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The Caped Crusader is legendary, but the Arkham series is unfortunately losing its innovative touch.
Don’t misunderstand: Arkham Origins is still a fantastic game, worthy of the scores it received from many publications. It’s just a shame they didn’t introduce more original gameplay ideas to the fold.
For Those New to the Series
Didn’t live up to the trailer.
Arkham Origins is the third game in the Arkham series of Batman games. Beginning with Arkham Asylum and followed by Arkham City, Rocksteady Studios had developed two incredibly well received games. Featuring smooth, flowing combat, trophies which were chalenging to unlock and nostalgic voice acting from the original Animated Series, both games were a perfect combination of fresh video game mechanics and traditional, faithful Batman concepts. The first game involved a takeover at the titular mental facility, and the second saw an entire section of Gotham repurposed to serve as a new prison. Now with a new primary developer, Warner Bros. Games Montréal, who worked on the Wii port of City, we see why games shouldn’t be taken from the people who envisioned them in the first place.
This new entry feature, as the title suggests, the beginning of Batman’s rise to greatness. We already covered the story basics well enough in our First Impressions article, so it’s worth taking a look there for the basics. On the good side, we get to see some great interactions with Alfred and we get to see a more emotionally vulnerable and under experienced Batman than we’re used to, but it serves the story particularly well, and his introduction to certain villains, namely Enigma, Bane and (surprise) the Joker makes this a quest worth taking. Then there’s the short storyline, recycled side mission like Detective quests and Assassins you get only a one-off to resolve weakens the impact it all could have had. Also, for all the trailers, the one-fight interaction with Deathstroke was sadly disappointing.
The game mechanics are very much cemented now. Strikes, counters and gadgets chain into more devastating takedowns and time slowing, which is great for when you are starting but should have had a little more to shake it up for the former games. The Enigma trophies are as creative as ever, testing your brain in challenging ways, and should always be as such. Navigation is just as good as City, though again mostly because it’s exactly the same as Arkham City.
Sights and Sounds
I said in the First Impressions that we lost the fantastic voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in this new iteration and gained some competent replacements. I’m happy to report it was not a fleeting opinion. The voice acting quality of Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker never waver in their parts, with Brian Bloom’s Black Mask and Martin Jarvis’ Alfred are equally impressive. None of the voice actors phoned it in and every performance has heart.
Graphics, of course, are fantastic as expected. Reflecting a mix of incredible architectural layout and comic book considerations, the style is a great touch. Costumes are well designed and the enemies are easy to distinguish at a quick glance.
Highs and Lows
What really draws you in is the motivated young Bruce Wayne. The $50 million contract is out for him for only one night but he goes out on Christmas Eve to prevent any collateral damage that might be caused. Even more impressive is the origin of his enmity with the Joker, and vice versa. Seeing Bruce react to such chaotic pranks and watching the Joker find his counterpoint and meet a still same Harleen Quinzel makes this a great entry for new players.
Sadly, as happens with replacement studios, going with what works is a higher priority than taking chances. Every aspect from combat to puzzles is ripped right from older games with very little new to enjoy. From Asylum to City we received a bigger map, new characters, navigation, multi-counters, and gadgets. From City to Origins we got…well aside from some cool electric gloves not a whole much else.
Also, I miss Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. Yes it’s a small complaint, and Mark Hamill has said he wouldn’t reprise the Joker again, but I cannot understand a single reason why they wouldn’t involve Conroy. He’s been a respected Batman and twenty year veteran voice actor. I find it easier to believe they wanted to slash a bit off the bottom line than the idea that Conroy couldn’t do a younger voice. I think the money would have been worth the cost.
Also, training and challenge maps are filler and we aren’t fooled. Shortcuts like that are irritating. Developers need to take that time to make the story longer and more enjoyable.
Ultimately, this is still a damn good game. The mechanics are slick, the story is fun and the production values are top notch. Fans of the series won’t find much new to explore, but they will enjoy their time. Plus there’s the yet-to-be reviewed Multiplayer. Maybe that will bring the whole thing together?