Batman has a long list of great and memorable enemies, but in Arkham Origins his greatest foe is not Bane, Deathstroke, or even the Joker but rather his past successes. Whenever an acclaimed franchise is handed over to a new developer there is going to be some worry amongst fans that the new team will mess with the gameplay too much. On the other hand, this is the third game in the Arkham series; if they don’t innovate at all then they run the risk of the gameplay becoming stale. It’s a fine line to walk. For the most part, Origins walks it well, but it does have a few missteps.
Arkham’s rhythm-based combat is still one of the best combat systems to be found in any action game. The system is simple but very elegant, and it is extremely satisfying to watch as Batman moves from enemy to enemy without taking a hit. The two new enemy types, enforcer and marital artist, add some much welcome variety and challenge to the combat. The only real flaw I found was that the developers took a “more is better” approach to combat stages. By the end of the game, it’s not uncommon to face 20 enemies at once, and merely throwing more enemies at the player is the least interesting way to increase difficulty.
Speaking of combat, the boss battles in this game are some of the best I’ve played in a long time. This is one area of combat where Origins is better than the first two games. Aside from one notable exception in City, I often found the boss battles in the previous two games to be lacking. The boss battles in Origins are very intense, and while some verge on being too cutscene heavy, they leave just enough control in your hands to keep things exciting.
I’m very pleased to say the predator gameplay from previous games is back and just as much fun as it always has been. I’ve never been a huge fan of stealth games, but I’ve always loved the stealth sections in the Arkham games. Whether you are silently taking out armed thugs from behind or swooping down from gargoyles to ensnare them, the predator stages as still some of the best sections in the game. But there is one new addition to Batman’s arsenal that I dislike. The remote claw, which is gained after defeating Deathstroke, can easily be used to take out three armed guards, and it can really take away a lot of the challenge.
The open-world gameplay in Origins will feel familiar to anyone who has played Arkham City, but isn’t quite as good. Swinging through the streets of Gotham via the grapple boost is just as fun as ever, but the sidequests aren’t as strong as they were in City. Many of the sidequests are of the “go there and beat people up” variety. That was true of City as well, but City had a sense of urgency that a lot of the quests in Origins lack. For example, the Zsasz sidequest in City was one of my favorite in the game. There was a real sense of danger as I raced across rooftops trying to answer Zsasz’s telephones. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but City lacks that sense of urgency. On the other hand there are a lot of sidequests I really like in Origins. I actually preferred the Riddle’s collections challenges in Origins simply because there was a legitimate story-driven purpose behind it. The lack of actual riddles to solve, however, was a major disappointment as those were amongst my favorite activities in the previous games.
Story is the one area where Origins improves upon its predecessors. The story in Origins hits all the notes of a good Batman tale: his reluctance of allies, his strict unwillingness to take a life, and a great cast of villains. On the topic of villains, Troy Barker does a great job of taking the place of Mark Hamill’s Joker. There were times I don’t think I would have been able to tell the difference if I hadn’t already known it wasn’t Mark Hamill. For his part Roger Craig Smith does a good job of taking the place of Kevin Conroy. Smith’s Batman comes across as brasher, but that may very well be intentional considering this is early on in Batman’s crusade.
The biggest flaw in Origins is not the gameplay but the numerous bugs. I came across several minor ones that hindered my progress and often forced me to restart the game at the last checkpoint, but nothing was game breaking. Other people weren’t so lucky. I’ve seen several reports of people’s save files being corrupted and forcing them to start the entire game over. Hopefully, WB puts out a patch for this soon.
Arkham Origins is not quite as successful as the previous games in the franchise, but is still very good; if you enjoyed the previous games, you will likely enjoy this one as well. You may want to wait until the game’s is patched, so you don’t run the risk of losing your progress.
Edited by Jennifer Brake