Day One of E3 2013 is officially underway, and the show floor is littered with gameplay demos and publishers looking to convince you that their game is literally the greatest piece of entertainment on planet Earth. One of the most anticipated games of the Fall is Waner Bros. Montreal’s Batman: Arkham Origins, a franchise previously made famous by the hard-working folks over at Rocksteady. After being treated to an in-depth gameplay session, I’ve gathered a few thoughts about the upcoming three-quel-that’s-a-prequel.
As a basic overview for those just catching up, Batman: Arkham Origins is set well before the events of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. The team also confirmed just this morning that the game actually takes place during Bruce Wayne’s second year as the Dark Knight, so this is NOT a Batman: Year One sort of tale. However, the developers are strongly conveying that the Caped Crusader is still in a period of adjustment, not yet becoming the legend criminals fear.
The story so far is that Black Mask isn’t fond of Batman’s constant crusade to end crime in Gotham, and so he’s put out a hit on the brooding hero; graciously attaching a reward for Batman’s death to the tiny sum of $50 million. A dozen of the world’s greatest assassin’s, including Deathstroke, answer the call on a snowy night; and what follows is what will certainly be one of the longest Christmas Eve’s of the Dark Knight’s brief tenure in Gotham. (You See? Long Christmas instead of Long Hallo… I tried.)
Alright, on to the good stuff: Features and Gameplay. Arkham Origins improves upon the open-world formula of Arkham City is a number of ways. The newest feature introduced at E3 is a system called “Crime in Progress.” These randomly generated optional distractions are very reminiscent of the Random Crimes made famous by the Spider-Man 2 game, and task Batman with stopping an ongoing caper. The example shown this morning was a bank robbery in progress that Batman could choose to stop, or otherwise continue progressing the main story without penalty. The benefit to completing these crimes in progress are: A) A clear conscience and B) Additional experience points awarded so Batman can level up faster. In fact, according to the developers, “the world is filled with opportunities to get experience points.”
Another such opportunity for boosting experience is to tackle on the game’s “Most Wanted ” characters; which are optional side-missions against classic Batman rogues similar to how Batman could discover clues and ultimately face off against optional secondary villains in Arkham City. The example on display today pit Batman against Anarky, who had scattered bombs throughout the city, leaving Batman to play detective before having to square off against a handful of thugs and disarm the each bomb in time. If developed enough, these side-escapades will serve as a fresh change of pace while taking a break from the main campaign, with bonus experience points as incentive for exploring Gotham and tackling side-missions.
Which bring me to another feature of Arkham Origins, the new skill tree. In previous titles, Batman could upgrade his gadgets through either story progress or in exchange for skill points earned while leveling. While a similar system is still in place, Origins features a much deeper skill tree than previous installments, allowing for a multitude of combat upgrades in addition to the inclusion of new gadgets. That’s right, Batman will utilize more gadgets this game than ever before. (To the guy who’s asking how Batman can have better gadgets in a prequel, you know, shut up and stuff; it’s a video game!) The gadget announced at E3 is called the Remote Claw, which allows Batman to grapple an enemy with one claw, then grapple another enemy with a secondary claw before slamming the two together. Additionally, the remote claw doubles as an enhanced line-gun, allowing Batman to create a tightrope to a typically out-of-range gargoyle for extra tactical options.
Of course, all these gadgets and combat upgrades mean little without petty and superstitious criminals to try them out on, so Arkham Origins promises a variety of new enemy types to enhance the combat experience. Two enemy types revealed today were the “enforcer” and the “martial arts expert.” The former is a big bruiser who can pick Batman up and throw him, so he’s not one to turn your back on, while the latter is a melee-focused enemy with the ability to counter Batman’s attacks, leading to a very Spy vs Spy moment of counter-counter-attacks flying back and forth. These “surgical enhancements” to the combat preserve the system Rocksteady nearly perfected while throwing in an added layer of variety and strategic depth to each encounter.
Being a prequel, one of the key draws to the narrative is that it will provide us with a look at how Batman first met some of his most famous rogues. Series villains such as Bane, The Penguin, Deadshot, and Joker are all confirmed to be making appearances, while other new additions such as Black Mask (challenge maps don’t count!) will offer an exciting introduction to fan-favorites as they are brought into the Arkham world for the first time.
As a final note, as of E3, Batman: Arkham Origins is only coming to current-gen platforms, and the Wii U (*insert joke here*). It is headed to the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U this October, with a mobile version of the game also in development. No word on any next-gen plans were provided at this time.
There’s no question that Arkham Origins is shaping up to be a great experience. The only lagging concern is that the game will feel less like a new entry in the series, and more like an expansion of the previous game. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that, it just takes away a certain feeling of freshness while playing; something that many gamers felt when making the transition from Fallout 3 to New Vegas. Depending on what other new features Arkham Origins adds to the mix, like the rumored online co-op, the game will either stand on its own merit, or be seen as just another cash-in to a popular franchise.
Are you guys and gals looking forward to Arkham Origins? What types of features or characters would you like to see added to the game? And who’s excited to play as Deathstroke during challenge maps? Share your thoughts in the usual place, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. If you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.