Dark Light

We dabbled on the topic of ‘black sheeps’ while discussing DooM 3 on The Noob Recommend last week. I was rewatching the entire episodes of Batman: The Animated Series a few weeks ago and felt the strong urge to replay the Arkham series. I have replayed the hell out of Asylum, started and stopped City midway through several times and overall had a bad time with Knight. That only left the embers of my interest smoulder for Origins, which used to be the black sheep of the franchise before Knight came along and screamed TANKMOBILE in everyone’s faces.

Batman- Arkham Origins is a curious product. 2009’s Arkham Asylum literally changed the perception of superhero games and 2011’s Arkham City did everything a good sequel is supposed to do; it refined the mechanics of its predecessors while expanding the scope of the series. Rocksteady was then hard at work at their highly anticipated conclusion to the trilogy and the publisher Warner Bros being Warner Bros, wanted something to fill the gap between City and its sequel as well as fill their pockets with some easy cash. WB Games Montreal, a subsidiary of WB, fresh off the boat from porting Arkham City to the Wii U was tasked with creating a prequel to the Asylum, one that would depict the early adventures of The Dark Knight and his initial face-offs with some of the iconic supervillains. Released one year later after City, Batman- Arkham Origins initially received somewhat mixed reviews but went on to sell a decent amount of copies. Today in the post-Knight era, Origins is reviewed more favourably than when it launched and is generally considered a worthy purchase.

There are no better words to describe Arkham Origins than by calling it Arkham City 2.5. It’s basically the same game but with a few new cool additions. It uses the same map of Old Gotham (with a few adjustments), the same movement and combat system, the same mission structure and the same original universe introduced in Asylum. So calling it City 2.5 is a complement. Even though Origins is re-using pretty much all of its predecessor’s assets, WB Montreal does enough to keep the experience fresh to a certain point. A good story, a few new gadgets, new enemy types, the best original Batman suit and a little bit more focused on the detective skills of the world’s greatest detective saves Origins from being a lazy paint job of City.

The biggest change in Origins and what sets it apart from the rest of the game is how the game depicts Batman. Set a few good years before Asylum, Origins show a more ‘green’ and aggressive Dark Knight and does a wonderful job on his character arc, especially his relationship with Alfred, Gordon and obviously The Joker. Kevin Conroy, the definitive voice of Batman ever since The Animated Series doesn’t return to reprise his role but Roger Craig Smith does a fantastic job as a young Batman and comes across as this angry and impatient haunter of the dark. His performance is so convincing that you never miss the absence of Conroy. The man who’s in every game, Troy Baker, also does a good job as The Joker, even though he stumbles in places trying to compete with the lovely Mark Hamil, the Joker of my time.

The story of Arkham Origins goes something like this- It’s Christmas time in the most terrible place to live in the face of this planet, aka Gotham City. It’s the Caped Crusader’s 2nd year of outing and he’s a myth to both the pedestrian and a large part of the criminal populace. Roman Sionis aka The Black Mask, the criminally underrated yet fantastic character from Batman’s stellar rogue gallery has put a $50 million bounty on Batman’s head and has hired 8 deadly assassins to take part in the race. Killer Croc, The Electrocutioner, Deathstroke, Copperhead, Lady Shiva, Firefly, Deadshot and Bane act as some of the prominent antagonists in this adventure. Even though most of them act as meh boss fights and a joke in the case of the Electrocutioner, Batman’s fight with Deathstroke is some of the most badass moments in the entire franchise.

While the story presented here is really engaging and fresh, Origins does succumb to the unnecessary want of using the Joker as the main antagonist….again. I agree that the game does wonder with the Joker, especially his encounters with Batman and their relationship but come on. You guys had the chance to give a lot of the underrated rogues their well-deserved stardom and sacrificed it for The Clown Prince of Crime once again. The story could have been The Long Halloween of Batman video games but just becomes yet another save the city from imminent destruction towards the end. But for WB Montreal’s first outing it isn’t too bad.

Gameplay of Origins is identical to City with a few tweaks here and there. There’s a far greater emphasis on using the detective vision to reconstruct crime scenes and solve them. But it just boils down to holding down a button when locked onto clues. Nothing too fancy. The freeflow combat is present without any changes. But Batman seems to have trouble connecting blows to enemies who are on the ground at random intervals, which results in the flow of combat being broken. The story of Origins takes place in a single frozen night in Gotham City imposed with a curfew. So you won’t find any friendly NPCs roaming around the map, which is understandable from a story standpoint. But the world feels a lot emptier and dead-er than the previous games for some reason, even with the added inclusion of random crimes. It’s probably because the banter between criminals aren’t as interesting or varied like in City and there is far less chaos on the streets.

Riddler trophies and challenges were some of the most interesting things in Asylum and City and are examples of how to do collectables right (even though there are like 400 of them in City). Riddler trophies make a return in the form of data packs but sadly it feels really out of place. The Riddler’s motive in Origins doesn’t make much sense and his trophies are just there to fill up the game world. You can see that even the developers weren’t really sure of having them here because most of the trophies are just lazily placed on top of random buildings and doesn’t require you to solve quirky puzzles to obtain them like in the previous games. A publisher demand, most likely. Even the rewards aren’t really worth it.

Then there’s the pointless multiplayer that was so forgettable it died on arrival. Making something forgettable these days is a bigger crime than making an outright bad product. The time spent on making the multiplayer mode no one played could have been spent ironing out the bugs and technical issues.

If you’re willing to look past these issues, Origins has a lot to offer. The story is great with a lot of Killing Joke and The Long Halloween inspirations, the core gameplay remains unchanged and remains fun as always, there’s a bazillion of difficult challenge maps and campaigns to test your metal (you could even play as Deathstroke there). And if that’s not enough, there’s the amazing Cold Cold Heart DLC which is possibly the best story DLCs in the Arkham franchise to try out. It’s more or less an adaptation of the stellar Heart of Ice episode from The Animated Series and gives the player an emotional story, neat environments and a cool (pun intended) new suit.

Overall, Arkham Origins is more of the same and if you’re a fan of the first two games, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try it out. For me, it’s the best Christmas game of all time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts