Batman Arkham Origins: Warner Montreal Stays True to Rocksteady’s Model...But Is That Entirely a Good Thing?

On the week of June 10th, gamers across the globe all came together to collectively experience the awesomeness that they knew E3 2013 was going to be. And, boy, did it deliver. We were treated to an overwhelming rush of exciting new video game reveals and given the latest in developments concerning titles that we already couldn’t wait to get our sweaty and ready palms on. One of those games of immense anticipation on the hearts of many that week was, of course, Batman: Arkham Origins.

Batman: Arkham Origins Gameplay Demo - IGN Live - E3 2013

This game was on the radar of the collective gaming community for reasons other than it being part of a phenomenal video game series about, arguably, the greatest comic book hero of all time.

Batman: Arkham Origins piqued the interest of many a nerd because it was revealed to feature an entirely new setting that houses a unique and intriguing plot. With the next installment of the Arkham series handed off to a completely different developer, eyes have been glued towards the progress of Warner Brothers Games in Montreal as they put their fresh hands to work on their beloved franchise...

Well...Mostly out of fear...

With former praised developer Rocksteady out of the picture for an Arkham game, a slight increase in anxiety was almost instantly adopted by fans everywhere.

Could WB Montreal treat their new responsibility with enough care to keep this incredible series alive and well or would they completely transform and ruin the Dark Knight experience as we know it?

Questions like that and more loomed in our minds for what seemed like an eternity...an eternity that ended last week with WB Montreal’s gameplay reveal.

The Fate of the Arkham Series is in the Hands of WB Montreal[/caption] The in-game footage shown was, for the most part, very familiar to many of those already invested in the Arkham universe. Once Batman disposes of a terrified street thug by dropping him off of a roof (non-lethally of course), the audience is greeted by the same layout and dark landscape design that made Arkham City such a fun place to glide around and navigate in, as opposed to its immediate predecessor. WB Montreal also showcased their loyalty to the Rocksteady blueprint by keeping the HUD pretty much exactly the same as well, with only a few, minor changes.

Actually...They’ve kept a lot of elements from Arkham City the same...which is great from a gameplay standpoint...but not-so-great when it comes to creativity and innovation.

This is not to say that WB Games Montreal didn’t make any effort to make Origins a different Batman than City. They did announce a couple of changes to the combat (new enemy types), the gadgets (Remote Claw being the first new gadget touted), the sandboxed world (two times bigger than Arkham City...and much more Christmassy) and Detective Mode. While these are all great evolutionary steps for the series, at this point, from what was revealed, it doesn’t seem like Arkham Origins is going to provide enough differences to make it stand out as anything more than just a slightly improved Arkham City with less chaos and more Santa Claus... ...which is just fine for most people out there who are craving a little more of the Batman experience...but for me...it’s quite a shame really...

Forgive me if I sound ungrateful or spoiled in terms of my gaming expectations but I wanted Arkham Origins to be much more grander than what I’ve seen so far.

Much like the jump in quality that made Arkham City lightyears better than Arkham Asylum, I wanted WB Montreal to provide a drastically different experience presentation-wise, while keeping the same gameplay mechanics that make an Arkham game so satisfying to play. For example, since the story is set to take place before Gotham was transformed into a playground for psychopaths, one of the additions that I was expecting to have made it into Arkham Origins was actual citizens. Arkham City’s streets was littered with nothing but goons and hired thugs, which was excusable considering the climate. However, since this is Gotham, one of the biggest and busy cities in the DC universe, the demo left me wanting to see more of that liveliness. Instead, we were given the same degree of thugs on the streets and almost no civilian interaction. I understand that this game takes place during Christmas Eve hours that encourage sleeping at home with family, but having only bad guys roaming around Gotham really takes away from the realism of the universe and robs the player of feeling like they’re working to save have a living, breathing city...with innocent, good-natured people. Another desired addition of mine was the integration of Bruce Wayne’s life into the overall narrative. I would have rather enjoyed the opportunity get to view Gotham through the eyes of the compassionate and intelligent billionaire that you are by being able to play as him... ...though not to the monotonous degree of Desmond-like proportions in the Assassin’s Creed series of course...

Without the mask and cape on, Bruce Wayne would be able to get a lot closer and familiar with issues and cases that pop up and those involved with them, thus making solving those issues as Batman all that more satisfying. Once again, with video games centered around heroism, it’s crucial that you give the player incentive to actually care about the world that they’re saving by getting them at least a little bit invested in it.

Those are just two personally preferred and, by no means, perfect suggestions of significant change that I, a normal consumer of video games, would have implemented. That being said, I’m somewhat disappointed that WB Montreal didn’t take a bit more risk to upgrade the Dark Knight experience. I’m sure that the developers up there are a thousand times more creative and talented than I am and have the ability to create interactive worlds beyond the imaginations of many. Making a somewhat leveled-up version of Arkham City, while a very financially safe move, doesn’t reflect the innovation that I know that their minds are capable of.

(Though I do understand that 1) what we saw was just a demo that may not have featured everything the game has to offer and B) there are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes such as developer deadlines, demands, and limitations that I could not possibly comprehend from the perspective of a consumer...so I do give Warner Brothers Montreal some slack and praise on that end.)

Nevertheless, I am still very excited for Batman: Arkham Origins. The new story and setting are very appealing and having the opportunity to see and play as a younger, more grittier Batman in his early stages of crime-fighting is an opportunity that I would be a fool to pass up.

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