Batman: Arkham Origins (PC/PS3/X360/Wii U - October 25th, 2013)
Not seeing the Rocksteady logo anywhere near this title has left many skeptical, but maybe their blessing over the prequel will quell some concerns? No? We’re in the same boat, old chum, but what WB Montreal has planned for the Gotham’s protector sounds too interesting to dismiss this early.
Turning back the clock on his career, Origins focuses on an unrefined, mildly brash Batman who hasn’t quite mastered all the skills necessary for Dark Knighthood. It’s Christmas Eve and a who’s who of DC villains are gunning after Bats courtesy of Black Mask. Spanning both Old Gotham (years before its conversion into a prison colony) and New Gotham, Batman traverses a world twice that of Arkham City attempting to learn why he’s been marked for death.
Playing off of the city’s reticence of having a masked maniac soaring over their rooftops on the nightly, Batman can win the people’s trust by completing side quests like shortening Gotham’s Most Wanted list of villains and stopping “Crime in Progress” events such as saving a snitch from certain pavement-y doom or helping a GCPD squad fend off armed thugs. Batman’s notoriety, and the city’s perception of him, changes after every act of good grace.
Even more than his superheroism, though, the narrative and gameplay revolve around Batman the Detective. Scanning the environments with detective vision, just as in the first two games, returns, but Batman can now also review clues and play out crime simulations from within his Batcave, piecing together evidence as he finds it. And there will be no shortage of clues as Old Gotham is riddled with cases for players to solve.
Fans will be pleased to know what they love about the Arkham series won’t change in the third installment: the heavily polished free-flow combat remains nearly untouched and stealth is practically the same, though WB Montreal promises new tactics and moves will be available with unique enemy types to unleash them on. The new “Dark Knight System,” which prompts players with stealth and combat challenges that increase in difficulty, also looks to cut your teeth like never before.
I really do like what I hear and word of Rocksteady’s helpful guidance over gameplay mechanics and some other aspects, though minimal, is encouraging. The Arkham games really have raised the bar not just for comic adaptations but for any game daring to enter the action-adventure genre. I don’t believe for a moment Rocksteady’s work on Batman can be topped – extremely tough act to follow – but I’d sure as hell like to see Origins come close.