Batman: Arkham Origins ReviewClayMeow -
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Batman: Arkham Origins
If you have never played the Batman Arkham games, you are missing out on one of modern gaming's greatest franchises. Batman: Arkham Origins is the third game in the series, but as the name implies, it's a prequel. As such, one can reasonably start with this new game and not be lost. That being said, the first two games are certainly worth playing and are cheaper starting points – especially if you happened to grab the recent Humble WB Games Bundle.
Origins takes place approximately five years prior to the first game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, but this is not the origin story of Batman as the name may lead you to believe. Origins is actually "Year Two" of the Batman universe, with the "origins" moniker referring to two things: the events that lead to the reopening of Arkham Asylum and ultimately the creation of Arkham City, and the first time Batman meets many of the key villains you're probably familiar with, such as The Joker.
The main story behind Origins is basically just an excuse to throw as many villains at Batman as possible, but it works. Batman is still a mystery – many people thinking he's just a myth – but he's slowly gaining notoriety as a vigilante, which puts him on the radar of Black Mask. Black Mask puts a $50 million bounty on Batman's head and invites eight of the world's best assassins to Gotham to compete for the bounty on one night – none other than Christmas Eve. Not only do you have eight assassins to compete with, but also a police force that wants to collect on the bounty as well and several other villains that want to take advantage of the situation, such as Enigma (aka. The Riddler).
Batman: Arkham City was a huge leap forward from Batman: Arkham Asylum, improving almost every facet of the first game – with the story being arguably the only thing better in the first game. It introduced a large, open world, several new gadgets, a slew of optional side missions, and more. If you were expecting another huge leap forward with Batman: Arkham Origins, you'll be sorely disappointed. Origins features a larger world than City, some new bosses and common enemy types, a couple new gadgets, an improved Detective Vision when it comes to reviewing case data, and the biggest addition of all, a multiplayer mode.
Aside from multiplayer, which I'll address later, most of these changes are rather minor – Origins still feels very much like City, but in a blizzard and not as run down. Whether that's a good thing or bad thing is obviously up for debate. For me, it's a good thing, especially considering that Origins was developed by WB Games Montreal instead of the developer of the first two games, Rocksteady. It is to WB Games Montreal's credit that the game feels like a Batman Arkham game should and if you went in not knowing development changed hands, you'd never realize it until the credits rolled.
I did find Origins to be a lot more difficult than the previous two games, but whether that's because I'm rusty or because the game is actually tougher, I cannot say. From what I recall of my play time in the previous two games, I seemed to struggle to maintain Free Flow Combos during combat and I died a lot more frequently. This may be because fights in Origins seem to feature more enemies than the previous two entries, plus tend to mix up the different enemy types quite well to really throw off your game. And this was while playing on Normal, not Hard. That being said, the death screens are pretty cool, so I guess there's a silver lining.
Batman: Arkham Origins, like Arkham City before it, is almost like a 3D, third-person Metroidvania game. It's an open-world game that rewards exploration. While the story missions are fairly linear and must be done sequentially, there are a plethora of side missions and challenges to keep you busy, which you can tackle at almost any time. The reason why I compare it to a Metroidvania game is because you'll have to defeat certain bosses or challenges to acquire the gadgets necessary to proceed and complete other tasks. All the essential gadgets will be acquired during the story missions, but there are some gadgets and upgrades that are unlocked by completing side missions or in-game challenges. For example, to unlock the Sonic Batarang, I had to complete any Predator challenge without being seen. That being said, unless you're going back for Enigma Data Packs (Origins' version of Riddler Trophies from the previous games), you won't be backtracking like you do in Metroidvania games. You theoretically never have to enter the same interior environment twice unless you want to, except one tiny section of sewer.