A brief review of Batman: Arkham Origins could really be as simple as something like “Did you like the first two Arkham Batman games? If you did, you’re going to like Arkham Origins, because it is extremely similar (even if Rocksteady didn’t develop this one)” Okay, so only writing that would be somewhat unfair, but I warn you, everything you read below can essentially be summarized by the above.
You will read elsewhere that the similarities between Arkham Origins and its two predecessors, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, is detrimental, that the game series has hit the point of diminishing returns. I am not sure that’s true, at least in large part because this title appears two years after Arkham City, and not a mere 12 months. I think that Assassin’s Creed II and the rest of the Ezio saga that followed—particularly the final title—did hit that point and in no small part because there was always a new one coming out and none of the new elements that were introduced following Assassin’s Creed II felt worth the price.
To start at the beginning, as the title indicates, that’s exactly what Batman: Arkham Origins is – the beginning of the story. The tale takes place in the expanded world of Arkham City (as opposed to just the asylum of the original title), but before the events of Arkham Asylum. It is Christmas Eve and Batman is on the trail of Black Mask who, it seems, has hired a whole bunch of deadly assassins try to take out our hero.
Batman is a young hero at this point, only having taken the cowl to years ago. Gordon isn’t the commissioner; there is only Nigma, no Riddler; and our hero hasn’t yet met the Joker. The developers would have you believe that this raw brutality somehow comes across in the game, but it doesn’t really. Okay, so Batman may go after the police at little more harshly here than he would at a later point, but it’s a question of degrees and interpretations of the hero, and not really some sort of linear progression.
The basic combat system hasn’t been changed, it is still all about stringing together punches and blocks and counters in a melee situation and perching above enemies and taking them out silently. As before, on the face of it, it’s a simple system and any novice player can come out and beat up a half-dozen enemies without great difficulty. Practicing will make you better and, eventually, taking down closer to 18 guys can be done with relative ease.
Detective Mode returns as well in Arkham Origins and, as with its two previous appearances, it is far too overpowered. Pressing a button allows Batman to see through walls, determine what enemies are armed, where hidden object lie, and what items in a room are usable. There needs to be a penalty for using such a power, but none exists. Detective mode can now also be used in something called the “Case File System,” which consists of Batman entering a space and analyzing clues in order to determine how a crime occurred.
Side missions exist in abundance as well, allowing Batman to gain more experience points and level up. Experience points are also gained during regular fights and completing tasks (be they side or main), and performing better during fights earns more XP. In fact, after every battle, your fight skills are ranked. Gain enough experience and you level up which allows you to improve .skills and armor and weapons. All standard enough, and even if the system has been altered slightly, it is very much in keeping with the first two titles in the series.
It may be a dark, gray world, but it is still a beautiful one to look at, and to explore. Simply flying through Gotham City, taking down thugs as you see them, is fun. It is a large but not terribly overwhelming city which is subdivided into districts. Every district has missions within it and intra-district missions may not be easy, but their size makes exploring each specific area very manageable.
While some online play exists, the true heart of the game is story mode and it’s an enjoyable, very Batman-like, story to play through. Yes, it is true, that as the player you don’t have much agency in what happens—you don’t have to do the main quest immediately, but once you opt to do it, you don’t get much of a say in how you approach it—but if you like Batman and his rogue’s gallery, you’re going to enjoy the title.
Batman: Arkham City was a definite step up from Batman: Arkham Asylum, and I think that most of that difference is due to the expanded area in which the title took place – being out in the city changed the game into more of a sandbox title. There is no similar advancement here in Arkham Origins, it is, essentially, just a different story told in that space (even if the specifics of the space are different). If you liked it before and have been hoping for more of the same… well, this is where you walked in, isn’t it?
Batman: Arkham Origins is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PCPowered by Sidelines