Batman: Arkham Origins - Review


Arkham Asylum put Batman on the map, and Arkham City expanded the franchise and improved it on almost every conceivable angle. Now where does Rocksteady go next? Nowhere...at least as far as Batman games go.
After the highly successful Arkham City it was a tough act to create a sequel that could even remotely compete with the game's high quality and great storytelling that peaked with a fairly shocking (but fitting) ending.
Instead of a sequel, Batman: Arkham Origins represents a prequel of Batman's story which instead of Rocksteady is now in the hands of the developer WB Games Montreal.
Now, with a new developer being responsible, can Arkham Origins even remotely follow up on the success of Arkham City? Or is this prequel just a lazy try to capitalize on the Dark Knight's previous efforts?



Story
 

The plot:
"Arkham Origins' main storyline is set five years before that of 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum and follows a younger and less refined Batman who has a bounty placed on his head by crime lord Black Mask, drawing eight of the world's greatest assassins to Gotham City on Christmas Eve." 
(source: Wikipedia)



Despite its title, Arkham Origins isn't an origins story of the Arkham Asylum, nor is it really an origins story about Batman himself. It's sadly a confusing title that's just there to let people know that this actually takes place before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum.
However, Arkham Origins' story deals with a much more brutal Batman who slowly in the course of the storyline shows that despite his rough methods has a very strong codex of saving people's lives instead of taking them. No matter if the person is good or bad.
The struggles and hard decisions Batman has to face play a big part in the plot.

Sadly, Arkham Origins' story is also very very unfocused.
Whereas the premise of Black Mask hiring 8 assassins to kill the Batman in one night has been promoted as the big story this prequel revolves around, this premise quickly devolves into a subplot.
The assassins only occassionally show up and represent only minor annoyances in the true main storyline that focusses heaviy on pursuing the Joker (again).
In the course of the game in which the Joker is fairly quickly introduced as the main villain (that's no spoiler, it is already widely known), you actually tend to forget that assassins are even hunting Batman.
It really seems like WB Montreal was way too scared to rely on a new main villain or villains for their game so that they absolutely HAD TO make a prequel in order to get the Joker back.

Therefore, the promised and refreshing plot involving Black Mask and hired assassins, which has been a hugely promoted aspect of the game, became pretty much a farce in the final product.
It results in Arkham Origins' storyline being by far the most tiresome and boring of the trilogy.

Black Mask obviously wasn't popular enough.

Gameplay
 

Without a doubt, Arkham Origins is a Batman by the numbers experience.
The gameplay follows Arkham City's foundation almost in a 1:1 relation, whereas this represents one of its biggest strengths but also its biggest weakness.

In 2011, Arkham City introduced many different gameplay mechanics and gadgets that could all cleverly be put to use in specific missions, combat and made navigating and exploring the city so much fun.

Arkham Origins follows this concept but brings in as good as zero new own ideas.
Already known gadgets like the grappling hook, etc. all reappear in this prequel, whereas some supposedly "new" gadgets are just reskinned old gadgets with the exact same effect as in Arkham City (instead of a freeze gun, there is now a glue gun with the exact same function).

With that said, instead of re-explaining all of Arkham City's gameplay mechanics, which all appear in Origins again, let's just focus on what new ideas Origins actually did bring to the table and other important aspects:


Bigger Map

One of the new additions to Origins is a bigger map. Although this might give the impression that the city, which now representing actual Gotham (instead of a prison city), is now vivid with many citizens and cars roaming the streets, this is absolutely NOT the case.
Under the excuse of "being the evening of Christmas Eve" and "a hard winterstorm" citizens or moving vehicles are not present on the streets of Gotham.
With only groups of thugs inhabiting this supposed Gotham City, WB Montreal really did a lousy job in terms of the transition from Arkham City to Gotham. You as the player never feel like you are now playing in a new city with actual citizens but just a larger Arkham City map. And that's not what the game is supposed to feel like. Origins' depiction of Gotham just feels lifeless.

With a bigger map, there comes the problem of travel.
Travelling via Batman's gliding ability is good and all but Gotham is actually separated through a large bridge that becomes mandatory to cross several times, which very quickly becomes annoying. A more interconnected city would've done wonders.
However, WB Montreal therefore introduced specific fast travel points to which Batman can fly (or teleport) via his Batwing. While this is a pretty neat solution of the problem, not having the problem of such a unnecessarily huge, annoyingly layed out map in the first place would've been even better.
The fact that Origins' map might be larger but less filled with things to do makes all this even worse.

Bigger isn't always better.

Shocking New Gadgets

Looking back at the gadgets, there is (seriously) only one really new gadget introduced - the shock gauntlets.
After beating Electrocutioner, Batman is granted the villain's electrically charged gauntlets which serve as boxing gloves in fights. Batman can charge up these gloves through flawless combo-chains, after which he can activate their power. While the electro-punches make hard fights less annoying and are indeed a nice new feature, fights also sometimes get extremely easy with their help.
Specific maneuvers or tactics that you have to use in order to defeat certain enemy types become unnecessary through the gloves' defense-breaking power.
Still, it would be too harsh to say that they are overpowered considering some of the fights' difficulty.

K.O.!

Bossfights

Bossfights have been significantly improved in Origins and serve as some of the game's greatest highlights.
The subplot of Batman being hunted by assassins only becomes apparent through these boss fights.
There, Batman is attacked at specific parts of the story by either one of the assassins, which he has to take out in different fashions.
The fights themselves differentiate from one another but rarely break truely new ground. Whereas Deathstroke's fight is intense but ALMOST a QTE and Copperhead's fight is very well presented but pretty straightforward, it's Firefly's fight that truely steals the show with exciting set-pieces.
Still, none of the boss fights are extremely difficult nor groundbreaking in their mechanics and even get repetitive after you get down to the villain's obvious attack pattern, but at least in terms of presentation, they are right up there with Arkham City's encounters.

It's just really sad that none of the assassins reappear in the story after battling them in their bossfight, and some of them don't even appear in the main story at all. Assassins like Shiva and Deadshot get ditched aside into a side-quest. That's really a shame.
The only thing topping this waste of good villain-material is one specific assassin whose boss fight is laughably short.  It barely can even be called a fight. I won't spoil what assassin i am specifically talking about, but the short battle with this villain made me think that this just had to be a bug in the game...sadly it's not. That specific boss battle really sucks that much.

Dangerously close to a quick-time-event.

CSI: Batman

Another new and pretty clever feature is the enhanced investigation-gameplay. Aside from the already known scanning of crime scenes and evidence material, Batman's detective mode is now able to simulate certain murder-situations via holograms. Those simulations can be fast-forwarded, slowed-down or repeated to gather new information about how a specific person was murdered, where the person dropped specific evidences, etc.. While of course being still a very linear gameplay mechanic, it makes investigating much more fun than just scanning stuff lying on the floor. Additionally, this CSI-style investigation gives solving crime cases a much more intense and mysterious approach.  

The Lack of Love

The significant lack of Origins' own identity furthermore becomes apparent in the shocking lack of easter eggs and references. As a result, much of Arkham City's original charme is gone.
Along with the lack of easter eggs, there is only a very small amount of side quests to pursue aside from the main story. In Arkham City, side quests got put much love and featured fun short storylines, whereas the side quests in Arkham Origins feel tacked on and often a bit repetitive.

Bugs

One of the biggest issues with the game however are some annoying bugs that are present in various occasions. Specifically some game freezes, save game corruptions or game-breaking bugs (like one where you are stuck in a tower) raise questions how something obvious like this could pass play testings.
As far as i can say, this specificly revolves around the PC version of the game.

"Where were the other bugs going?!"

Multiplayer 
 
For the first time in the franchise's history it features a competitive online multiplayer.

While the multiplayer lacks variety of different modes, the main mode playable is just a mediocre third-person-shooter team deathmatch.
There, two teams of thugs (Joker's gang vs Bane's gang) compete in a common shooter manner. Additionally, two players of the match are given the roles of Batman and Robin, who are supposed to stealthily approach the match and take out the gang members from the shadows (or offensively).

Though getting picked as Batman or Robin is a rather rare occasion. The multiplayer turns out to be quite fun but gets repetetive pretty quickly and feels clumsily executed.


As already mentioned, the multiplayer really is in need for more modes to play to maintain attention by players. Only time will tell of Origins' multiplayer feature will hold up in the future. But as far as you can tell now, it's a fun new addition, but the fun only lasts so much with only one mode and its fairly clumsy execution.
It might be quite a bit too critical to call it as dumb as Dead Space 2's multiplayer, but it is definitely not necessary. 

Bring your guns with the necessary swag.

Graphics
 

Arkham Origins is (just like Arkham City) build upon the Unreal Engine 3.
Therefore it's just as beautifully realized as its predecessor. Only some very detailed minor tweaks have been added to the visuals but which only become obvious when going into detail.
Whereas the character designs and models seem to be a bit more detailed than before, the game has some weird habits of clumsily transitioning from gameplay into a rendered video cutscene. But that's just a minor complaint. 
   

Sound
 

Just like its original developer, the original voice cast of the previous two Arkham adventures are gone in Arkham Origins.
The new voice cast does a great job however. Especially Troy Baker who is now the new voice of the Joker does a surprisingly great job. His talent for immitating Mark Hamill's original performance is staggering. As a matter of fact it's so good that most people won't even recognize the difference if not listening closely or not being told. 
Also, Roger Craig Smith poses as a great Batman. Known for his performance as Chris Redfield from Resident Evil, he gives Batman a believable depth in necessary, emotional moments.
The remaining sound design just like the soundtrack are all solid fare and nothing too special.

You guys are in the "DANGER ZONE"!

The Verdict

Overall, Batman: Arkham Origins misses the chance of building upon the legacy of its predecessors and giving us a new Batman experience with its own identity.
With that said, Arkham Origins relies way too much on the gameplay, mission design and character foundations from Arkham City and doesn't bring enough new ideas and features of its own to the table.
At the same time, it would be too harsh to call Origins a "bad game". Just because it relies on the excellent gameplay mechanics of Arkham City, a great game is still in tact in Origins. The problem is that it's just nothing new and therefore gives the impression that you are playing a DLC rather than a new full fleshed out Batman game.
On top of that, the significantly lifeless city, ditched assassins-plot, unused story-potentials and only few interesting side missions, furthermore underline the fact that Arkham Origins is a disappointing prequel which primarily exists because it wants to capitalize on Arkham City's success.
Only the well presented boss battles, depth of characters (at the end) and tweaked investigation mechanics serve as welcome improvements and additions. But even those are still far away from justifying Arkham Origins as a necessary or good entry in the franchise.

All in all, Origins might be a nice excuse to dive back into the franchise with its great mechanics from Arkham City that are of course still fully intact, and in that regard, it's a great game. But even fans of the Arkham series will experience a disappointing deja-vu from the game's extreme lack of new ideas compared to predecessor.

               
          
  
 Final Verdict: 7 out of 10 

Status: Okay




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