Batman: Arkham Origins reboots the Batman video game series by taking its lore from the Legends of the Dark Knight comic book, but developer Warner Bros. Montreal also drew inspiration from Rocksteady Studios' Arkham games, according to creative director Eric Holmes.
Speaking to Polygon, Holmes said one of the things he learned as a game designer from playing Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City was about pacing, and the development team behind Origins has worked to bring those lessons over to its game.
"The pacing in [those games] is fantastic," Holmes said. "There's a certain rhythm that [Rocksteady] hit, where there's a fight, and there's a certain number of people in that fight, then once you're done fighting you navigate for a bit, you grapple and crawl through vents, you swing from gargoyle to gargoyle, and just when you get to a point where you think, 'Dammit, I'd really like a fight,' they bring it back.
"You always finish every single part of the game with a sense that you could have done a bit more, so when they bring it back, you're ready for it," he said. "That was a real challenge for us, to try to figure out what black magic they'd woven there. As a designer, I felt like I grew a lot just understanding what they'd done."
The studio also retained the free-flow combat from the Arkham games, but added features to give players more options. Combat in Origins feels more dynamic because Batman is able to incorporate more gadgets into his brawls. In the demo Polygon played, Batman had his usual arsenal of satisfying punches, kicks and variations of counter-attacks, but he could also use a grappling hook-like device to grab an enemy from afar and drag him into a close range, and often straight into his fist. When an enemy was attached to the end of the hook, Batman could also swing him into other thugs.
"This is a rawer, scarier Batman who's more energetic, more athletic and more aggressive."
Origins also places a greater focus on Batman's detective skills. Players can enter "detective vision" to find clues and reconstruct crime scenes, which gives them more information about where to find criminals. In a demo shown to Polygon, Batman reconstructed the events of a helicopter falling from the sky by entering detective vision, analyzing the evidence at the scene of the crime, and watching replays of the incident from different angles. The replays showed that the helicopter had its tail snapped off by a bullet, and further analysis showed that the bullet came from the direction of a certain building. Using this information, Batman could then trace the bullet to a balcony, where he found the dead body of a SWAT force member, and analyzed that scene to find more clues.
Holmes said Origins aims to be a darker, more intense game, and its purpose is fundamentally different to the Arkham games because where Arkham told the stories of Batman, Origins tells of how the characters in the Batman universe came to be who they are.
"This is all about first encounters and formative experiences. This is a rawer, scarier Batman who's more energetic, more athletic and more aggressive," he said. "With our story, we get to explore the pieces of the puzzle snapping together, rather than appearing complete and retaining that completeness."
Batman: Arkham Origins will be available on Oct. 25 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U and Windows PC.