Batman: Arkham Origins is a game that wasn’t made by Rocksteady. Of course, that caused many to wonder if the new developer working on it (whose sole experience was the Wii U port of Arkham City) would be able to live up to the tradition of excellence that the Arkham series typically guaranteed. The short answer is “no,” with the long answer being the same but having many more Os.
This is not the Batman you are looking for
This game is basically a ripoff of Arkham City. The locations are familiar, the mechanics are all the same, and even the way that things play out is reminiscent of AC. However, being a copy of an excellent game like City doesn’t automatically make Origins a great game. Instead, the entire game feels tired, as though you’re retreading familiar ground unnecessarily. Even if that wasn’t the case, there are so many problems that it’s impossible to recommend Origins to anyone.
But first, the one redeeming aspect of the game
If there’s a single positive about Arkham Origins, it’s the voice acting for the Joker. Mark Hamill’s last appearance as the voice of the Joker, his take being the only acceptable version of the Joker for many (myself included), was in Arkham City, meaning that it would be necessary to either focus on new villains or find a new voice actor that could take over without upsetting longtime fans. Of course, the new developers lack the creativity to come up with anything particularly original, so they went with the latter option and cast Troy Baker, most recently known for voicing the main characters in 2013’s Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us.
I consider myself a huge fan of Hamill’s Joker, and DC movies that use other voices for his character make me cringe (even the otherwise-fantastic Under the Red Hood). That being said, Baker’s Joker is so close to Hamill’s that not only did it not bother me, but I actually thought to myself, “They should get this guy to do the Joker’s voice in everything now that Hamill has retired from the role.” Coming from a Hamill Joker fan like me, that’s seriously saying something.
Not all of the voice acting is so good, though
They also replaced Kevin Conroy as the voice as Batman, and while the Joker’s replacement hit all the right notes, the new guy doing Batman (a voice you hear a lot of) is flat and almost monotone, failing to breathe life into the character, and this annoyed me every time Batman opened his mouth. Batman’s voice in this game is a disgrace, honestly, and the rest of the game follows suit.
Bugs! Bugs everywhere!
The developers have promised to fix the bugs that have plagued this game, but there’s really no excuse for how many problems existed in the game at launch. I was getting stuck in random objects (which made me unable to move), the counter icon disappeared randomly, the sound cut out without explanation, and so many other problems that made playing the game an absolute nightmare. Many people have faced even worse bugs than those.
You can’t fix everything, though
There are some elements of the game that simply can’t be fixed because they’re not broken so much as poorly designed. For example, combat is less fluid than previous games, and I noticed that a lot of the time Batman would break a combo by punching the air rather than jumping to the next guy. Then there’s the fact that the controls seem to lock up briefly when you attack, meaning you can’t always attack and then quickly counter someone else’s attack like in previous games. This is a small change, but it makes combat incredibly frustrating. There are also some really strange sections where the game switches to 2D, almost making the game look like Trine. Unfortunately, the controls don’t work well in 2D at all, so these sections end up being little more than a huge annoyance.
The boss fights are the worst part
Arkham Asylum and Arkham City weren’t exactly shining examples of fun boss fights, tending to be a bit tedious and QTE-heavy, but the games were otherwise incredibly enjoyable, making that less a problem than a minor irritation. Arkham Origins, on the other hand, has taken everything that was wrong with boss fights in previous games and turned it up to 11. One of the first boss fights you’ll face is Deathstroke, and this is one of the worst boss fights I’ve ever experienced in any game. In it, you basically just sit there and counter his attacks until the game tells you to click really fast. Attacking him head-on often results in him getting a free attack on you, so the way to win is pretty much to sit there for 10-15 minutes and endure the constant countering and “click really fast” QTE sequences. It’s absolutely awful, and all of the boss fights are similarly annoying.
For example, Deadshot’s boss fight plays out in a “predator” encounter where you have to be stealthy. I took care of all of his guards in the room and then went after him, but after taking out two-thirds of his health, armed guards gunned me down. At no point during my beatdown did the game give me any indication that some new people had swarmed into the room. It just happened without any warning, and that’s bad design. There are other boss fights that are equally awful, too, including a boss fight at the end where you can’t attack directly and the enemy is destroying your hiding places. It’s all gimmicky at best, and poorly designed (though that’s a serious understatement) at worst.
The story just kind of… fizzles out
Around three-quarters of the way into the game, things suddenly stop being interesting at all. Not that they were all that interesting to begin with (barring a single part of the game that shows the beginning of the Joker’s obsession with Batman), but even a badly written story is made worse by aimless meandering. That’s what Origins ends up falling victim to, and the end section is so underwhelming that many people finished the final boss fight without even knowing that it was the last fight. It’s all very unimpressive.
Graphics are mostly nice, at least
The graphics are very similar to Arkham City, though perhaps a little more detailed. It’s hard to say for sure, though, and any differences are subtle enough to make the two virtually indistinguishable in most places. However, I did notice that Origins’ fire is really bad. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, but it just looks bad, like a .gif file looping.
The main theme is actually pretty good
The game takes place on Christmas Eve/Christmas, so there’s a bit of holiday flair to the music. To be honest, though, I can only remember the main title theme, which sounds like a mix between a moody orchestral piece and Carol of the Bells. There may not be very much in terms of memorable music, but at least the title theme is very cool.
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