It’s no surprise that Batman: Arkham Origins has been my most anticipated game of 2013 since it was announced. But for other, less-fanatical Bat-freaks, there’s some legit concern surrounding this game. A new development team. New voice talent. And, of course, taking a step back and doing a prequel for a series that’s only two games deep. Fortunately, everything I’ve seen up to this point has been in line with what I’d expect from any Arkham game, and we got to see the brand-new Pioneer Bridge last week, along with arsonist extraordinaire, Firefly. Josh, as someone who isn’t as devoted to the Bat-franchise as I am, what did you think of our demo last week and the new area of Gotham we saw?
Well, to be quite honest, the first thing I thought was, “Who the f*** is Firefly?” After two games, I really feel like they’re starting to scrape the bottom of Batty Boy’s rogues’ gallery. But, hey, Firefly’s got a jetpack and a flamethrower, so I suppose that’s an interesting change of pace. Still, that ties back into my biggest concern about Arkham Origins:I’m not worried that the new team at WB Montreal won’t be able to deliver the same smooth gameplay and combat that made the first two games great. I’m not even worried that expanding the map to include Gotham proper will be too ambitious an undertaking. Nope, I’m worried that there’s just not enough great stuff left to explore in the Batverse to make another compelling 30-hour-plus experience.
Firefly’s real name is Garfield Lynns, and he’s actually one of Batman’s oldest enemies. He debuted in 1952, but he’s never gotten much love. I agree that Firefly’s a bit of a B-villain, and he’s not really even an assassin as much as an arsonist, but fire’s one of those base elemental things people love, I guess. Anyway, I disagree with the idea there isn’t enough left in the Batverse. You’ve got decades worth of comics, cartoons, and movies that disprove that. I just think that with the plot, WB Montreal might’ve painted themselves into a corner with this whole “assassination” angle. Speaking of expanding into Gotham proper, though, it would’ve been nice to see a bit more of that, as we have yet to see anything that isn’t in the first two games, and Pioneer Bridge is really more of a run-of-the-mill dungeon than something that’ll test our traversal skills. I liked the idea of Firefly blowing up the bridge to try to lure Batman out, but it had a “been there, done that” flavor to it.
Yeah. I remember seeing Wayne Tower off in the distance, just as I had for the past two games, and wondering why they didn’t take us to that new part of town. The bridge was, as you said, basically a confined, linear indoor area attempting to masquerade as an outdoor location. But here’s the thing, Ray. For someone like you, there’s probably plenty of fascinating stuff to dig up. For someone like me who doesn’t have a subscription to Bat Fancy magazine, we’ve already hit all the big beats. Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Hugo Strange, the Riddler, Bane—all used up at least once. After Arkham City—minor spoilers here—I was hoping they’d do something neat with Hush like they teased. Doing this prequel with a lot of less-impressive villains seems like a step backward. But enough of my bellyaching. What’d you think of the new gadget they showed off?
Yeah, they showed off some electric Bat-gauntlets that allow Batman to charge up dead generators, but they also have the most offensive capabilities we’ve seen from any specific gadget in any game. The electric gauntlets charge up as Batman builds his combos in combat, and when he activates them with a full charge, his punches are two or three times as strong due to the electric charge. Great for clearing a room quickly—or for evening the odds against some more difficult baddies, like thugs wielding electric batons. It’s not the most inventive gadget in the world, but it fits Batman pretty well and makes sense for the story—though a part of me wonders why they got rid of the electric gun from the last game.
Didn’t he invent or improvise that during the course of the story? I seem to recall that. Just your standard prequel problems. Can’t use tech from the original games, so you have to make brand-new stuff. I like that they double up your combo meter, so every hit counts as two, but they don’t really affect gameplay at all. Either you use them to flip a glorified switch, or you use them to do combat the same way as usual, only slightly more efficient. Still, I imagine they’ve got plenty more gadgets that they’re keeping under wraps—ones that’ll actually change things up a bit more. So, final piece of the puzzle: our hands-on time. Oddly enough, we didn’t get a taste of Batman, but Deathstroke, the pre-order bonus character for challenge maps. How’d you like it, both using Deathstroke as a character and the overall feel of the combat?
Yeah, the original Arkham games tried to make it feel like Batman would invent stuff on the fly. But it’d have made just as much sense for him to have invented it once before, so it would’ve been easy in Arkham City. Just sayin’! Moving on, Deathstroke felt good, but it took a while to get used to him. First, I had no idea what his special moves were. Second, this was the first time I actually got the chance to go deep into Arkham City‘s combat, so I took the first couple of minutes shaking the rust off—and in the new 1-vs-100 mode we got to try, any delay in your thinking will do you in quickly. Once I got back into it, the combat was just the same as it ever was, and it still feels great. I’ll give WB Montreal this: At least they knew they had a good thing going with Rocksteady’s system and didn’t feel the need to fix something that wasn’t broken. After a while, though, Deathstroke just felt gimmicky. It was like when the Joker was a PS3 bonus for Arkham Asylum. It just felt tacked on and unnecessary, quite honestly.
Our gripes aside, I’m still fairly confident that Arkham Origins will be a great game. WB Montreal is obviously building off a strong foundation, and they seem to get the design principles that made the Rocksteady games so much fun. We should probably make it clear that whatever skepticism you or I may have is almost entirely due to the fact that Arkham City is an incredibly hard act to follow. Even if Origins can’t top the greatest superhero game of all time, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a fantastic experience in its own right.
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