The Lie that is Arkham Origins (Spoilers will be tagged)

At one point several weeks ago I remember saying to someone, “I don’t care if Arkham Origins is just a reskinned Arkham City. We don’t get enough of that kind of game that I am tired of it.” Sitting here now, not even 24 hours after having beaten the main portion of the storyline, I can say in honesty that I was wrong. After originally having been excited for the story implications of Arkham Origins I feel as if the developer (WB Montreal) was given the task of creating a last minute cash grab that ultimately provides a story that ultimately does nothing but tell you what you maybe already knew: The Batman franchise has a Joker addiction and its becoming more boring every year it exists.

I am a comic book fan and I have collected them since I was about five or six. While I largely tend to trend towards Marvel comics and its characters (in regards to superheroes and the “big two”) I still enjoy and appreciate Batman and some of DC Comics’ stable of characters. Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were both great games, not only as comic book inspired titles but even beyond that. They hit an interesting tone and become successful enough that other games started to copy the same formula. When they announced a prequel set in the early years of Batman’s career where the gangster Black Mask has hired assassins to take you down…well, I was excited. They promised Black Mask and villains such as Bane (in a more familiar format that was as cartoonish as the previous entries), Lady Shiva, Deathstroke, and more. I thought this was interesting, especially since they could make you feel the fact he was early in his career and they could force you into using outdated technology. However, they do the opposite and ultimately make me feel as if their premise was nothing more than a lie.

We knew from marketing that the Joker and Penguin would show up. This isn’t an issue, they are staple characters and it only makes sense Batman would interact with them in some capacity. However, after two hours of the game I discovered that not only was the main storyline fairly short but that the premise behind what I was being sold felt like a lie. You barely deal with assassins and with as much of a challenge as marketing told us Deathstroke was going to be, I took him out in less than five minutes and then you never interact with him again. For the third time in a row we deal primarily with The Joker and that’s it. Bane is there for good measure, and I liked how he was treated, but the last two hours of the game felt forced and ultimately turned into a Joker fight again. The technology feels just as high as the last two titles and we conveniently have items that we gained only in the last game…I guess The Batman has a terrible memory or inventory system in the bat cave.

I finished the game only so I said I could. I didn’t want to have wasted that $60 this close to a new console launch only to have not finished the game. I found the multiplayer only to be competent but largely unbalanced and not incredibly fun. I felt as if I was playing Gears of War online only with Batman and Robin thrown in the mix. I think there’s something there that if given the proper amount of time to flesh out could be cool, but it is largely unnecessary. Sadly, I think the same of the single player campaign. What could have been a cash grab with some depth feels only like a cash grab. The voice acting is good but other than that I was thoroughly disappointed with the product that WB Montreal put out. I can only recommend the game if you pick it up in a Steam sale or for $20 somewhere. The biggest complaint I have is ultimately I feel lied to. They tried to make this out like I was going to be getting a largely Joker free experience and in the end I can say that they definitely did not live up to that promise. Do I think the game is hot garbage? No, but I definitely don't think it was worth my time.

25 Comments
25 Comments
Posted by Killerfridge

Yep, that's exactly my thoughts on the game. Before it came out I was really excited for this game. Then they just pulled a one-two and made joker the villain. I was excited to see what was going to be, and what should have been, a story focused on Black Mask, his motivations, and the eight assassins hired to kill Batman. Instead it turned out to be "oh, here's another one of these, I guess." Whilst the eight assassins were just relegated to boss fights and nothing else.

I was hoping for something just a bit different story wise. It seems like the writer just wasn't confident in his ability to write a batman game that didn't focus on the Joker and Batman, and it feels like all the best bits of the story were just ripped from The Killing Joke. I also don't like how two main plot points focused on how Batman had the shock gloves and he could just use them to bring people back to life, essentially. I get it, it's a comic book game, it's not supposed to be realistic. But having two relatively close-together plot points focus on some device (that completely breaks the combat in-game) is just lazy. Also, on a slightly unrelated note, I felt like Troy Baker did a good job as the Joker, but ultimately he was just doing a Mark Hamill impression.

I guess it just feels lazy and I feel cheated, even though I told myself that all wanted was another Arkham game. You didn't set it at Christmas because you felt like it would be a good story, you set it at Christmas because you had the assets from the last game. I think that if this were being handled by Rocksteady we'd have gotten a better game, obviously, and not one that is incredibly similar yet also markedly worse than the last two.

Posted by LiquidPrince

My friend sent me a text right after he beat it saying, "I'm so glad that the Arkham games focus on Batman and Joker. It's like a love letter to their relationship." I couldn't agree more. That was one of the reasons I loved the game so much.

Edited by ShaggE

I thought it was a great game, and as a bit of a Joker fanboy, I didn't mind the turn that the story took, but I still agree with most of your points. It's a great game, but the first two were phenomenal by contrast. This felt like a stopgap until the next Rocksteady sequel, and it really would have done well to have been advertised as a side game, a la GoW: Judgment.

It's interesting how Origins is literally twice the size of City and yet it feels much smaller in every way.

Online
Posted by CJduke

I completely agree. I still enjoyed the game because I love Batman, The Joker, and I grew up watching the animated series, but this game was definitely a marketing lie. Everything that made it sound potentially great, Black Mask being the main villain, having 8 assassin's hunt Batman with most of them being villains I had never heard of before, with it all set on Christmas Eve, ended up being just minor points about the game. They set it on Christmas because they had the assets from City and needed to make up a reason for the world looking exactly the same. Then the majority of the assassins turn into mini boss fights and side stories. Not to mention thier time line is completely terrible. They say Batman has been around for 2 years but somehow during all that time he had never fought any of these assassin's, never faced the Joker, and most of the common thugs and police force don't believe in him? They should have said he was only Batman for 6 months.

Posted by AlKusanagi

Well, duh... Once games become yearly, they're blatant cash grabs with little to no innovation, just hastily churned out "more of the same."

But Deathstroke fans should have at least been happy with his end credits sequence.

Posted by Jayzilla

I have never played any of the Batman games. Just never found the time to, but I am interested if I played Origins first, then Arkham Asylum and then Gotham City, if I would like ORigins more if it was the first one I played. I often wonder if the reason we often like the first movies in a trilogy because it is our introduction. I should try doing that and then blogging about it.

Posted by AlKusanagi

The others would probably feel like a step backwards since Origins suffers from Prequel Syndrome, where despite it taking place in the past, the character has better moves, equipment, and more options than they do in "future" games.

Posted by SomeDeliCook

I was fine with the Joker in Arkham Asylum and thought it was all cool.

I was tired of the Joker in Arkham City and was glad it ended the way it did, it meant no more Joker.

Arkham Origins really fucking pissed me off. I am really sick of the Joker and seeing him in every single thing Batman related ever.

Posted by StarvingGamer

The others would probably feel like a step backwards since Origins suffers from Prequel Syndrome, where despite it taking place in the past, the character has better moves, equipment, and more options than they do in "future" games.

People keep making this complaint, but I'd be really interested to hear a solution. Have the third iteration in a franchise with dumbed down the mechanics? Or are video games simply a medium where we aren't allowed to have prequels?

Posted by Tennmuerti

@alkusanagi said:

The others would probably feel like a step backwards since Origins suffers from Prequel Syndrome, where despite it taking place in the past, the character has better moves, equipment, and more options than they do in "future" games.

People keep making this complaint, but I'd be really interested to hear a solution. Have the third iteration in a franchise with dumbed down the mechanics? Or are video games simply a medium where we aren't allowed to have prequels?

Well if it's a direct prequel with the same character then yea it's kinda hard.

But if it is a far enough removed prequel and/or featuring a different protagonist it's quite possible to have the prequel aspect not interfere as much, like: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Tomb Raider,

PS: By the way. As far as Batman: AO is concerned he really does not get anything particularly new in terms of equipment or moves nor are there more options besides the Power Gloves (tm) which actually just dumb the combat down. (compared to City)

Edited by Vermisean

@jayzilla: I think that would make for a great blog! Very interested to hear thoughts on that.

As far as this blog goes, I also agree on a lot of the points despite mostly enjoying my time with it.

Edited by TheManWithNoPlan

I can definitely see what you're saying and had some of the same problems as well. Ultimately, I did like the game overall after beating it, but I honestly hope they don't revisit the Joker as anything more than a side character and instead opt for another master villain in the next entry.

I did want to mention a little detail that kind of bugged me for some reason. I'll mark it in spoilers since it sort of deals with the events later on in the game.

So later on in the game, batman finally apprehends the Joker after saving him from falling off a skyscraper. What followed after that was the Joker meeting Harley Quin for the first time. We're treated to them discussing Jokers revalatory experience meeting the Batman and how much he resonated with Bats on an eccentrically obsessed level.

If you go back to the first game and listen to the voice recordings, you find out that the psychotic duo, Harley and Joker, meet at the Arkham asylum only a few months before the events of the first game, but in Origins the meeting of Harley Quin and the joker is not at the Asylum, but at Blackgate. We specifically hear at the end of the credits that Quincy Sharp intends on reopening the Arkham asylum after the surgence of crazy villains in Gotham during Origins.

Another glaring problem with this meeting of the Joker and Harley, is if this were the same first meeting, that would imply both Asylum and Origins take place within a very short time of each other. Which we know isn't true given this is Batman a couple of years after he started the whole caped crusader thing, and Asylum and City is bats well into his career. This inconsistency in character's timelines really bugged me.

It's relatively minor detail, but one that stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

Edited by SomeDeliCook

@starvinggamer said:

@alkusanagi said:

The others would probably feel like a step backwards since Origins suffers from Prequel Syndrome, where despite it taking place in the past, the character has better moves, equipment, and more options than they do in "future" games.

People keep making this complaint, but I'd be really interested to hear a solution. Have the third iteration in a franchise with dumbed down the mechanics? Or are video games simply a medium where we aren't allowed to have prequels?

Since its an iteration of a series but story wise is a prequel, you can make the character's skills and tools less powerful and effective. People have already played the games, instead of giving us new toys to mess with, refine the ones you gave us and modify them in a downgrade like fashion. It'll be more challenging and still make sense.

Your character has rockets in his boots and can zip around the levels? Take those away in the prequel and make him roadie run. He can carry 4 weapons at a time and regenerate health? Lower the count and make him find healthpacks or something. It is always weird to play sequels and then play the original and not have all those refinements, so if you modify the gameplay in a way that makes the original make you still feel like a more powerful character, well then I'd be happy.

Arkham Origins has all the tools in Arkham City, albeit altered a little (glue instead of ice) and for some strange reason just about every single villain decided to debut on the exact same night. It's a fun game, but you can tell it's not a Rocksteady Batman.

Edited by joshwent

The Joker's Origins part towards the end (basically the Killing Joke) was beautiful, and conveyed fascinating emotional aspects about his relationship to Batman that none of the other games, or even a lot of comics as well, ever did. This game was as much a Joker origin story as it is a Batman one, and I thought it excelled at that.

If you were disappointed, or didn't like the writing, that's fine. But to call a pretty standard narrative twist a 'lie' is kind of absurd.

@alkusanagi said:

The others would probably feel like a step backwards since Origins suffers from Prequel Syndrome, where despite it taking place in the past, the character has better moves, equipment, and more options than they do in "future" games.

People keep making this complaint, but I'd be really interested to hear a solution. Have the third iteration in a franchise with dumbed down the mechanics? Or are video games simply a medium where we aren't allowed to have prequels?

There are always solutions, it just takes a great designer and writer. I'm neither, but I can still think of a few ways to even keep the same gizmos the player likes, but give the impression of a less experienced Bruce. For example, start off by having some enemies (armored ones) that you simply can't knock out, and are forced to restrain them instead with gadgets (like the glue grenades).

You would never need to "dumb down" the mechanics, just alter how they're implemented to fit the narrative. At any rate, a game this rushed was forced copy/paste most of the game play, so you shouldn't even really consider it as an example of video game prequelitis.

Edited by ThunderSlash

Metal Gear Solid 3 seemed to have solved the problem you guys are talking about. They removed the radar from the previous games and added new mechanics that made sense with the setting. And everything ran on batteries.

Posted by Sammo21

I personally wish that they had done something innovative with the mechanics. They could have taken detective vision away and given something more akin to a heartbeat sensor or something.

I also find the Joker to be more boring with each iteration. I don't have a problem with him showing up in the game, but I do have a problem with him being the focus of three games in a row.

Posted by Grixxel

I agree. I was looking to have a different leading villain in this one. While the big reveal of the Joker was kinda neat, it should not have focused on him yet again. I can only hope the Rocksteady one will solve this once and for all.

Edited by hermes

Regarding the assassins, it didn't help that

they are mostly optional. Besides Deathstroke, Killer Croc, Copperhead and Firefly, you aren't really needing to interact with any of them... they just appear and tell you to go somewhere if you want to beat them. They are not different than the side missions of the previous game.

Also, I didn't like the selection of villains and assassins. Deathstroke and Deadshot fine, they work as hitmen and are viable choices for international assassins send to kill the bat. Shiva and Bane too, up to a point... but Firefly? Electrocutioner? Killer Croc? It feels like they thought of the number first and then forced themselves to include characters that weren't in other games...

Posted by Sammo21

@hermes: I was cool with Killer Croc as they showed him before his disease escalated into turning him into the massive beast we saw in the first two games. Bane was great but I hate the cartoonish version we ultimately get. Also, the fact that he knew Batman was Bruce Wayne seemed incredibly rushed and wasn't really explained at all.

Posted by BeefyGrandmole

It's good you managed to finish it. I just couldn't, I got as far as beating bane and I just couldn't go on. And I loved those first two games and was really looking forward to this but I got really burnt out on it about two hours in. The same thing happened with assassins creed: revelations

Edited by Sammo21

@beefygrandmole: That's a really good comparison, actually. I got about four hours into Assassins Creed: Revelations and couldn't go on any further. Both games ultimately feel like a cash grab.

Posted by Frag_Maniac

It wasn't just the overuse (and even bait & switch) of Joker that upset me.

They played up the game as having 8 hard to beat assassins, and that was far from the case. Half or more were just easy to beat regular Batman villains.

Most of the side missions are way too easy, repetitious, and even boring.

The datapacks were lackluster compared to the trophies of AC, and there were no puzzle rooms at all like with Riddler rescues.

It was an extremely short campaign with no boss fights that had adaptable immunity to attack styles like Mr Freeze of AC.

Crimes in Progress were quick and easy brawls, and you didn't even have to get there within a time limit like Cold Call Killer from AC.

AC had bigger multi enemy battles, and you had to really stay focused and use special combos a lot. Here once the Shock Gloves come out, it's easy win and no need for special combos.

Edited by bearklaw19

The assassin fights where way to easy, I thought I would fight Deathstroke like 2 or 3 timesnot beat him in 10 minutes, The Electrocutioneer you dont even fight which was stupid as hell, Bane and Lady Shiva seem to be the only fights I enjoyed, I like the ninja and martial art enemies that they put in to spice the fighting up a bit.

The way Batmans suit and cape get fucked up by the end of the game is awesome though, always loved that about these games.

Edited by President_Barackbar

@joshwent said:

If you were disappointed, or didn't like the writing, that's fine. But to call a pretty standard narrative twist a 'lie' is kind of absurd.

Well, I sort of view it in the same vein as the disappointment some people had with Halo 4. Namely, the pre-release marketing hyped up this new enemy (The Forerunner) and how it was going to change the game...and then the vast majority of the game was back to fighting The Covenant just like all the other games. Same story here, the story they were telling in Arkham Origins pre-release state was that its a more raw Batman story featuring Black Mask as the main antagonist and 8 adept assassins who have decided to try taking on Batman. To hear that they fall back on the main antagonist of the previous two games is pretty disappointing when you are expecting a big change.

Posted by Sammo21

@joshwent: 100% disagree. I was marketed a completely different game than I bought. There was no twist here. We knew the Joker would be back but we were told he was a small part of the story. I understand that you, clearly, have some sort of love affair with the character but its lame to focus on him so much for three games in a row. I wanted a game that had me facing different assassins and Black Mask. What I got was The Joker and just a couple of easy fights with no challenge. The game is lazy, the writing is lazy, and the mechanics are boring. All they managed to do was kill any interest in the next Batman game for me.