Why Batman: Arkham Origins was Exactly the Game I Needed Right Now
Being the Batman in these trying times
I took a two week break from this blog because (honestly) I needed it. While I’ve had more time off of work than usual, I feel like my creative juices are just a little bit sapped. But is it any wonder? To be honest, I’m having trouble focusing on anything that requires more than an ounce of my brain power. Like most of us in the time of COVID-19, I’ve been watching some Netflix and re-visiting all of my favorite movies/TV shows. Thankfully, this freefall into entertainment comfort food is helping. I don’t want to be challenged right now. Not when politics, work, and this pandemic have done that already.
As you can imagine, this search for digital comforts also extends to video games. As I work on narrowing my monstrous backlog, I find myself at that familiar gaming point: what should I play next? Ah,that age old struggle that hath vexed humanity since the time o’ the Atari. Lo & behold, my predilection drew me to the familiar…. (sorry about that)
Over the years, I’ve played through each main entry in the Batman: Arkham series at least three times a piece. Arkham Asylum and City are masterpieces, while Arkham Knight is a gorgeous but troubled ending to Rocksteady’s opus. Thanks to the Return to Arkham re-release, I’ll probably play through them at least once more as we head into the next generation. They are just that good.
But all is not well in Gotham City. When Warner Bros. pushed out the Arkham Collection in 2018 (bundling Asylum, City, and Knight), people rightfully pointed out that a major Arkham game was missing from the line-up. That game is of course 2013’s Batman: Arkham Origins. The major defining factor for this entry was that it wasn’t made by Rocksteady; WB Games Montreal took up the mantle for this go-around. For whatever reason, WB has no interest in giving it the remaster treatment. While not exactly poorly reviewed, Origins’ middling response also didn’t set the world on fire. For all intensive purposes, this is the black sheep of the series.
I think the main issue here (and this is reflected in reviews of the time) was that Origins was just more of the same. Even with the boss fights and timeline shift (it is called Origins after all), the game just feels reheated.
I think it boils down to some bad design choices. Enemy placement is off, the level design is sloppy, and the boss fights are just a couple screws short of brilliant. Soaring through the city is even kind of dull here. That being said, I think the Deathstroke fight is as close as Origins gets to greatness.
Even in spite of its problems, I enjoyed replaying Batman: Arkham Origins. While WB Montreal didn’t swing for the fences, they created a competent adventure anyway. This look into The Dark Knight’s early days is interesting and hits all the right notes. This Batman is an absolute savage. He snarls and rages through this game, leaping cowl first into each escalating encounter.
This combat system has always been addicting. Countering and using gadgets feels second nature to me after spending so much time in these worlds. Origins was the kind of game I needed right now. No too hard, not too easy. A familiar story with a character that I love dearly. I know the lines and I know the story beats. It was a worthwhile couple of hours, and an escape from the horrors that populate our world right now.
There is comfort in the familiar. There is comfort in being the Batman.