When it launched last Friday, Batman: Arkham Origins didn’t make the overwhelming impression publisher Warner Bros. had hoped for. Since its release the game has been flagged for its similarity to previous titles in the series as well as its lack of original concepts. Some might say these criticisms are a little harsh, and as a prequel to the Arkham saga there was a good chance it wouldn’t be able to raise the stakes following City’s explosive conclusion. Put simply, it’s still a good game, but one that – rather expectedly – fails to break new ground.
Not content with a standard multi-platform release, Warner Bros. has also developed Arkham Origins Blackgate for the 3DS and Vita. These versions of the game are fairly detached from the mechanics established in the main series, opting for 2D brawling and platforming instead. The mobile/tablet tie-in is even more of a departure from the series’ trademark formula, though still has its merits.
When playing Origins on iOS, the only immediate comparison which springs to mind is Chair Entertainment’s Infinity Blade. As the Dark Knight you’ll select missions scattered throughout Gotham before diving in and going face to face with thugs and super villains alike.
Combat is fairly simple, players initiating attacks using taps. Occasionally, when performing a combo, swipe prompts will appear on screen, adding potency to Batman’s attacks. Aside from this and a block mechanic, there are other actions and abilities linked to buttons on the interface. The latter fill gradually as you deal out/take damage and, when full, these trigger supercharged powers such as healing or a brutal kick to the enemy’s face.
Stances are also employed to add some variety. The stance button allows players to switch between two states; these determine which abilities appear on screen and come in offensive/defensive flavours.
Combat definitely works but lacks the finesse and skills used in both Infinity Blade and, more importantly, the Arkham series. The only counter you have to an enemy attack is blocking but even then you still take a fair bit of damage.
Outside of battles you’re free to use your experience and currency gained to upgrade abilities and purchase a variety of Batman costumes. Though mainly cosmetic, they add a degree of replay value but perhaps aren’t enough to overcome the repetitive gameplay.
For free, it’s definitely worth a shot and in small doses combat can actually be fun, as can the gradual build-up of resources and upgrades. Just don’t expect a full-fat, free-roaming Batman experience optimised for mobiles and tablets. Maybe we’ll get that some day, but not yet.