Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel to the popular Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, and was developed by WB Games Montreal rather than Rocksteady Games, who developed the other two games in the series (and are currently working on Arkham Knight.) The game, released in October 2013, follows Batman on one fateful Christmas Eve as he fends off eight assassins who are competing for the 50 million dollar bounty put on his head by the villainous Black Mask.
As if that weren’t enough, Batman also has to contend with a new force in Gotham as he first encounters the Joker (voiced in this installment by Troy Baker rather than fan favorite Mark Hamill, who played the character in the previous Arkham games as well as Batman: the Animated Series.) Baker, who has some previous experience with Batman voice work (he played both Batman and Two-Face in the Lego Batman games, and Robin in Arkham City) does a great job as the Joker. Though he’s no Hamill, he does not suffer for having to follow the BtAS star, and injects his own brand of riotous lunacy and youth into the character.
The freeflow combat that has become a trademark of the Arkham series once again returns, enhanced as it was in Arkham City by new gadgets like the Shock Gloves. Riddler trophies have gone the way of the dodo, apparently, though they remain in spirit through “Data Packs” left by a certain familiar riddlemaster who at this time just goes by “Enigma.” The opportunity to take on side-quests presents itself in this game as well, and while they are organized by a more helpful menu than the one in City, the quests themselves seem a bit more rote. Also, the relegation of certain assassins like Lady Shiva to sidequest rather than main story seems a bit cheap, considering that one of the major angles of the game is Batman’s fight against the eight assassins who are after him.
While we’re on the subject of assassins who got a raw deal, Deathstroke is much less integral to the game than the marketing made him seem. Considering that he was all over the promotional materials, even appearing as a DLC character (though only for challenge maps), it’s a bit surprising that he only makes a brief appearance in the game for an odd, countering-based boss fight, and then is never seen again.
The Arkham Origins DLC at present consists of alternate skins like those pictured above, one alternate character for challenge maps (Deathstroke), and the Initiation mini-campaign comprised of combat maps, which tracks Bruce Wayne’s journey through his training with the League of Assassins. Initiation is certainly a plus for fans of challenge maps and Batman Begins, but overall the Arkham City DLC runs circles around what has been released so far for Origins. Perhaps the addition of “A Cold, Cold Heart” at the end of April will change this for the better, but I’m not sure it’ll measure up to both “Harley Quinn’s Revenge” and the presence of a playable Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing in City.
I chalk up Origins‘ altogether not-quite-there-ness to the fact that WB Games Montreal had to split their time to accommodate the development of a multiplayer mode for the game. Honestly, I tried to love Origins‘ multiplayer because I wanted to believe it could be a fresh step in a series I already enjoyed a lot. But sadly, the multiplayer is a rather generic 3-on-3 command post based deathmatch between Joker’s gang and Bane’s gang. The inclusion of Batman and Robin as a third team trying to thwart the two teams makes this mode slightly unique, but these characters suffer from an imbalance of power. WB Montreal made the multiplayer a bit more interesting when they put in the “Hunter, Hunted” mode that gave all players only one life (rather than a limited number of respawns), but by the time this mode was included, many players had already lost interest in the multiplayer overall. Though I had a little bit of fun with Origins‘ multiplayer at the beginning, it’s definitely unnecessary to the Arkham games, and I’m glad to hear that Rocksteady Games has already announced that it will be gone for Arkham Knight.
Arkham Origins is not a bad game overall, though it definitely could have used a bit more time in development to add a bit of polish and deal with the game-breaking bugs many people encountered while playing it. It has some great comic book references, from a brilliant flashback sequence that calls The Killing Joke to mind to a cameo from a key player in The Long Halloween, and ties rather nicely to the rest of the Arkham series without stepping on the continuity of the previous entries by Rocksteady. It’s a good game for the $40 it’s currently going for, and if you haven’t given it a shot yet, it’s certainly worth a playthrough before Arkham Knight comes our way this fall. After all, before taking a look at the end, it’s nice to see where it all started as well…
Keep up with our “Video Games Week From the Batcave“ coverage, and be sure to check back later today for posts about Injustice: Gods Among Us! Also, for a look at the Arkham Origins Collector’s Edition, click here!