Below are my thoughts about Arkham Origins. They were written while playing through the game. There are definitely spoilers. Overall I enjoyed the game. 7/10
• The whole city is available, but no people are on the streets. They tried to address the issue with periodic announcements that citizens would face litigation if they left their homes, but it isn’t a good enough explanation.
• The Batwing still looks terrible. I’m glad that it’s less of a legendary Pokémon in this game, but I wish you were given at least a level to fly it. Speaking of, we still need a modern Batman game that let’s you drive the Batmobile, the Batcycle, and the Batwing around Gotham. That means having to make a game on the scale of GTA 4, but it would be an incredible game. I doubt we’ll ever see anything like that, but then again, with a good development team and advertising campaign anything is possible.
• I wish Black Mask would have been more of a major player. I think he’s an interesting character when done right, and this had potential. Instead it feels like this was all a ploy to make you think you weren’t playing a third game about Batman and Joker. It feels like the reveal that Bane wasn’t the mastermind after all at the end of The Dark Knight Rises.
• The idea that eight assassins were coming after Batman in one night was a great way introduce a lot of characters and force Batman out into the open. Unfortunately, most of these characters are really shallow. I’m sorry, but I really don’t care about Deathstroke. I don’t find him compelling (there is no motivation behind his violence - does he just want the money?) and the stinger at the end concerning his future is certainly going to turn into nothing.
• In fact, most of the assassins have little to no motivation to kill the Bat. Even if it’s just for the money, what do they plan to do with it? It would have been nice to see those characters fleshed out a lot more.
• Most of the assassins didn’t feel menacing; they felt annoying. Only hulked-out Bane evoked any dread. That’s a problem with Batman games all around - very rarely does Batman appear worried or frightened. It’s fine if he puts on a touch façade, but give me a monologue so I know how he’s really feeling. Without a sense of inner turmoil Batman feels lifeless. Let Bruce peek out of the suit more.
• Bane knows your secret identity and is probably on his way to kill Alfred. You decide to go stop Firefly. Fine. But you’re still willing to berate Alfred for information while he waits for Bane to show up on the doorstep? There’s no monologue about how you’re worried about Alfred or pissed that Bane figured out who you are?
• Who is Firefly threatening with these bombs? Isn’t everyone supposed to be in their homes? How did Firefly round up these hostages?
• This, and several other moments throughout the game, would have been a great point to give the player two options, continuity be damned. Do you want to rush to save Alfred and risk people dying, or do you save the many but let your only friend/confidant die? That would have made for much better story telling and would have forced the player to really sense the weight of the decision.
• Bane beats Alfred to an inch of his life and then bails? He doesn’t wait for Bruce in the cave? He doesn’t reveal Bruce’s identity to anyone at all? I’m glad that they played up that Bane isn’t just muscle to some degree (although never enough), but this is just outrageous. Bane doesn’t even finish the job. This whole part of the story feels so shallow.
• Reviving Alfred with Electrocutioner’s gloves was not surprising in the least.
• They couldn’t do different animations for Batman arriving in the Batcave to rescue Alfred? Or when he returns to Blackgate? Was the budget that tight?
• Having Batman fight Bane (or Solomon Grundy of you prefer the City rendition) is not entertaining. Those boss fights are the most difficult, but they do not entertain and they don’t leave much to the imagination. Add to that a super-Bane, which is basically the same plot as Asylum, and you have some really boring story telling. Great, Batman has to outsmart someone stronger than himself, but he has to do it without using the arsenal and vehicles at his disposal. That might add suspense in a show, but it doesn’t do so here.
• Batman using Electrocutioner’s gloves to resuscitate Alfred was blatant. Using the same trick again on Bane is lazy.
• Super Bane was truly terrifying to run from. Having a small space to run from a monster makes those boss fights feel claustrophobic and terrifying.
• The final chase of the Joker and then beating the crap out of him is a huge letdown. Button mashing followed by strange, choppy, over-violent cut scenes isn’t the way to end a game.
• Interlaced between Batman’s unnecessary violence against a man a third his size, Joker insists that he and Batman are the same and that they’re both products of the city. That’s an extremely common theme in Batman and Joker’s relationship, but instead of us watching Joker discover this in a session with Harley or having Alfred reprimand Bruce with that argument, we watch the Joker seemingly read off bullet points about how similar he and Batman are. I think the relationship and similarities between Batman and Joker are interesting, but we’ve now had three games where the Joker is the main antagonist. We don’t need to see that relationship fleshed out. If anything, I think it would have been far more interesting to see Joker as an assassin hired by Black Mask. He could have come from the outside (he admits he’s only been in Gotham for a short while) and then decided to stay once he encountered Batman. There were so many ways to do a different story that tapped into new themes of their relationship, but instead we have the same overused ideas.
• For some reason towards the end of the game the dialogue began overlapping and the subtitles were more off timing than usual.
• Joker should never say the phrase “that’s a spicy meat-a-ball.”
• Can we stop with the Riddler trophy quests? This time there is some sort of plot relevance to the cameras, which makes sense; no problems there. Combining the current NSA scandal with Riddler’s desire to blackmail high profile Gotham citizens through surveillance is not an amazing plot, but it’s decent. The problem comes in with the quest to find all of the Enigma Datapacks. So Enigma has dirt on prominent citizens, but then he takes the time to break that data into packs and spread them all over the city? At least in Arkham City the criminals complained about Riddler hiding trophies all over the place to address the ridiculousness of the device, but this just doesn’t make sense. Why put the evidence all over the place? Why does Batman care about corruption in Gotham being exposed? Most importantly, why am I supposed to believe that these Datapacks are the only copies of the data? When was this plot device written, 1960?
• Batman is never out of breath, even after a lengthy fight. It would have been nice to make that aspect of the fighting more realistic. Maybe his breathing becomes more labored as you lose health. Maybe we yells more with each hit as health drops as well, similar to the fight between Batman and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
• The shock gloves provide a great way to push through tougher combat. I really do like them, but I would have preferred to see something closer to Batman canon. Maybe a rage mode, or maybe he uses Scarecrow’s fear gas to insight panic, etc. We have a young Batman. Show me that he’s still experimenting and trying to work his way through what it means to really fight crime within moral limits.
• The unlockable skins look terrible. They all have weird texture and coloring issues and really only look decent in direct light. The details on most of the suits appear to have been overlooked. When I first saw the list of Batsuits that would be available I was excited because it looked like they kept my favorites from the previous game and added some interesting new ones. I’ve only unlocked the Noel, Batman One Million, and New 52 suits, but all three look like outfits from The Sims. They look like cheap skins that were added at the last possible minute. I understand the pressure to add something like this as a reward for completing aspects of the game, but at this quality they simply aren’t worth the effort.
• The Batsuit design for this game is definitely my favorite compared to the suit from Asylum and City. The original suit from those games has its own style and feel that is distinct from the usual design from the comics, but it feels too inspired by fantasy to me. The suit in Origins looks rugged and realistic, similar to the suit from The Dark Knight and Rises. My only qualm is those stupid Electrocutioner gloves that add incredible value at a big stylistic cost.
• I wasn’t planning on getting this game until a realized that it was little more than an expansion to Arkham City. I loved Harley’s Revenge, so I figured Origins should be enjoyable. It had glitches and froze my Xbox more than Mass Effect 2, but it was a fun game to play with a decent story. I hope WB Montreal learned some lessons and comes back with another game that solves a lot of the problems this first attempt had.
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