Avid fans of the series were aware that Origins was meant as a hold-over in some respects, meant to satiate gamers while they awaited Rocksteady’s Arkham Knight. The away that Arkham City ended, I think everyone was looking forward to seeing what happened next more than a perspective of what happened prior. Nevertheless, Batman: Arkham Origins bolstered an intriguing premise, happening five years before the events of Arkham Asylum, Black Mask has set a bounty on Batman, drawing the attention of various renowned assassins.
Batman: Arkham Origins brings the tried-and-true game-play of the previous installments in the Arkham series, with a couple of new gadgets added in for good measure. The story-line itself allots the means to share some Batman villains we hadn’t seen met, like Anarky, a character I hadn’t known until recently with the short-lived Beware the Batman animated series, or Copperhead or The Madhatter, while, at the same time, keeping established characters like The Riddler around, but with an added twist. Unfortunately, Arkham Origins is the first of the series, for me, to really highlight one of my biggest criticisms about the other-wise fantastic series. Although trailers and other information suggested the contrary, The Joker is the main-antagonist. I enjoy The Joker as a villain, in-fact, he is one of my absolute favorites, especially with the contrast and the relationship he has with Batman, but after Batman: Arkham City, I did not want to see this character featured heavily in any other installments. It isn’t because I dislike him, it’s because I like him so much and I knew they’d never have a more perfect moment to move on from him than what was had with Arkham City. The way they incorporate him into Origins is a surprise that I met with a small laugh, but I would have liked Warner Bros. Montreal to have used this as an opportunity to allow a new baddie for center-stage.
The voice-actor portraying the role of The Joker is Troy Baker, whose very considerable talent has brought to life characters like Joel from The Last of Us and he has even played Batman in the Telltale Series, as well as Two-Face in Batman: Arkham City. Still, as talented as he is, and although I enjoyed his performance overall. In truth, all that’s done is a replication of Mark Hamill’s interpretation of The Joker, an impression, a good impression, but one that feels as though it doesn’t have the sharpness behind its inflection.
Batman: Arkham Origins’ game-play is mostly worthy of praise, because, as said, it borrows from established conventions from Rocksteady’s formula, although, navigation of Gotham City can sometimes be a burden. I am referring to rooftops you can’t hook onto, even when you should be able to, small objects in your path that you can’t climb over, even though you should be able to. It’s difficult to explain, but a lot of the ways that you navigate in Origins simply feels unpolished.
The lack of polish is never more declarative than when I look back at the number of glitches I encountered, which usually had to do with a failure to prompt certain events. For instance, in a boss-battle against Firefly, he uses his flamethrower to create a fire around your surroundings, I had a couple instances where I had to restart the boss-battle because even though I was meant to grapnel out of the area, I wasn’t allowed to. In a similar, although, more annoying example, during one aspect of the game, The Joker has bombs rigged to explode. The objective was clear, jump out from the window to escape, and I did, and landed by a nearby area I had previously been. However, the bombs never detonated. Because of this, I went back to where the bombs were and saw that the timer for the bombs detonation was on zero. I was confused by this, but, again, I jumped out from the window, only, this time, I saw there was a helicopter flying overhead and I hooked onto it, once I did that, the sequence completed itself and the bombs detonated. Other than that, I had a few times where enemies would glitch themselves into door-ways and instances where enemies would be taken down and, regardless, Batman would make aimlessly fierce attacks at the air like he was either an over-the-top mime or fighting the invisible woman.
The side-missions and the Enigma data are enjoyable, as they are with the rest of the series. I particularly like the pay-off to finding all of Enigma’s Extortion Data and I enjoyed seeing The Mad Hatter and Anarky both featured, even if both of them felt as though they could have had more to say than what they did. My favorite aspect about Arkham Origins, I think, is the portrayal of Batman, not necessarily because the voice-actor himself, Roger Craig Smith, who, other-wise, I know for punching large boulders as Chris Redfield in some of the Resident Evil video-games, but because it features Bruce Wayne as more emotionally unhinged. A speech the character gives to Alfred in Origins is enough to cement the character’s performance. The scenes with The Joker are always moments worth singling out, and in this, they are no different, although, I would reiterate they don’t provide a whole lot of new commentary on the character or the relationship between him and Batman. It all comes out feeling like a high-quality rehash.
The side-quests and, even the Enigma Extortion data, while I described as enjoyable, are mostly enjoyable because they allow you an excuse to chew on the scenery and provide the aesthetic of more bang for your buck. In truth, the Extortion Data is busy-work, with most of the Data being hidden in uninspired locations, meanwhile, the Easter Eggs and content building to the series’ lore feels often anemic. Elements implemented such as Detective Mode feel widely lacking, with what feels like a very simplified, and ultimately dumb execution. The highlights of the series such as stealth missions also felt a little underwhelming, with a lot of them feeling easier than year’s past. I’ve heard some others say that the boss-battles were improved in Arkham Origins, but I don’t really share the sentiment. Although, it’s arguable that boss-battles have always been one of the weaker traits of the series, I don’t think Origins bucks off that criticism, even if I did enjoy the hand-to-hand boss-battle with Slade Wilson.
I think the best way to describe Batman: Arkham Origins overall is something I said when I first played at the time of its release, having now played it a second-time and re-collected all of the Extortion Data for a second time, as well. Batman: Arkham Origins is an enjoyable Batman experience that’s biggest detriment is the price of the standard. If Batman: Arkham Origins was released before every other installment in the series, if it was released right after the Batman Begins video-game adaptation, it would been received with high-marks. Unfortunately, at this stage of the game, Arkham Origins delivered an average gaming experience that, years prior, would have been considered a great superhero game, but, now, hereafter, is just not up to snuff with what has been done.
Frankly put, in a series of 9’s and 10’s, Arkham Origins delivers a 7. Plagued with glitches and technical issues, a story-line that rehashes characters and doesn’t innovate, and other problems I’ve mentioned, Batman: Arkham Origins is, and feels like, an incremental hold-over in the series, and one that, although isn’t nearly bad enough to be forgotten, is unfortunately forgettable.