Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham trilogy was very much the blueprint for how to make good superhero games, and it’s a blueprint that many games have followed since then to find great success. And the series’ legacy goes far beyond that- Arkham Asylum and City are often called some of the best games of their generation, if not all time, while Arkham Knight, for all of its flaws, has its fair share of fans as well. On top of being amazing adaptations of one of the most beloved properties in the world, they’re also just flat-out stellar games in their own right.
But not all of the Arkham games get the love and attention that they deserve, and nothing exemplifies that better than the fact that more often than not, collectively, they’re referred to as the Arkham trilogy- as we just did a few moments ago. Because really, it’s not a trilogy. Standing toe-to-toe with those three excellent games is Arkham Origins, the WB Games Montreal-developed prequel spinoff that, for multiple reasons, just sort of got lost in the shuffle. Viewed as a half-step to keep fans satisfied between the releases of Arkham City and Arkham Knight, Origins is a game that gets ignored too often (including by Warner Bros. itself), and the fact that it launched only for PS3 and Xbox 360 less than a month before their successors certainly didn’t help the game get any traction.
As those who have played it will tell you though, this game is well worth your attention. Arkham Origins might not have the same impact as the likes of Asylum and City, it might not have the same scale as City and Knight, and it might not be as bombastic as those three games are- but what it is is a thoroughly enjoyable, incredibly well-made game that consistently delivers an authentic Batman experience that, above all else, feels like a very valuable part of the Arkham canon.
Of course, it has all the strengths of the two games that preceded it. The Arkham series’ punchy, rhythmic combat is on full display in Origins, and beating thugs to a pulp while weaving and zipping in and around their attacks in a deadly ballet never gets old. Mixing and matching Batman’s gadgets and many attack combos to take on unique strengths that vary in the sizes of mobs you’re taking on and what kinds of enemies you’re coming up against is predictably thrilling right from the first combat encounter of the game, up until the point the credits roll.
Similarly, stealth, too, is as fun as ever, and using your gadgets and the environment to your advantage as you pick off groups of enemies one by one and strike fear into their hearts feels incredibly empowering. There’s a reason the Arkham series didn’t mess with those two core pillars of gameplay too much for as long as it stuck around- because both stealth and combat boast a strong core in all of these games that just never gets old. Meanwhile, the open world deserves a shoutout as well- not because it stood out in any ways that Arkham City or Knight didn’t (it’s actually a much more pared back experience compared to those two), but simply because if you’re looking for more of that open world Batman traversal, exploration, and side activities, there’s more than enough here to keep you satisfied.
And then, of course, there are the boss fights. Oh, the boss fights. The Arkham series has had some truly excellent boss fights across all four of its games (and, to be honest, some monumentally disappointing ones), but without the shadow of a doubt, Arkham Origins has easily the best collection of boss fights in the entire series. The best of the lot is Deathstroke, of course- that fight in particular has everything one could want from it, and being able to not only watch, but experience that fast-paced one on one duel between these two equally matched foes is perhaps the highlight of the entire game. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it one of the best boss fights in the entire series, if not the best. And of course, there’s plenty of other memorable set piece boss encounters in Arkham Origins as well, including the likes of Bane, Firefly, Copperhead, and Mr. Freeze, to name just a few. Honestly, the boss fights alone make this game worth a look for anyone who has enjoyed the series- though it’s not like it doesn’t have plenty else going for it.
That’s because Arkham Origins also does some interesting new things with investigation mechanics that other games in the series don’t do. Batman is supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, after all, but that side of the character isn’t something that the Arkham games ever focused on an awful lot- with the exception of Arkham Origins. These sequences weren’t extraordinary, by any means, and it’s not like they would go on to set the standard for other similar games for years to come. But within the context of Batman, and the Arkham series, they definitely did feel like a refreshing change of pace.
Something that does stand out in Arkham Origins is the story, which is very much in like with other games in the series. The fact that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill did not reprise their roles as Batman and the Joker respectively seemed like a bit of a bummer on paper before the game came out, but honestly, it doesn’t hurt the game. In fact, Roger Craig Smith is a solid stand-in for Conroy, while Troy Baker absolutely knocked it out of the park as the Joker. The dynamic between these two characters has often been at the heart of some of the best Batman stories across media throughout the years – including Rocksteady’s own trilogy itself – and that’s very much true of Arkham Origins as well. Even beyond that, they way the game brings both iconic and lesser known characters from the Batman mythos into the fray and uses them for its story is consistently satisfying, especially for longtime fans of the property- and by the time the credits have rolled on Arkham Origins, though it might not feel like an absolutely essential part of the larger Arkham story, it does feel like a very valuable part of it. If you have played this game, your experience of the full series is going to be a lot fuller and richer than it would be otherwise.
Arkham Origins has decently sized, dedicated fanbase that, thankfully, has taken it upon itself to make everyone aware of how good the game is, of all of its excellent highs and everything that it brings to the table. That’s good, because sadly, it hasn’t been played by nearly enough people. Warner Bros. definitely hasn’t helped matter- Arkham Origins gets roundly ignored by the publisher whenever it’s talking about its Batman games in any capacity. The fact that Origins is still stuck on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and hasn’t received any remasters to port it to modern consoles is an absolute shame- even its backward compatibility on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S is limited to the disc version exclusively. Hopefully, there will be a remaster for the game in the not-so-distant future, because then, it will finally get its time in the sun- and those who’ve been missing out will realize that this is, in no vague terms, one of the best Batman games to date.
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