Batman: Arkham Origins

Stay the course.

By Daavpuke, Posted 30 Oct 2013

We’re at an interesting time for the Batman license. Developer Rocksteady showed with its Asylum game that it could provide a modern crusader of top quality and then proved it wasn’t a fluke with the City expansion. Therefore, Batman: Arkham Origins has big shoes to fill, certainly since it also piles atop that the insecurity of another developer as well as the forced prequel story. Yet, while it doesn’t soar to the same heights, mostly due to technical discrepancies, the flair of the dark knight’s ever-looming threat is still present in his latest escapade.

Batman Arkham Origins, Review, Cover, PC, Steam
There is a lot of Batman punching stuff in this game.

A virtually real opening cinematic sets the scene for this adventure, where mostly dark overtones are offset with the blinding flares of spotlights and fires offer some of the only colors on a strange Christmas Eve. Crime never sleeps and in this story it actually goes into overdrive, by packing all criminals in the same spot. Villain quality, however, takes a backseat, as character arcs often don’t surpass merely toying with Batman for the sake of added challenges. As a series of introductions, it’s strange to see most villains merely bicker with our hero like bitchy teens. Better performances are kept for the main plot of Black Mask and its surrounding intrigue, which has a few surprising twists around the bend. Moreover, the Gotham expanse of smoothly crafted factories, snow-covered streets and luxurious buildings is enjoyable without a story. Gliding through the air amidst neon signs and steel suspensions is captivating enough.

Aside from being the terror that flaps in the night, our bat also needs to dispense justice in bite-size punch format on the cold ground. Combat follows simple, rhythmical flow to tap from one assailant to the next with ease. When prompted, counters can be performed to stay out of harm’s way and that keeps a multiplier chain going, which increases combo potential further. Additionally, gadgets can be tossed for even more versatility at fingers’ reach. To prevent button mashing, this seemingly basic system is put within a precise cadence, which requires keeping track of the environment to react accordingly. Even if counters up close are handled well, there may be a lone scourge using that moment to pick up a gun on the side. A good bat is aware of all its surroundings. Since being more apt equally favors experience that furthers character enhancement and unlocked content, fights become tensely satisfying to complete with increasing skill and possibility.

Batman Arkham Origins, Review, Cover, PC, Steam
Punching even more diverse stuff.

Building on enrichment, enemies also gradually add more tricks to their arsenal. From hulking giants to shield bearers, each demanding a singular approach, all at once. This will involve several tools, gradually collected as the story goes on. Boomerangs, electrified gloves, explosive gel; all are handy in a pinch and help take on Gotham, because the city holds a ton of mysteries. Aside from mostly indoor story missions that may require some ingenious puzzling or detective work, Batman is free to roam. There, the land expands on these puzzles by littering interactive content everywhere. These go from simply taking out electronics to solving elaborate puzzles or even coming oddly close to Superman 64 with airborne ring races. Aside from solid fight controls, this myriad of choice in a vast, open world is what keeps Arkham Origins exciting. Every small scrap is a step closer to an ultimate victory, which is a miniature achievement of its own. Extra challenges with certain actions in-game may add to that, though its fixed hierarchy of needing to complete the prior before moving on to the next may also make that feel contrived.

Even if only a few items are tackled, there is enough content to span a story across a dozen or so hours. During that time, several villains will duel with Batman, though not in a glorious manner that would be expected from boss fights. Instead, most break down the combat element to flashy pattern recognition without frills. Since hit cadence is reliant on a frequency of comparable, manageable foes, derailing from that sequence makes showdowns less interesting and more so as some criminals are awarded huge reserves.

Batman Arkham Origins, Review, Cover, PC, Steam
This dude is a total downer, but at least he's less boring than other side characters.

Further foibles lurk within some obfuscating level designs. While there are tons of cleverly hidden nooks and crannies in Gotham, many paths are also just hard to find. Finding objectives can be harder than it should, since maps show little information about what obstructions may be present. Furthermore, when in a struggle, the camera may not always confidently sweep along with the bat. It’s doable without and adjustable, yet adjustment would be better as an option, rather than a necessity. These are the things that can be easily forgiven when stacked against the ample aptitude that this game amasses.

A more troublesome aspect is the amount of technical glitches and game freezes that occur, which may even cause the game to break. Boss fights plain die or events aren’t triggered, which require reloads. As certain fights are encouraged to be taken out in stealthy situations and skulking requires more time, there may be a sizable portion to do over and that more than once. It’s still just as fun, but on repeat it does taste a bit stale.

Batman Arkham Origins, Review, Cover, PC, Steam
Justice is always watching. It's a bit creepy, really.

These issues can periodically also occur when engaged in multiplayer, but luckily its system is already based on waiting on lobbies for matches to start, so it’s less noticeable. Even more fortunate, the odd pairing of rival gangs versus crime fighters adds some surprise to the standard third-person shooter layout. Players are either put in the shoes of a crony for Joker or Bane, with two others playing the role of Batman and Robin. Bad guys are tasked with taking over control points with guns or fancy gadgets like explosive blimps, while heroes need to stop the fight altogether by knocking lowlife heads together. Furthermore, gangs can release their captains, each with their own extraordinary abilities, to gain a sizable advantage. Once one team is out of reinforcements or heroes successfully intimidate villains, the round is over and experience is handed out for that particular faction, which unlocks more appearances and trinkets. Pitting the dexterous heroes hopping between tiers against the original weaponry for villains makes for a cacophony that stays exciting, if only it were for its puzzling allure. It’s less clear why exactly this game needed this addition, but as a bonus, it’s as good as it’s going to get.


 

Despite some more troubling technical errors in the game’s functionality, Batman: Arkham Origins manages to stay the course with a mixture of many basic systems that work. It’s a convergence of skillful designs, creating a giant world that’s much more than the sum of its parts and has tons to offer anyone willing to get lost in it.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

comments powered by Disqus
  • Loved the first one, never finished the second. I think I'll wait this one out.
    Posted Oct 31, 2013
  • This is by a mile is the worst installment in the series, Arkham Ayslum/City were equally great for different reasons. Although I have Origins in my collection, I would only recommend renting it for those who loved the originals. I believe the probability of a second play through to be extremely low. It's not a bad game but it's not great either... Sadly...

    Gotta love the Beyond Suit though...
    Posted Feb 13, 2014

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer(s): Warner Bros. Interactive
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: 2013-10-25

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