Batman as seen in the Batman Arkham: Origins video game. Official Facebook image.
Batman as seen in the “Batman Arkham: Origins” video game. Official Facebook image.

Does the ‘Arkham’ series really need a prequel?

“Batman: Arkham Origins,” the third installment in the Arkham series has received a lot of hype months prior to release so, does the game live up to that hype or did it fail as a prequel? Yes and no, but mostly no as the cons out weight the pros in this particular title.

When “Origins” opens, Bruce Wayne has only been donning his Batman persona for just two years. He’s not necessarily the experienced caped crusader we all know and love.

After an incident at Blackgate Prison, he dons his costume, on a mission to find the source of the chaos. As he arrives, Batman finds that mobster Black Mask has broken into the prison and killed most of the police.

The event prompts Batman to investigate and after a boss battle against Killer Croc, he learns that a $50 million bounty has been placed on his head. The bounty is for one night and introduces seven assassins that he must confront, giving players their goal for the game.

Playing through, the game was very much like its predecessors, veterans of the series will know know what to expect when it comes to combat in the game. Although it’s still fun beating down criminals, the game lacks major changes.

All the enemy types make a return with the exception of a new martial artist type enemy. Each enemy requires different tactics and this does add dynamic to how fights are handled throughout the game.

The stealth side of the game returns but sadly has not changed at all. The player still has the same goal of taking down all enemies in the vicinity and the same approaches being conveniently placed by gargoyle statues and vents.

This gives it a dull feeling and a lack of innovation, even new players will know what to expect. As the game continues, you are given both the remote claw, shock gloves, glue grenades and concussion grenades, which, add some new ways of combat.

Three of these new weapons seem to be recreations of Batman’s old gadgets from “Arkham City,” making the lack of innovation even more obvious.

Playing around even more in free roam, it froze, not once but multiple times. These freezes did go away but were common enough to make “Origins” dreadful to play at times.

Boss fights all require different approaches that make the player think about how they need to overcome this particular obstacle. The boss fights are great, but do get very repetitive and mind numbing as each fight requires just one tactic. Once you learn the tactic, just wash, rinse and repeat your way to the victory. 

As far as characters go, the game does introduce players to a new and younger Batman, but it’s hardly noticeable.

One aspect of the previews and interviews with Warner Bros. Games Montreal developers said that players were to see Batman taking on enemies that would ultimately push him to his limit and that was not the case in the final product.

It felt as though it was the same Batman from “Arkham City.” The only real difference in Batman as a whole is that he’s harder to connect to as a character, players barely get to learn about the man behind the mask. This becomes the one character flaw that is present throughout the game.

The Joker, on the other hand develops pretty well, as the main villain for the third time in the series.
 Players get to see the origins of his story and come to understand how he became the psychotic criminal that we know today. As players encounter him throughout “Origins,” you grasp how crazy he is and discover why he’s pushing Batman to his limits. 

The game also brings back challenge maps which are fun but only consists of stealth and fighting missions that get boring quickly. Players can only use Batman but if the game was pre-ordered, you will also be able to play as the assassin, Deathstroke. “Origins” also offers multiplayer, something new to the series.

In multiplayer, players have the opportunity to play as Batman, Dick Grayson’s Robin, or any of The Joker’s and Bane’s henchmen. This mode is new but lacks variety. At times it feels very broken as heroes die immediately and henchmen seem invincible. 

Luckily, “Origins” focuses more on its single player experience. It is both a positive and a negative, it can leave players wondering if putting more resources into developing a better story could’ve improved the game.

The Joker, while arguably the best character in the series, has been the main antagonist in all three of the series’ games and this raises a very important question: can there be another “Arkham” series related Batman game without the Joker?

The game is good but suffers as a prequel and builds on nothing. It is a fun experience but bugs and glitches, along with no real character development, make for a very disappointing and lackluster gaming experience.

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Does the ‘Arkham’ series really need a prequel?