Batman Arkham Origins Reviewed – Lacking Feeling, Ideas and Origins..

I really wanted to like Batman Aachen’s origins I really did. Honest to god I drank my milk, took my vitamins, said my prayers and even did something I would never normally do and pre-ordered the game. My main reason for pre-ordering the game was due to the downloadable content in the form of Batman Knightfall.

Knightfall - Broken Bat

Getting to know you.  You know…. Origins

So lets clear one thing up here. I’m well versed in the Batman universe especially when it comes to Knightfall.  I’ve read the graphic novel cover to cover more times than I can care to remember and even purchased the audiobooks. And this is perhaps where my first problem occurs.

The game bases itself around Bane (for a very big plot point) which is not a bad thing but relying on the night for name does put you in one of a few camps. Either you’ve heard of Bane and so you know his whole back story, or you haven’t and you’ll think back to the THAT travesty Batman And Robin.  Or finally it’s the Dark Knight Rises, all of which ave very different takes but none really delve into the true comic, and arguably the best, origins of Bane.  

If you’ve read the graphic novels then you’ll know Banes back story that does mimics Batmans own losses, where he comes from and ending up with the motives of wanting to “take down the Bat”  Importantly Bane isn’t just some roided out dude running around shouting raawwrrrr in a Katey Perry Fashion

My point is that relying on such a strong story influence of Knightfall but then disregarding in so many points kind of contradicts where the game is going.  If you are going to use the name and legend of Frank Millers Knightfall then follow it or come up with your own name.

Now that’s not to say Batman Arkham origins completely ignores the timeline and events of Knightfall.  Yes, there are a succession of villains that try to take Batman out before the final encounter but in the game this just leads up to the big reveal of the Joker.  In the Batman universe Bane hires the assassins to break down already half destroyed  Batman before he takes him out and breaks Batmans back.

Breaking Batman’s back is very symbolic as “he breaks the Batman” and once again Arkham origins makes very light of this. Sure there is a scene where he does break Batman back or it looks like he has only for Batman to get up moments later and enter into another boss fight.

Another mess is Batman himself. In the event of Knightfall you see a tired and weary Batman trying to save the city even if it means just destroying  himself.  The worst of the worse are let out of Arkham by Bane in a well timed series of events.  In the proper timeline it’s a Bruce nearing the end of his peak of fitness before becoming as clever with his mind in a fight as well as his fists.  Arkham Origins takes us into another universe with a rougher and younger Batman, not the same Batman who believes he can take Bane out with force instead of cunning.

I could go on but overall it feels like they’ve just try to check in as many villains as possible instead of coming up with a good solid game idea. Sure Arkham Asylum upped the ante with the number of bad guys there but it never felt forced, there was a sense to them all, a somewhat feeling of them all being intertwined and necessary.  A more two on one experience would add a claustrophobic feel rathe than dumping an array of B list villains.  Why follow on from Arkham city using lesser known villains and if you are going to use the B list backup then how about explaining the one thing this game is meant to be all about… ORIGINS

Here we have the plot of assassins lined up to take out Batman in the same line as Knightfall yet somehow a feeling of intensity is missed.  A chance here to see Batman being ground down is missed with a build up to a rather obvious plot point. The Joker.

For a game about Origins.. Plural it fails to delve into any back stories with confidence.

Pace and fighting

Something seems amiss with the pace of the game. At one your pacing around the city at a sedate, pre calculated pace but the moment an encounter happens everything seems to be sped up.  It’s as if someone had the bright idea that by turning up to speed in the fighting scenes when dealing with mobs it makes it more intense. Instead it ends up making the whole affair feel more Arcade like. Sure the free-flowing combat system has been tweaked and improved yet everything moves with such a pace you can very rarely take it all in. To always felt like was one step away from button mashing rather than the precise intercalated came to an attack find in previous Batman games.  I’ve avoided talking about the punch combos for a reason.  Is this supposed to be a thinking fighting game or a free roaming beat-em-up?

Hand Holding A Step To Far.

Subtle hints are fair enough, an occasional reminder in the background when you’ve spent the best part of 30 minutes building up to a rage quit before a voice guides you in the right direction (thanks Mass Effect 3) it’s all fine in my book.  So why does Origins insist of holding your hand at every moment like some needy bunny boiler.  “I’d better investigate the crime scene” followed by “there a clue I should follow it” and so on.  It’s a lazy way out of being inventive or a clever way to say “Hey, this new voice actor sounds just like Kevin Conroy but it’s not” (voice actor comparison)

Graphics

To me is seems they tried to take a slightly different graphical style but then bottled it at the last moment.  Faces seem more cartoonish, almost from the Warner studios universe.[1]

Background popups are kept down to a bare minimum and the draw distance has been nicely handled despite what I thought is a cone where that’s the area which will get the detail drawn first.

Some flourishes don’t make sense such as the wind “(I guess that’s what you’d call it) when grappling.  It narrows the view to give a focus of where you’re heading to but at the expense of seeing more of the stunning city.  Again it doesn’t feel like it belongs but an idea kept there for the sake of it.

Character models and animations are done to the usual high polish with more fluidity than the other games and perhaps this is the crux of it.  The game engine isn’t bad at all, if anything quite superb but the story, fit and finish is lacking.

The huge reveal is already spoilt by having the Joker on every piece of advertising going.

If In Doubt… More Gadgets

Sure back in the early days Batman probably would have more gizmo’s than really needed but here it’s complete overkill.  A discovery system or “we’ve just discovered some new toys from Waynetech” approach would be better.  Yet again there’s a earn points upgrade tree style of gadget enhancement but overdone.Those choices are tightly woven so much so that some enhancements are just getting them for the sake of getting them.

Despite being a prequel that technology is mightily advanced.  One example being the forensics scanner. Sure it’s great to replay crime scenes in a CSI style, hunting for the red dot buuttttttt how comes this wasn’t in games

Batman Arkham Origins Overall

It feels like a game that’s been programmed and rushed out without a true design and story division behind it.  Chances to tell a story and flesh out Batman are squandered in some truly B movie style cut scenes.  Perhaps there was a script and the game had to be this long or they were only hiring the voice actors for so long, perhaps there was a set budget or whatever.  Pacing, timing and story telling could be o so much better.  Those play testers should be sacked.

Starting the game with every gadget going seems an odd choice and like I said perhaps some introduction over time would add some excitement or a worthwhile progression.  Sure it’s hard to break from mob fights and questing but you can add a story to them, push a back story or something.  Sometimes it’s a step to close to grinding a la World Of Warcraft.

A lot of the city feels directly copy and pasted. There’s no science to that but again it comes down to a feeling and not being completely sure thats the case but more of an inkling feeling

The Final Ending

In the last homage to a lack of originality there’s a song from the Joker at the end of the credits a la Arkham city.

[1]  Developed by Warner Studios so that makes sense.

[2] It may have been top of the video game charts but that was selling half as many copies as Arkham City

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Batman Arkham Origins Reviewed – Lacking Feeling, Ideas and Origins..

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