As you may have read, my initial impressions of Batman: Arkham Origins were pretty high. Now that I have finished the game, well not completely finished but done with the main quest and boat load of side quests, my opinion has changed.
I am not saying that Batman: Akrham Origins is a bad game by any means but over time it seems to loose its sense of greatness. The game just seems to harken back towards ideas and designs from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City as it progresses.
Given that a new studio and a new team are at the helm as a developer I don’t blame them for playing it safe with tried and true mechanics established from the first two games for their take on the franchise. However, as a gamer I really wanted more from the third installment of the Arkham series of games.
It has been a while but I will try to cover all my thoughts in the format that I have done in the past by covering the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Batman Arkham:Origins. As always I will keep it spoiler free.
Like I said earlier I can’t fault new devs for sticking with what works in terms of a Batman game. If you liked Arkham Asylum and Akrham City then you will probably enjoy Arkham Origins. It is pretty much more of the same, you can sneak around, perform takedowns, use crazy gadgets to solve puzzles, and kick some serious ass with the amazing melee combat system. The game does a pretty solid job of once again putting you into the shoes of the cape crusader.
Aside from what is known about the game, the one thing that stands out to me is definitely the attention to detail within the many interior spaces of the game. True, most of the game takes place outdoors in the snowy town of Gotham City, which also looks amazing, but for some missions and sidquests Batman finds himself in tighter interior spaces.
Each interior area of the game is very unique with great details and some pretty awesome lighting covering a wide spectrum of colors. Along with great lighting, the interior spaces had great flow and with detail work done by artists and level designers each space felt quite real as if it belonged in Gotham. Perhaps my favorite location in terms of detail, lighting, and believability was the Batcave.
Given the narrative of the game, Batman is still learning to be Batman. The Batcave has all the right details to showcase this. The only main thing Batman has at his disposal in terms of vehicles is the batwing, which looks like a first prototype compared to future designs of the batwing.
Batman has the batcomputer which is easy to find, but if you take the time to explore the Batcave you can see some subtle story telling. There is an area for training with dummies Batman would use for training (the player can use these in game). Off to the side is a work bench where new gadgets are made ( and in game players can get new toys for Batman to use). Nearby is a makeshift ER room, with X-rays and a gurney, one could believe that this is where Alfred would patch up Batman every night after he dished out some serious beatdowns.
Further out from the Batcave the player can find the service elevator which leads up to Wayne manor. All of this is great but the icing on the cake in terms of visual story telling is seeing the iconic Batmobile under construction! If am not mistaken it same one that is seen in Arkham Asylum.
A flaw of this game is that it is more of the same gameplay we saw in Akrahm City. You go around the city fighting various low lifes and iconic Batman villains. The plot is decent but predictable, the basic premise is that Black Mask has put a price on Batman’s head, the first assassin to kill him before the night is over wins the cash. There a few plot twists along the way but nothing to cause your jaw to drop to floor.
On the topic of gameplay, nothing seems different aside from the crime scene investigations which are kind of cool in the way they are presented. Aside from that, Batman has pretty much all of the same tools and gadgets used in the same ways we have seen before. For example you still use the decoder tool to bypass locks or the explosive gel to create new paths. I would have really liked to see more from the new devs to create a new gadget or two for Batman and add gameplay mechanics around those new devices.
Combat is the same too, either you can jump into a pit of bad guys and beat the crap out of them or find sneaky vantage points above or below enemies to perform signature takedown moves.
The one thing that bugged me the most was that after every combat encounter a score was calculated on screen and converted into XP points. This felt too arcade like and at times can break the immersion. I am not aware of a way to turn it off. I understand the reasoning for the points and XP is to help me level up to new Batman gear and combat moves, but I would have rather had that be behind the scenes rather than on screen for each combat. If anything it should be a player option, arcade mode with points and numbers or pure immersion Batman mode.
In summary there is not a lot of innovation from the gameplay front. But if you dig the combat of the past two games it feels very familiar and easy to get back into the swing of things with the controls and combat of Arkham Origins.
You may recall a while back I wrote a blog post on boss fight designs and what sets a part the most iconic boss fights from the worst boss fights. In that post I also mentioned that making boss fights is hard and in most cases some places have a dedicated boss fight designer as creating boss fights and creating a great boss fight is not an easy task. (blog post can be found here) Well sadly, in my opinion Batman: Akrham Origins has some pretty bad boss fights. It is perhaps the worst part of the game when you encounter an iconic villain to fight.
Batman: Akrham Asylum had some pretty cool and memorable fights. Sadly, Arkham Origins fails to hit any of those notes. At times some of those amazing boss fight beats are copied but not executed in the same way. Pretty much a boss fight in Arkham Origins boils down to the following rules. Dodge around a ton, wait for a window to punch the boss a bit, dodge again, follow the quick time events watch and animation play out and then repeat until the boss is defeated.
That rule or process does not feel fun in any way. And more often than not each boss fight will take about a few tries to get past because if you fail the dodge test or quick time events you take a ton of damage from the boss leading towards failure and eventually restarting the fights over and over till you finally memorize the patterns and timing.
Thinking back the past two Batman games had similar approaches to bosses but something that I can’t put my finger on is different and lacking. Not sure it was the overall presentation or execution, or maybe back then this felt cool and doing it for a third time against Batman villains now feels mundane. I don’t know I could be wrong, regardless the boss fights are quite bad this time around.
Along with the boss fights, near the end of the game, the combats seem to be dragged out. Yeah I know I said no spoilers but this a minor one. Basically the game kind of turns into room-combat-room very linear. Enter a space, beat up 20 people, walk to the next space beat up 20 more people… so lame and not fun in my opinion you kind expect more from Batman but I guess this was the signal from the devs that end of the game is near so tons of combat in your face.
In summary the visuals are great, the gameplay is familiar but not innovative, and boss fights are terrible. My first impressions were a 9/10, this was my knee jerk Batman fanboy rating. Now after playing a total of 22 hours of gameplay and only 35% completion (seriously there must a ton of fluff content besides the main quest and interesting side quests.)
Based on my review I would give this game 7.5/10. The game is not bad, but it is not great either. If you got the time, and are fan of the Batman games give it a try is least I can say. Also there is a MP part to the game. I have not tried it and can’t really say much about it until I fire it up.
As always I can be reached on twitter [at]mozidesigner, hopefully you have enjoyed my review of Batman: Akrham Origins.
Cheers and y’all enjoy your Thanksgiving break!