This article is the opinion of the author and in no way reflects a side-wide opinion. Each author attended Eurogamer separately – look out for other opinions in due course…
I was very fortunate enough to not only get hands on with a playable demo for Arkham Origins but also to attend the Eurogamer Expo developer session for the game as well as an opportunity to speak with the developers from WB Montreal as well.
(Dev Session begins at 07:03)
I am a huge Arkham fan, and have much love for the work Rocksteady have done to bring a true graphic novel level experience to a comic book adaptation. Both Asylum and Arkham City were amazing games both for story and especially for gameplay and it came as quite a shock when it was announced by Warner Brothers that it would be their brand new WB Montreal studio who would be taking over from Rocksteady to bring us Arkham Origins, a prequel story set before the first two Arkham Games.
From the video above you can see the developers themselves discussing what they have brought to the Arkham series, and it was the demo played on stage that fans attending Eurogamer Expo were able to play on the show floor. The demo stand was my first stop after the session itself, and after playing was lucky to get an opportunity to discuss the game with the developers for a good 20 minutes after playing.
It is has been made clear that Rocksteady gave their blessing to WB Montreal for Origins, and provided the technology used to make Arkham City to them so what you have with Origins is a game that has the same feel and look as City. Playing the demo felt perfectly natural from exploring the much large world of Gotham city to the free flow combat which has kept the speed and fluidity of City.
What felt new about what WB Montreal was the addition of random crime events which you as a player as either choose to stop or to ignore depending on your current objective. What is new about the combat in Origins, is that depending on how well you fight, the XP you collect will be based on your grading once the combat is complete. The more “Batman” you are the higher the grade and higher the XP you get. I like this new style, being rewarded for being more Batman is a nice touch and will help players learn to do more then just jump in and button mash till everyone is down.
Detective mode has also been improved upon by WB Montreal with Batman now having the ability to recreate a crime scene piece by piece to see how an event took place. One of the criticisms Arkham games have had in the past, is that the detective side for Batman in the games felt very automatic. Switch on detective mode, scan a clue and the game would connect the dots and show you where you needed to go next. This new style of having the player search for clues at a crime scene and then rewinding the crime itself from those clues in order to discover the cause or find new clues feels very true to the Batman from the comics, because Batman is a detective as much as he is an action hero. WB Montreal have given fans the chance to experience this aspect to Batman, who in Origins is only two years into his career as Gotham’s Dark Knight.
As well as the main villains who are out to collect the bounty put on Batman’s head by Black Mask, other lesser known characters will make an appearance to give Batman missions to do such as the Anarky. In the demo, you come across bombs set to explode by Anarky and using detective mode you track down Anarky and get introduced to a new enemy archetype in the Martial Artist. This enemy is able to counter more of Batman’s attacks more so then a standard thug. The AI is very good and matching your attacks so you need to change up from just doing normal standard attacks in order to take them down. Replacing the Titan enemy from previous Arkham games in the large heavy armoured enemies. You battle these like you would a Titan, stun 3 times then attack until Bats rips off their armour then repeat to put down. This is again a great way to build your combo metre and mixed in with a battle with other thugs will test your skills to try and get a high grade.
The demo ends with Batman discovering Joker and coming face to face for the first time with his brutality and violence. Origins will have Batman being introduced to some of the biggest Villains in his universe for the first time, and if the story follows the example shown in the demo, each encounter is going to be something quite special, not just for fans of the Arkham series but for anyone who is a Batman fan.
Speaking with the developers, they acknowledged their concern for how loyal Rocksteady fans of Arkham would react to their series being taken over by a new Studio in WB Montreal. They told me that they wanted to stay true to what Rocksteady have built as a series and to what fans expect from an Arkham game but also wanted to give fans a new experience worthy of their time. With the addition of a full Multiplayer mode, WB Montreal wanted to give more for fans to do, but they have not forgotten what loyal fans loved about the challenge maps which also make a return for Origins.
I asked them if they planned on revealing any more villains before release and they confirmed that there will be no more revealed before launch so fans got a surprise when playing the game. They understood the need to build hype for the game especially with Origins being the first non Rocksteady game and the first not to feature the voice talents of Mark Hamill as The Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman, but did not want to give so much away that fans have nothing left to look forward to discovering once they get to play the final game. One of the reasons they chose to set the game as a prequel was so they could make their own story without the worry of undoing the lore created by Rocksteady in their games. They respect what fans have come to know, and felt that in a prequel story going right back to when Batman was new to crime fighting they could tell a new story but keep the series legacy whole.
Overall, the concerns I had for Origins have gone. Whilst I am still not sure about the MP addition, the fact that everything that I loved about the Arkham series to this point is still there means I still get the game I would expect for the series. The story itself, as a comic book fan of Batman, has a real Year One and Nightfall kind of feel to it, and with Batman meeting so many villains for the first time, it will be great to see how that comes together on screen. I am very much looking forward to Origins and adding it to my Arkham Collection, fans of the series can rest easy knowing that Arkham is in safe hands. WB also announced that a season pass will be available for Origins so there will be DLC to follow release that will feature skins, Challenge maps and MP content as well as SP Content such as playing as Bruce Wayne on his final test before he becomes the Batman.
Batman Arkham Origins is released for Xbox 360 October 25th