Batman Arkham Origins Review – The Dark Knight Coasts
It can be scary when a new developer takes the reins of a beloved game series. There’s always that creeping fear that a new team equals a new misguided vision for the franchise, that the new team isn’t as talented as the team that made the series famous, or that they simply don’t know what made the prior games so great in the first place.
Let me be clear right off the bat when I say that all of those above fears are absolutely unfounded when it comes to Batman Arkham Origins. If nothing else, WB Games Montreal has done a spectacular job of taking everything that Rocksteady did right with Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, and incorporating it into this prequel that takes place during Batman’s early years.
That being said, one can’t help but get the feeling while playing through Arkham Origins that WB Games Montreal was perhaps so concerned about preserving the legacy of the previous Arkham games, the new team neglected to add anything of substantial significance of their own to the series, outside of a new multiplayer mode for which no one was really asking.
Batman: Arkham Origins
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3, PC, Wii-U
Developer: WB Games Montreal
Publisher: WB Games
Release Date: Oct. 25, 2013
MSRP: $59.99 on Consoles, $49.99 on Steam
Arkham Origins takes place during Year Two of Batman’s vigilante career in Gotham City. It’s Christmas Eve, and the villainous Black Mask decides to celebrate by offering up a $50 million bounty for Batman’s head. He even goes so far as to hire a team of eight assassins, ranging from mercenaries like Deathstroke, to psychopaths like Firefly, to monsters like Bane and Killer Croc.
Not content to just let the assassins come to him, Bruce Wayne suits up and sets out to take the fight directly to Black Mask. What follows is a much more personal story than prior Batman games; one that is less about the threats facing Gotham City and the rest of the world, and more about the threats that face Batman himself, and how he reacts to them as a relatively inexperienced rookie in the vigilante business.
Initially slow in starting, the story eventually finds its focus and hits its stride about a quarter of the way in, once Batman’s greatest arch nemesis makes his long-awaited appearance. The Joker shines here as he always does in the Arkham games, and it is especially interesting to see Batman and Joker’s first encounter and how they both react to the aftermath of their confrontation in very different, but also strangely similar ways.
Gameplay-wise, if you played Arkham City, you know what to expect here. This time the action takes place throughout the entirety of Gotham City, rather than the walled-off confines of Arkham. That being said, Arkham Origins doesn’t really do all that much with the added real estate, and as a result, the world feels bigger than it really needs to be.
To help players get around the larger world, Arkham Origins smartly introduces a fast-travel system that is similar to what you’d find in a game like Assassin’s Creed. There are a number of powered-down communication towers strewn around Gotham City, which can be restored by finding them, beating up the enemies guarding their entrances, and then solving a simple puzzle that opens the door to a hackable console. Doing so will open up a fast travel point on your map in that district, and allow Batman to use the Batwing to quickly drop him off in that spot.
Restoring towers is just one of many side activities to indulge in while exploring the city. Batman also has a “Most Wanted” list of villains, and can choose to follow up on one of their side missions. Each side mission typically has its own set of objectives and brief storyline detailing the villain’s motives, but ultimately they boil down to “Go here, fight/disable/destroy/collect this, now go here and do the same thing again.” Though, there are some standouts that I’ll let you discover for yourself.