When Arkham Asylum came along in 2009 it blew my mind. Not only was it an enthralling action game with open world trapping, Rocksteady’s last-gen debut did what many thought impossible: capturing the essence of The Dark Knight in video game form.
Needless to say, Asylum was quick to garner universal acclaim from both press and public. Even with the game still fresh in their mind, legions of gamers were left pining for a sequel and Warner Bros. were all too happy to appease them. 2011 brought with it Arkham City, leaving the confined hallways of the asylum behind for something much bigger and more refined.
Rocksteady had struck gold once more, its sequel soaring its way to the top of the Metacritic pantheon. However, once again, there remained a Batman-sized hole in player’s wishlists but this time around it would be WB’s Montreal studio who stepped up to the mark.
Put simply, Arkham Origins was more of the same. Though in the hands of a new developer, it carried over the series’ hardened fundamentals while adding a few tricks of its own. This of course means the excellent stealth sections, pitting Batman against a room of armed thugs. As in previous titles, players were forced to use a combination of gadgets and stealth tactics to outwit their opponents.
Similarly, Arkham’s melee combat made a return. If there’s one thing that stood out in previous game, it was this: a counter-heavy system that genuinely makes you feel like the caped crusader himself. What starts out as a basic web mechanics starts to get more complex as new enemy types are woven into the mix, including shield and knife wielders as well as martial art experts and, of course, the numerous bosses.
Borrowing from such as finely-set amalgam of mechanics proved to be a double-edged sword for WB Games Montreal, though. Though still fairly solid, many fans had already taken their fill from Arkham City and were looking for something fresher. In that respect Origins fell short of the mark. Aside from a couple of revised enemy types, there was little in the way of new features bar a pair of electronic gloves capable of battering through any opponent.
The stealth and exploration segments didn’t receive much of an upgrade either, rehashing the same areas and puzzles found in Gotham just two years before. In fact the only new feature that really stood out was Origins’ crime reconstruction mechanic. By using detective vision, players could activate clues found around the city and thereby construct a fully-3D action rewind. It was clever, sure, though the implementation did little to inspire and, more to the point, it just felt like an unnecessary addition.
Something else that felt a little disappointing was the developer’s failure to fully capitalise on the game’s premise. With Blackgate blown apart and dozens of super villains on the loose, it was a shame to see some of them relegated to mere sidequests. After all, the main story was centred around assassinating Batman, yet only a few thugs stepped up to the plate before the narrative took a dive elsewhere.
With the release of Arkham Knight scheduled for next Summer, I wouldn’t try and put players off from trying Origins. As I said, it’s a solid addition to the series but just feels a little unwarranted, as if Warner. Bros. wanted some filler befor Rocksteady’s eventual return.