Here's What's Bothering Me About Batman: Arkham Origins

I watched the trailer for the upcoming Batman game that got released earlier this week and immediately had one inescapable thought: you can’t tell it’s a prequel. That’s not a good thing.

Nothing about Batman’s look or affect in the four-minute clip makes it seem like he’s in the early days of his crimefighting career. Overall, it could be just another Batman video game that looks like the last ones. That’s to be expected, of course, as Warner Bros’ marketing folks want it to be viewed as part of the same franchise despite being made by a different studio. But trying to do so misses the best thing a prequel has going for it.

Arkham Origins’ biggest opportunity is to show a Bruce Wayne who’s building this identity called Batman. There’s a lot of raw storytelling ore to found in the Dark Knight’s early days. Hell, there’s a whole subgenre of Bat-mythos concerned with just the first year of Batman’s crusade. But the key to having such endeavours work is to ensure they don’t make the audience scratch their head about the long narrative life story of the character.

Sure, the idea of a video-scrubbing investigation mechanic sounds cool and, based on what Stephen Totilo’s written on it, it could be one of the better additions to the Batman game formula. But, unless it’s presented as Batman learning to be a better detective, it’s just a gameplay gimmick. Same goes for enemies being to able to counter Batman’s strikes. If it’s understood that they can do that because a younger Batman isn’t as skilled a fighter, then, sure, throw the countered counter counters at me. It's the problem with any prequel. How do you make players feel like they're as much of a bad-ass as they were in earlier games, while making the character seem like a novice?

Trickier still, any explanations could themselves break the trance that Warner Bros. Montreal is trying to cast on the player. Now the game could be an extended flashback narrated by an older Batman. You know, the whole “I was young and cocky” bit. However they handle these prequel problems, they’ll need to be careful not to make a more inexperienced Batman seem like bigger bad-ass than the older versions in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. And that needs to be done without making Batman feel wimpier than in those games.

It can be done. Batman: Year One, the Mask of the Phantasm movie and the Venom storyline all deliver a Bruce Wayne who’s far more fallible than the hero he’d later become. You understand why he becomes a loner, an obsessive planner and more emotionally closed-off. In fact, the idea that you as a player are helping Batman evolve -- taking him from a rich guy in an armoured suit to a fearsome shadow predator -- could be the most compelling thing that Arkham Origins brings to the table. The previous Bat-games let you play a Dark Knight at his peak. This one should let you help him get there.


Comments

    All storytelling and characterization aside, if it plays as well as the others it'll still be a cut above most.
    I'd like the context to make sense, and for them to make good use of the possibilities of the prequel, but I'll settle for a fun game.

    Just because it's a prequel doesnt mean that they have to do a story explaining how he became Batman. It's been done to death.
    I don't want to play as a weak, inexperienced young Batman. Bruce Wayne was always an older, strong, smart man - before he became Batman. He wasn't some punk who decided to throw on a costume and do some detective work.

    Last edited 25/05/13 12:46 pm

    I dont like that its a prequel, I like new story to be after the one before.

    Isn't it Arkham Asylums Origins? not Batmans? My understanding is this is the story that leads up to Arkham being used as a high security nut house for Batmans rogues gallery. Yes he is a younger Batman but by no means isn't it his first outing

    Is it meant to be Batman's early years of crimefighting though? It's a prequel, sure, but he could have still been fighting crime for years. I mean, there's a whole heap of assassin's after him, so clearly he's been around long enough to piss some people off.

    Here's what's bothering me about Batman: Arkham Origins. Nothing.

    It's probably harder to tell from the trailer but Batman doesn't even look younger. He'll have a younger voice but I thought they would have made him look a little leaner and made his face a little less gruff. It'll probably come down to the storyline in the end but hopefully they pull it off.

    I would have preferred a sequel because there were some loose plot threads that could have been followed (like the Hush storyline) but maybe they were afraid to make a Batman game without the joker

      My money is on Rocksteady currently developing a next-gen Arkham game that continues on from Arkham City's ending, while Warner Bros Montreal puts out Origins on current-gen consoles. Heck, Kevin Conroy accidentally all but confirmed via his Twitter recently that there's another Arkham game in development other than Origins that he's lending his voice to.

        That's gonna be pretty awesome if true. Maybe E3 will reveal something.

    Its Arkham origins. Not Batman origins.

      True, the title is indeed Batman: Arkham Origins. However, they're using the Arkham name to tie this game to the previous ones, not to state that this game specifically details the origins of Arkham Asylum.

    pFFFFT. Needlessly negative article does nothing goes nowhere.

      That should be the subtitle for Kotaku

    I think there's a good point in there somewhere, only it seems to be suggesting that if the "prequel" part isn't successful then the rest isn't either. I'm of the opinion that being the free-thinking individual that i am, i'm not someone who tries to take marketing missteps too seriously. This may be what you want from a prequel and yeah, there are some neat ideas in there but i'm thankful there aren't such stringent rules on creativity that the audience can actually try and define what a game should be before it's even out.

    I also thought the "Origins" in the title was referring to Arkham Asylum, not Batman as another poster pointed out.

    BREAKING NEWS! GAME DEVELOPER SIMPLY DOES EXACTLY WHAT IT DID BEFORE!

    Film at eleven!

      Completely different developer, you living under a rock?

      INTERNET COMMENTER MAKES NEGATIVE COMMENT AND ENDS WITH "FILM AT ELEVEN"

      Film at Eleven!

    The problem is the title. Bruce has been Batman for 2 years already when you start the game. It's hardly an Origins story

    Also the suit looks more advanced.

    What part of that fantastic Blur Studio trailer says. This is a weaker, less experienced Batman? I couldn't see anything. Batman looks old, grizzled and badass.

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