal mastermind of Black Mask is completely wasted. Other adversaries, such as Penguin and Mad Hatter, make an appearance, but only in a cameo role. Arkham Origins has a wonderful roster of characters that would please any Batman fan, but almost none of them are used to any consequence.
And then there is the multiplayer component, the only real new idea offered in Batman: Arkham Origins, offered up by developers Splash Damage. Here we see a three way battle between the dynamic duo, Joker’s gang and Bane’s followers. It is an interesting idea and the enjoyable combat from the main game comes through in the multiplayer. But with certain characters coming across as far weaker than they should be, and the lesser numbers removing the satisfying flow to the combat, players are left with what is essentially a throw away multiplayer game. It is good fun for a while, but the mode feels added just for the sake of it and will lose any interest quite quickly.
Batman: Arkham Origins is a great game. It has a few issues, but it is utterly enjoyable. However, it could have been something really special if the developers had only pushed a little bit beyond the successful formula that Rocksteady left them with. Arkham Origins is worth picking up, just don’t expect an evolution in the series.