I have been a Marvel fanboy since I was a kid but Batman is the one shining light in the DC universe for me. I think Bruce Wayne is an incredible character but it’s really his enemies that stand out as truly unique. And since Batman: Arkham Asylum, I’ve been falling in love with these villains. While Arkham Asylum introduced us to this dark and gritty world and some villains we’ve heard of before, its sequel Arkham City introduced us to many much lesser-known villains and a much larger playground to play in (though the scope and size might’ve actually hurt the product). And now in the third installment Arkham Origins, will we go even deeper into the rogues gallery of the dark knight? Or retread familiar territory?
Arkham Origins goes back in time, to when Bruce Wayne has first adopted the outfit. He’s begun to be a thorn in the side of the local criminals so the Black Mask sets out to put a bounty on the Batman’s head, drawing 8 notorious assassins to Gotham City to take him out. These range from relative regulars (Killer Croc, Bane) to fan favorites (Deathstroke, Deadshot) to relative unknowns, to me anyways (Electrocutioner, Copperhead, and more). As a young Bruce Wayne, you must stop these eight assassins from killing innocents and save the city.
I thought this initial plot was amazingly simple, harkening back to the simple story in Arkham Asylum. It introduced some cool new villains and found a way to incorporate some classics. Bane especially was more 3-dimensional than he’s been in the prior two games, maybe due to The Dark Knight Rises‘ success. Combat is still solid, offering you a challenge but nothing impossible. There’s a new detective mode where you actually reconstruct crime scenes, which is pretty interesting though not very challenging, as there’s only one way to progress through the crime scene.
With eight assassins plus another handful of Bat-villains to face, there are plenty of boss fights. Luckily, these are the highlights of the game. Deathstroke’s was especially cool, as was Copperhead, who you fight while under the influence of her toxin. I also appreciated the boss fight involving The Electrocutioner because it really puts a spin on traditional fights and gives you a bit of a laugh. None of these involve real strategy, as opposed to Arkham City‘s amazing Mr. Freeze boss fight where you have to tap into the environment to outsmart him.
I have similar complaints with Arkham Origins as I did with Arkham City. It’s too crowded. With eight assassins as the focus, plus the Black Mask, that could’ve easily been fine. Some of these assassins got only a few scenes. Instead of being content with that, we’re bombarded with a Joker origin story, the Penguin, Anarky, Mad Hatter, Shiva, the Riddler… The Joker gets the most screentime here and while he’s an amazing character, it can feel like too much at times. The story Joker is given though, is likely the most interesting one here, as we see the rise of the Joker as a villain and his first encounters with the Batman. It was lessened though because we’ve become over-saturated with him. Too much of a good thing.
The city is also less interesting. I told a friend about the game and he asked, “So there’s like cars and people and stuff?” and I started thinking… The city is dead. The only people you see are enemies. You shouldn’t need the option to fast travel from one place to another because the city should feel exciting. Instead, it becomes tedious to travel across empty areas, so you use fast travel whenever you can.
I also sighed sadly when the titan formula from the past games showed up again. Our villains are already amazing, no need to jack them up on this super serum. Jacked up Joker in Arkham Asylum was my only complaint.
There are definite highlights here, such as some cool boss battles, but this is probably the weakest of the three games. Too many villains shoehorned in and the city has lost its appeal. Rent Arkham Asylum if you haven’t played it yet, as it gives you a focused story and an incredible world. Batman: Arkham Origins is a fun play for those of you that have done both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City but it’s definitely just a rehash of what’s worked before and I think we’re starting to notice.