Geekin’ Off: “Arkham Origins”
Not original, not old, just right
People who don’t like “Arkham Origins” probably aren’t very fun to be around. This game has everything that makes a great Batman video game, let alone a great video game in general. The villains are unique and varied, the action is intense and interactive, the video sequences are enjoyable and cinematic–rather than boring and time-consuming–and the playability of the game is the same it has always been in the Arkham franchise: spot on.
For the first time in the history of the home console franchise, a Batman game was developed by Warner Bros. Games Montréal, and not Rocksteady, the franchise’s usual go-to.
While this changed some of the formatting of the keys on the game controller, for the most part, the gameplay stays the same as the previous two in the series. Like “Arkham Asylum” and “Arkham City” before it, the game is multi-console–though I would suggest PS3 or PS4–and thus the gameplay has to be really universal and accessible to multiple styles of gamers. This could imply the game is “easy,” but nothing could be further from the truth. From Enigma’s puzzles to the complicated counter-attack patterns you need to learn during combat–which, as always, is really just a tactical series of button-mashes–the game turns out to be the most complicated of the three, so far, in terms of gameplay.
The characters in this game are the most interesting. While “Arkham City” chose to reveal Tim Drake and Dick Grayson, two of Batman’s five Boy-Wonders, and Selina Kyle, Catwoman, this game brings you to the beginning, before Batman had a Robin, relationships and other bat-folk. Players do get to see the rocky start of the friendship between Commissioner Gordon and Batman, as well as the introduction of Barbara Gordon, into the game series. Barbara, most commonly known as Batgirl, also served as Batman’s Oracle, a techno-savvy, wheelchair-bound crime-fighter, in the comics. This character was a big deal for a lot of players, especially the female fan base, who really relate to Barbara’s independent streak and her lack of concern of what either Batman or her father think of her crime-fighting abilities.
As this game is titled as “Origins,” we see this as Batman’s first real big cross-Gotham adventure. Some familiar locations from the previous games will come up, as well as some characters. Most notorious are Edward Nigma (known later as the Riddler) and Bane. Of course, Joker returns as well; can’t have a party without the Clown Prince of Crime.
As the game expands upon a simple one-night hit taken out on Batman’s head by the Black Mask, the player is drawn into the brooding, dark, distrustful psyche that is Bruce Wayne’s mind. Batman is cold and brutal in this game, with little concern for the police, who this time around operate as their own gang. As always, Batman relies on non-lethal measures, and this single decision is what sets off the long battle with the Joker that we all know of so well.
There are also the six assassins hired to end Batman for the price of $50 million. While the obvious solution would be to not go outside and enjoy the snowy Christmas season, Batman realizes he must face them and draw them out, rather than endanger innocent civilians’ lives. The assassins are not your usual collection of villains in a Batman game, in fact you see very few of the more commonly known from the “Batman” Rogue’s Gallery. With the exception of a brief run in with Penguin, the hiring of Bane as an assassin, and Joker’s and Riddler’s appearances, very few characters in this game have appeared in the other two games. Which is a treat, and makes the game not only stand out, but more fun to play as these are characters you do not run into often, so thinking of methods to defeat them do not come naturally. It does not become as simple as smash their face in and take out their guards. An example is Firefly, who uses rockets and pyrotech to endanger countless lives on the Gotham Bridge.
This game is rather overwhelming at times, and not always in a good way. There is a lot to do. While the game doesn’t beg to be replayed immediately, I would be thoroughly impressed if you could unlock all of the Enigma Packages by game’s end and not have dozens of other side-missions to complete. The story is seemingly short, but the game itself feels like it could go on forever.
Definitely check this game out, even if you have not picked up the previous two in the series. There is still much left in the game I need to complete, and I’ve cleared 76 percent of it. While I see this as being a good thing, it seems daunting during the school year. Try to set this game aside until the holiday break.
There are other games for mobile devices and handheld consoles, but really the trilogy of home console games is where the meat of the story and best play experience will be. A definite request for the holidays, “Arkham Origins” might be the last best game of the year.
I have to get back to “Arkham Origins” now. I have a lot of work to do and it’s not like this city is going to save itself.