Status: Main campaign and all “Most Wanted” missions complete.
Most Intriguing Idea: Pit a younger, rougher Batman against cops and thugs alike.
Best Design Decision: The crime scene investigation with the rewind feature.
Worst Design Decision: Bane.
As an open-world game, Arkham Origins is about on par with its predecessor Arkham City. The explorable section of Gotham is larger and a bit more varied, albeit blocked off in irritating ways. However, because we’re exploring Batman’s world before its array of supervillains managed to make their mark on it, the locations lack a certain flavor and verve that places like the Museum and Steel Mill from City had in spades. Origins has a lot of very ordinary places and feels drab as a result. However, I did like that the player was a bit less beholden to event triggering to move sidequests forward – I dipped back into City right afterwards and found sidequests like Zsasz and the Identity Thief (which I still have never actually had trigger all the way through) exasperating. Also this game got a lot more mileage out of Batman’s detective skills, which I liked.
Dipping back into City also demonstrated that Origins is much the lesser game as a brawler. The timing and movement are less elegant, and the countering system seems to have gotten screwed up. In City it is quite easy to avoid an attacking enemy by moving away in a series of normal strikes, by punching him normally (instead of using the counter button), or even just moving out of the way. None of these tactics seemed to work in Origins – only the overhead vault or straight-up counter seemed to work. Also enemies that signaled a strike would almost always succeed, even if my subsequent movements carried me ludicrously far away, and in more than one case Batman staggered as an enemy punched empty air. The stealth segments in Origins were also worse, due to poorer level design, overuse of levels (especially the goddamn bank ffs), and bugs that caused enemies to, say, become invincibly trapped in a barrel.
On a story level, I didn’t care for this game. Its exploration of early interactions between Batman and the Joker is great, but I despised everything about the long, involved Bane storyline, from “winning” a boss fight just to have him escape, to the lousy environmental triggering of the final battle with him, to his surprise detective skills and convenient amnesia reset, to the way he and all his mooks kept talking about “breaking” Batman as if to shout “HAY GUYZ DID U KNO BANE BROKE BATMAN’S BACK?”
Yes, we know. It was in Time magazine.
I would have much preferred to have more buildup against Deathstroke (woefully underused) or a real fight against Branden. Origins is passable, but it’s focused on topics and characters I mostly don’t care about.
Verdict: Cautiously recommended.