Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: WB Games Montreal
Release Date: 10/25/2013
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The Batman Arkham series is probably the best superhero video game series ever created. Arkham Asylum really paved new ground for action games in general from the narrative, combat, and puzzle-solving aspects, to even stealth mechanics. Arkham City built an open world on top of this with crazy Riddler puzzles, many side missions, and a deeper more exciting world to explore, so where could the game go from there? A prequel of course, and after the Arkham City series fatigue started to settle in as it was a long tough game.
So, here we are with Arkham Origins, the Batman game no one wanted or asked for. It’s also not developed by Rocksteady so a lot of people became wary of the game including the original voice actors being replaced by younger sounding ones. This game is set only a couple of years after Batman becomes who he is and hasn’t met The Joker yet, Gotham PD has labeled him as a wanted criminal, and Bruce Wayne is young and full of anger. It’s nice to see Batman become a little more flawed and feel more fragile than before, but it doesn’t last long and I really wanted more depth to these younger characters.
Origins is kind of open-world and is more like a snippet copied and pasted straight out of City which I felt was too safe. The world is devoid of life, kind of boring to explore, and there’s not much to do outside of a few side missions and solving tower puzzles to unlock fast travel locations, which is also kind of pointless. The meat of the game is the story missions and they are quite a bit of fun here and there. As I stated earlier, the game plays it too safe, so the memorable cinematic moments from previous games are pretty much gone. You literally go from one room to the next jumping around, beating up bad guys, doing the occasionally flawed stealth mission, and then a boss fight.
The combat system is really starting to feel stale here, while it’s really good, bouncing from baddie to baddie and stringing up combos and doing instant counters, it just feels too repetitive. You can use your gadgets to get an advantage, but just mashing the attack button and countering works just fine so the gadgets felt kind of useless and I never felt in such dire straits that I was clinging to pixels of health and barely getting out of fights. The stealth areas also feel stale as swinging around the tops of gargoyles and waiting for the right moment to swoop in on an enemy, take them down, and scramble back up is a tiring formula, and again, using Bat gadgets felt kind of useless as no matter what you use the enemies are alerted and their patrol patterns are disrupted making it a cat and mouse game of open opportunities.
I also felt the stealth arenas just weren’t set up as nicely as previous games and lacked something unique about each area. Even the level design is kind of whatever with recycled content from previous games and absolutely nothing new to make this game stand out from the rest. I lost interest in finding data packs in each level, and the overall atmosphere of the game just feels dusty and dried out here.
Let’s talk about bugs and glitches. Even after all this time, there are bugs that caused my PC to completely crash requiring a hard reset, texture glitches that require game configuration file edits, and FPS drops out the wazoo even on a top-of-the-line PC. It’s unacceptable and the game almost became unplayable. The game also looks dated using City’s engine, but somehow not as good-looking. Textures are blurry in spots, and the animations are a little wonky here and there. The entire game just doesn’t feel as polished as the last two.
That’s not to say Origins is a bad game, it’s just unnecessary. Stuck between console generation cycles, and being released too soon after City was just a huge mistake. The story is interesting enough to keep playing, but it doesn’t stand out and just feels like a massive expansion to City rather than a prequel.