Blog Post

On Leather Wings…

So I’ll start by saying that I promise not to keep referring to previous posts for subjects of recent posts – this thing is only just a week old and that can’t last, nor was it my intention, but that’s how things have worked out. Also, promise not to just be me making these posts, either. Everyone on the show is welcome and invited to make posts, but since, out of all of us, I have the most time, I’m taking on most of the posting duties for the time being.

Now, with that out of the way, I want to go back to my first post about Batman: Arkham Origins. I’ve been playing it now since it release on Friday and it’s been nonstop. I haven’t wanted to play anything else and I’m a bit glad nothing else is out there at the moment for me to play (Battlefield 4, yes, and I’ll get to it, but I’m beelined focused on Batman currently). So here are my thoughts as of 25 hours of playtime (I’m an extremely slow player in open world games, by the way) and 91% complete with the main story for Batman: Arkham Origins:

If you are a fan of Batman you should be playing this game. If you’re a fan of the previous Arkham games, you should be playing this game. But…there’s a catch, and I’ll get to that after I gush over the game for a bit.

I love the combat in Arkham Origins more than I did in the previous games and yeah, they tweaked it. Some will say for good, others will cry foul – perfectly acceptable either way. But I’m doing better at the combat in this game than I did in the previous two. I also have a MUCH better understanding of the combat than I did before. My awareness of a fight is better and I’m easily able to pay better attention to the crowd of thugs, where to strike next, who to stun and leave for later, where my counter is and how many critical strikes I have, who has the knife, where is the ninja, and, just recently, can and should I activate my shock gloves. Seriously, the combat has all come together for me in Arkham Origins better than it ever did in Arkham Asylum or Arkham City. A side note here, I’m playing on the PC and was able to adjust the Field Of View. I only recently made that adjustment and it helps out a ton with the combat. The FOV adjustment only improved my already better understanding of the combat but I had been playing in the default FOV for the majority of the game – still like it better than the previous two titles.

I love the larger city and I really love seeing the parts I played around with in AC as they were before they got closed off as a prison city and flooded. Some have said the areas lack the personality they had in Arkham City and the reason for this is because a super villain hasn’t inhabited that section and made it their own. Interiors of certain buildings still hold true to the personality of the villain who is in that area, but the outside is pretty much void of those signatures. The city doesn’t feel “alive”, however, and EVERYONE in the city is a threat to you. The game explains this away by setting it on Christmas Eve and having a massive blizzard hit Gotham City – something it constantly reminds you with loudspeakers in the open world reminding citizens that a curfew is in place. The lack of pedestrians and the main plot of the story (bounty on Batman’s head from Black Mask who’s killed the current police commissioner in a gigantic prison break/riot at Blackgate) explains the city being overrun with criminals. Oh, and a note, it’s nice to finally fight regular criminals (and corrupt police) instead of orange jumpsuit after orange jumpsuit from AC – although, again, that situation fit in with the story of what was going on with that game, just as this one does for Origin.

Speaking of the story, before yesterday’s playing of the game, when I was at around 50% done, I would have made this a pretty short segment and said, “It’s a Batman game with a typical mass media market Batman story.” Something like that should tell you a bit about what to expect from the story. Anything Batman made for massive public consumption will always have a formula for what to expect. There will always be Batman. And he’ll always be fighting….well, you know who. It’s no secret Joker is in Arkham Origins. It’s been made a pretty big deal by the fact that both Batman and Joker had their voice actors recast from the previous games. More on that later. But yes, the Joker is in Arkham Origins and isn’t some side act or chance encounter. We essentially play Batman as he first meets the Joker in what has come to be called “The Arkhamverse” – meaning just the video games. The story for Origins takes place just about a year after Batman has started showing up in Gotham. You overhear criminals on the street talking about the myth of the Bat and retell stories they’ve heard from other criminals about what “it” is and if even the Batman is such a thing. So it’s early for Bruce Wayne as Batman, and it shows in his dialogue. It doesn’t come across as the older, wiser, and just generally smarter Batman we’ve come to know. This Batman is more aggressive and comes off expressively cocky and arrogant. At least more so than I’m used to from the previous games.

I really felt like the story wasn’t anything special. Becoming an excuse to bring in these characters (and kudos for them pulling a little from top, middle, and bottom shelf villains, instead of rehashing the AAA rogues gallery) and have Batman fight them. Then I hit the 50% mark and entered the hotel. I’ll stop there and just say the story progresses quick in this section, so much so that by the time I came out the other end and returned to the free roam aspect of the game, I was at my current completion percentage of 91% (as far as the story is concerned, full game completion sits at only 34% or so). That moment…and you WILL know that moment, stands as one of the BEST I’ve experienced in any of the Batman games so far.

While I haven’t finished the story yet, I’m really confused on those who mark against the story after that part I just described. It really does put to shame the other two games, although it had a bit of a leg up with how this one is set in the timeline. I also get a bit sadfaced when I hear people use the voice talent as part of an excuse to skip this one or that it is lesser in some way because of it. I mean yeah, the Conroy & Hamill connection is not here for Arkham Origins. It has been replaced by two other voice actors who do a great job with the roles. Roger Craig Smith voices Batman and I can easily tell you that you won’t miss Conroy’s voice as the Bat. He doesn’t replace the voice of Batman I hear in my head when I think of the character. Conroy owned that for 5 seasons and longer with the animated series (same with Hamill and the Joker), but as much as it’s been listed as a negative that those voices aren’t in the game, these guys aren’t getting their due. It’s fantastic work and really should be given a chance by any fan of the character. Same goes for Troy Baker as the Joker, but I have to nitpick a bit since he’s essentially doing a Hamill impression of the Joker. He nails it, by the way, and I was ready to end my thoughts on it there before I hit that section of the story I mentioned earlier. He does SO WELL as the Joker for that part of the game that it doesn’t become a Hamill impersonation for me anymore. Troy owns it here.

As for complaints of Origins just being a rehash of the previous games, I can’t really buy into that. There is similarity, but the art direction is different with the characters. I’m not even kidding that there is a HUGE difference in the hulked up Gears Of War looking Jim Gordon from Arkham Asylum and how he looks in Origins. The characters are different and seem less over the top in their design in this game as compared to the previous two. Also…the cut scenes in Origins outshine those we saw in Asylum and City, and by leaps and bounds at that.

Now, about that catch I mentioned earlier…it’s kind of a big one. For all the best parts of this game I still would say to hold off on buying it – for the PC anyway, but as forums posts have shown, it’s the same on the consoles. This game is Mayor Buggy McBuggington of Bug Town. I’ve had lock ups (2), crashes (1), moments in fights where an opponent floats to the other side of me as I’m attacking (1), missed dialogue (1), and a pretty damn big one that prevents me from finishing a characters side quest (Riddler). The game looks fantastic on PC, and I love playing it, but, in good faith, I can’t see these issues and still tell you to play the game. This should not have released when it did, but the pressures of getting in before the next generation hits store shelves, plus the other heavy hitters on the horizon (Battlefield 4, AC4, WatchDogs at the time, & CoD: Ghosts) meant this thing HAD to hit its release date and it has paid for that rush job in the amount of bugs seen throughout the game. Others have run across plenty more that are game breaking, but I only listed the ones I have experienced…so far. A recent patch was released but it fixed a lot of bugs people were experiencing on the Multiplayer side of things. Yeah…this game has multiplayer, but I have yet to give it a try.

This will be a great game to play for any fan of the previous games and if you don’t think the bugs will bother you, then by all means pick it up. Otherwise, keep an eye on forums and wait to see some patch notes to make sure this thing is running the way it should for a full completion of the game. Still, even after that, don’t let the small things like voice actors or a change in studio making the game sway you from playing it. It’s a fantastic Batman game that, even with 25 hours put in, has never felt like a chore or a task. It’s always felt fun and has been something I’ve looked forward to playing every day since it launched. Don’t miss out….you know, when they patch the bugs, of course.

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