With any successful game franchise, it becomes inevitable that there will eventually be an origin story prequel game that chronicles the events before the games that preceded it. This is hardly any different with Batman: Arkham Origins. However, a change in the hands of developers unfortunately sees a decrease in quality rather than improvements.
Batman: Arkham Origins tells the story of events take place in Batman’s second year of being the Dark Knight, and reveals a more rough, angry and brutal Batman who is also overconfident and reckless. While his previous tactics have worked on thugs, he now has to contend with assassin’s hired by Black Mask will force Batman to change tactics and ally with Captain Gordon. This simple premise of the game is just the promise of a good game that unfortunately goes a bit south. While the narrative of Batman’s growth is done well, the character development and their relationship to Batman is not as fully explored as it could have been. Many of these villains have never even encountered Batman before, so it’s all the more lamentable. Out of the 8 assassins, 5 of them Batman goes to fisticuffs with, with rather ho-hum boss fights laden with quick time events, with only one boss fight being a bit more clever in Firely. The other three assassins are unceremoniously written out of the story, being taken care of by other characters. And only one villain gets the most development, but thankfully those bits are well done. There are some side missions involving other villains, but the payoff for their completion is mostly achievement fodder.
The gameplay from the other Arkham games is present, but it largely remains the same, with no improvements. One would think that after two games, the game would be refined in some way, but this game actually manages to make the experience slightly worse. Combat isn’t as smooth, and you will be sometimes finding your attacks not connecting or button inputs not registering. This makes playing the New Game Plus mode more unnecessarily difficult than it needs to be, as it takes away both visual and text based cues for counters. Also disappointing is that the game seems to have many bugs surrounding it. Things like not being able to interact with the environment, getting stuck on a surface, or game freezes and save corruption. The frame rate can also sometimes drop significantly for brief periods, yet they are long enough to kind of pull you out of the experience a bit. Sometimes the enemies will also recover despite the game thinking that they are down, so while neither of you can’t hurt each other, it’s still odd to see. Oh and they might be halfway submerged in the floor. While I only experienced a handful of these bugs, they nonetheless exist, and while the Wii U version fared the best, they are present across all platforms. This makes one wonder if there was any QA at all, and if so, that’s rather unforgivable. There’s also a rather throw-away multiplayer that plays like an incompetent third person shooter with shoehorned Batman gameplay where you pit rival gangs against the Heroes. Good luck finding people to play with! The fact that the Wii U version lacks this portion is that the game would have been much better off without it to make a more solid single-player experience.
At least it isn’t all bad. The game did have the right sense to include a fast travel feature to get through Gotham much quicker. Unlocking the fast travel feature involves solving some puzzles. Also, combat is now graded, and you are awarded XP based on your performance, allowing for potentially quicker skill progression. Skill progression itself is now more streamlined, although you have to unlock them in a mostly linear fashion, with some deviation. The voice acting is well done on some of the main characters, even though some of the writing is cringe-worthy. Penguin and his assistant’s horribly fake British accents most of all. The music is pretty Typical Batman stuff, but it fits the mood. At the end of the day, even though the game still manages to be fun, the execution is not as good as previous entries, and the writing feels mostly like a bad fan-fiction with only a few good bits and some consistency issues regarding the plot points of the other games. The game needed further time in the oven, and even though bigger fans might enjoy this game more, they certainly deserve more than a game that just barely scrapes being above average.
Batman: Arkham Origins Screenshots: