Batman: Arkham Origins. When it’s good, it’s good. But when it’s bad, it’s very, very bad.
(Before we begin I have to state that I’ve only played the single player campaign. I haven’t touched the second disc, which is the multiplayer game.)
Let’s get the bad news over with first:
The game shipped broken, pure and simple. Batman: Arkham Origins was not a finished game when it was released to the public, and Warner Bros. should have known this. After all, part of shipping a AAA title is almost-endless quality testing,
So why did many gamers have to deal with frozen screens and corrupted game files? Was quality testing rushed? Did they need a larger team?
There are games out there that are in a perpetual state of unfinishedness. Most of them are independent games. Minecraft and Don’t Starve are two that I play that have semi-regular updates. But those games are 1) playable, and 2) not billed as AAA titles. A game such as Batman: Arkham Origins comes with an implicit promise that your $60 will buy you an entertaining experience. Feeling as though you’ve spent your money on a broken product is frustrating.
Here are some quick notes I jotted down after a particularly nasty set of glitches:
The first glitch was flying onto a platform flanked by two large pipes. Batman got stuck. Oops, my bad for not controlling him well enough. Open up the menu, restart, no big deal.
Next, an officer was stuck in a corner of the GCPD in a large stealth fight. That actually worked in my favor. Take out the other guards, Batarang the glitched one, thanks for making my job easy.
Then I finished a crime in progress fight and went to upgrade my smoke pellets. The screen froze. The menu didn’t work. Pulled up the Xbox menu, went to the home screen, and then restarted the game. Blank screen. Restarted the console. Then, the game worked.
Next, I went to take the Batwing to the other side of Gotham. The Batwing cutscene started to play… then nothing. The screen was blank. I could faintly hear the Batwing sounds, but the controller wasn’t working. I had to manually press the power button on the front of the console to hard shutdown the system.
I rebooted the game and continued on my way. I finally got the Batwing to work and I was grappling over to my destination when, running across a rooftop, everything froze. Again, the controller didn’t work. Hard shutdown. Game over.
Later on, I was able to capture a Vine of a defeated foe twitching and glitching in the creepiest of ways.
Now, there have been patches released since then and I’ve had no major glitches in the past week, but shipping a $60 game with major problems is on a Harry Potter-esque list of unforgivable curses.
While WB Games gets some credit for quickly taking care of the most heinous of the glitches, they still deserve blame for shipping a broken game in the first place. Quality testing is important, and it feels as though they rushed Batman: Arkham Origins to get the game out much too soon.
This is becoming a trend in the gaming industry. AAA games are increasingly being shipped “mostly” finished. Even the PS4 wasn’t immune from the race to be released first, as a number of consoles were received “dead on arrival”. Also, the Xbox One will not work out of the box without a crucial update downloaded from the Internet. It won’t even play games! This trend in the mainstream gaming industry is absolutely frustrating to consumers while it’s seemingly more acceptable within the industry.
However, despite all the problems with the software, Batman: Arkham Origins is actually a pretty good game. At its core, the gameplay is much of the same, not deviating much from the first two games, despite being produced by another company. I’ve seen a few people say that it feels like Arkham City reskinned, and I can somewhat agree. The game mechanics, graphics, and side missions are very familiar. It’s simultaneously disappointing and comforting. On the one hand, I would have liked to have seen more innovation out of the WB Games team, however, the familiarity of the game meant that I was able to just pick it up and crush it pretty quickly. So while I have the satisfaction of easily defeating the campaign, I didn’t really feel challenged at any point.
Also, innovation on WB Games’ part would have probably ended in a release delay or a more broken game, so maybe wishing for more is a bad thing.
We do get more in the way of villains, which is outstanding. Some are villains that we’ve seen in Arkham Asylum and/or Arkham City, and others are completely new to the series. The boss fights between Batman and the cast of villains are where the game really shines. While much of the gameplay around Gotham is copied from previous games, the boss fights are different, with each villain having a certain weakness to be exploited. Similar to the prior games, and yet, different. Those fights, and the cutscenes that surround them, were my absolute favorite parts of the game.
I also enjoyed that Gotham is expanded in this game. While certain parts like The Bowery, the museum, Amusement Mile, and the courthouse are familiar, there is an expanded area south of the city, connected by the Gotham Bridge. Where Arkham Asylum was a small footprint, map-wise, and Arkham City was larger, Arkham Origins expands the map even farther out for more exploration.
One of my biggest complaints with the drag-and-drop feel of Batman: Arkham Origins is that the Bat-Tech is nearly identical to previous games. Origins is a prequel, which would make you think that his tech should be more rudimentary than in previous games. However, the batarangs, explosive gel, grapple, etc. are all there. You do obtain some new tech from vanquished enemies, which makes me wonder why that wouldn’t appear in the older games (other than prequel magic). However, I don’t think that the Bat-Tech in Origins actually contradicts anything in the later games, but it does give this prequel a weird feeling.
The most outstanding aspect of Batman: Arkham Origins is the story. The writing is excellent and plot flows well into the greater story structure of the trilogy. This game isn’t just Batman’s origin, but also the origins of every character involved, including an unknown Joker and a skeptical Jim Gordon. One of my personal favorites gets, in my opinion, one of the best origin moments in the game.
Overall, Batman: Arkham Origins gave me a handful of “Wow” moments, but it feels almost redundant. While the story is a good prequel, other aspects of the game make it feel as though it’s the same game we’ve played twice before. Add in the glitching and freezing issues, and buying the game the week of release was a mistake. While those issues are being fixed, I don’t recommend Batman: Arkham Origins as an immediate buy. If you haven’t already gotten it by now (nearly a month later) don’t waste your money getting it for full price. There’s nothing in this game that is as spoiler-worthy as Batman: Arkham City. Wait it out, and get Batman: Arkham Origins at a discount. It’s definitely worth playing, but it’s also worth the wait.