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Home » Uncategorized » Review: Arkham Origins
Thursday, 02 Jan 2014

Review: Arkham Origins

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Arkham Origins Review

It being time for year end reviews on the year’s pop culture (movies, music, comics, TV and video games), I felt like writing a review for the game I found most disappointing this year. It so happens to be a comic book related game and a sequel (prequel actually) of what many consider to be one of the best video game series of all time: Batman Arkham Origins.

Batman-Arkham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be frank, this game turned me almost manic depressive as I’d be cheering one moment and loathing its existence the next. At its best, this game is superior to the previous 2, building on their legacy and the legacy of the characters themselves. BUT at its worse, it’s an ugly copy paste mess which should not be bought until a price drop.
The good is simple, everything you liked about Arkham City as far as game play goes, is back in full force and no one should be disappointed. How it all gels together though is to be desired.
Now for the bad:

black mask

Story:

Now, my favourite aspect of a game’s story is the level of urgency. I don’t feel the initial rush I felt in either Asylum or City. Man, those games were great at the beginning, so immersive. This one left me a bit in the cold (HA! Cause its winter…). The story seemed hap hazard, which makes sense for a more open world game. This game, more unlike the other two, wants to be an open world game where you are Batman doing whatever Batman has to do, confronting a bunch of villains a night. I prefer stories where the city is actually at stake, rather than my own life (or rather, Batman’s life). This game is more personal and more akin to an open world game like Skyrim than a metroid vania type game with a singular story.

deathstroke target

 

I absolutely LOVED it in City, when Hugo Strange executed his protocol and you had no choice but to follow the story line. And of course you (well, I) would, because there is no way Batman would go around beating some thugs up or trying to capture Hush when there are helicopters shooting bombs on everyone. That rush was insane. And yes, it was crafted that way. The game wanted me stop strange at that moment. In Arkham Origins, there is a scene where people are held hostage and batman tells Alfred he has to handle it first before doing anything else. There was great immediacy. But then I realized I didn’t have to help right away. I could scan some tagged buildings or take out one of Enigma’s networks. Even while on the actual mission, I can just do whatever I want when I want to.

batman enigma

 

Game Design:

My complaints are on this game having a different intention than the previous where it is trying to be more of a grand theft auto game. HOWEVER, if it is to have different intentions, then why is it a copy paste of the other games? Especially City. This angers me to no end. Yes, I agree, the Riddler trophies in City may have been tedious, but I didn’t see it that way then. I needed this game to see it, and you know why? Because it’s the same thing. Everything has been copy pasted. Instead of Zsaz making you travel to a location, you have Anarchy. Instead of Riddler trophies, you have data packs (Which make no sense story wise), instead of Riddler signs that only get revealed with detective vision (my personal favourite from Asylum), you have Anarchy tags (why would he use invisible ink to tag big buildings to show that he’s an activist, isn’t that counter intuitive?), instead of Venom containers, you have Black Mask drug containers (I think), Dead Shot is still just a side quest like before (after all that marketing, really?), instead of TIGER Cameras, you have Riddler network servers/modems/antennas and the list goes on. And it’s not only that, but the city itself is a copy paste. Arkham City taught us that a section of Gotham was closed off to make the prison, but this game tells us that it was the entire upper half. How does that make any sense? Wasn’t it boarded up by a giant wall? Wouldn’t the upper half of this game’s city extend beyond the Arkham City map? I am realizing just how great the island of Arkham Asylum was. There were no invisible walls; you simply could not get beyond the island. It was its own little open world with urgency that could not be avoided and you never felt like you were missing out on a bigger city or other areas, and you never noticed the limitations of having it on that island because everything was made accessible.

Empty City:

gotham city

My other big negative point is how this city feels less alive than Arkham City. It made sense to just have thugs around Arkham City, since the city was all prisoners. But Arkham Origins has the same thing and yet, this isn’t a prison. The theme made the constancy of thugs and villains make sense, but here is feels shallow and more like a copy paste of what was found in City. Arkham City had amazing details. Remember that Museum? Now contrast that with Penguin’s ship. What was “penguin” about it? What made the casino so unique that it could only exist in Batman’s world? I remember complaining a bit that Arkham City didn’t have much detail in the city (all buildings, stairways, windows looked the same), but the chaos splattered all over it (like Riddler marks on the Church’s gargoyles and Two Face wrecking half of the court house and Joker adding clowns all over the steel mill) makes that game jump leaps and bounds over Arkham Origins. It just doesn’t feel lived in, by its villains or its people.

I remember promising Freeze to find his wife and finding her, randomly as I was investigating around. She was held captive by the Joker’s thugs. I went to see freeze and he got there by creating an ice bridge over the water which you could now use. And then, when you go back to the location, you can see him reunited with her AND scan them to answer a riddle. Sure, that last part makes no sense, but it was just an extra reward for seeing where the game would go with that extra mission (which at first didn’t feel like a mission since it was truly optional). Things like this made the gaming experience feel so much more organic instead of by the numbers, which is what this game feels like. It wants to include everything City had, making sure you have enough things to do, and makes it dull. I already played City, 2.5 times; I don’t need to play it again. So there you go, this is my true criticism.

joker talking

 

Now onto the good…

While I complain about the writing, I must admit that the last 2 hours are probably the best in any Batman game. It is very batman like and has that villain interaction we always love. I did not expect it and it makes a nice bow on the series. Hopefully that isn’t too much of a spoiler. But man, that urgency finally comes full force, way better than any of the previous ones. I guess it took a while for this game to get to me, but it did.

So, after liking this game in the end, what about New Game Plus?

Well, remember I said this game makes me look like a manic depressive… I was so pumped that I wanted more and since I had not found all the Riddler stuff and was slowly getting into it (I did not care to investigate his base till late in the game and then found it interesting), I did the same that I did in City and started new game plus. In Arkham City, I would just replay the game ad when I would see something that I couldn’t access before; I would then have the gadgets to access these parts. It didn’t matter much in Asylum since the map was smaller but back tracking in City just for Riddler trophies would have been a bit much.

BUT GUESS WHAT: new game plus DOES NOT give you all your gadgets. You have all your gadget upgrades but not your gadgets. So you unlock the gadgets just as you did in the original campaign and then you have the upgrades already available as soon as you get the gadgets. But you still start the game the very same way. So now new game plus seems much less enticing, especially since there are some side quests I don’t care to redo (the way the Bane side quest in City was handled was pretty genius, there is no ingenuity here). So yeah, the story and writing is a plus to this series (the great finale) and so are the better boss fights. But everything else is inferior to Arkham City, too bad.

bane arkham origins

 

So this is definitely a mixed bag. If any of you were thinking of getting this game for someone, I suggest you give them a gift card from whatever shop you were going to get it at and let them decide, after they read this review of course ;).

Though there are games I will remember fondly from this year (like Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider) what I will remember most is the missed potential with this game. I truly hope we get another great Batman game, since this is truly one of the best game franchises out there.

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