With WB Games hopefully continuing their Batman winning streak with the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins, they’ve turned to Mortal Kombat and Arkham City Lockdown developer Netherrealm Studios to develop a mobile tie-in game with Origins, albeit without any sort of subtitle to create maximum confusion! D’oh!
While Arkham City Lockdown had a surprisingly robust combat engine that was based off of swipes and taps, Arkham Origins recycles the controls from the recent Injustice mobile game, which offers a simplified experience that relies almost exclusively on taps: tap to punch, tap to activate special moves and buffs, etc. There is the occasional swipe involved, as landing a particularly hard hit will prompt you to swipe to land a haymaker or roundhouse kick, but it’s virtually all single-finger taps to land blows, or holding two fingers in place to block. It works very well, but it’s a far less visceral and satisfying experience than Arkham City Lockdown, especially given the long pauses in combat that allow for more strategic planning. It feels strangely slow-paced, which doesn’t help maintain the illusion of two combatants engaged in a brawl.
The other major change comes from the always-dubious free-to-play model that Arkham Origins employs. The upfront game is gratis, but there’s multiple “currencies” to juggle in order to maximize efficiency. Fall in battle? Use WayneTech credits to resurrect yourself. Want to keep your criminal-crushing streak going? You’ll have to wait for your finite stamina bar to replenish itself before you can keep the streets of Gotham safe again. Of course, parting ways with some real-world cash will speed up the process, but it never becomes an outright necessity. However, the move to clean up Gotham slows to a crawl without spending some money, so keep that in mind.
The game itself is a visual powerhouse as well. The few rotating character models for the thugs you face are well-rendered and well-animated, and there are a slew of unlockable costumes for the Dark Knight to don which cost, you guessed it, WayneTech credits…time to open your wallet, folks! The fan service is pleasantly pandering (I’m hoping the ubiquitous Batman Beyond suit in the past few Batman-inclusive games is hinting towards something greater), but they cost such an astronomical amount of virtual currency that getting them all would become a full-time job without dropping some real money.
I know I’m really grousing about the free-to-play model here, but it’s such a barrier to true immersion in the game—which is already a less enjoyable experience than its prequel—that it brings the entertainment value down more than the “free” aspect of the game can overcome. It’s not terrible, and it’s a mindless way to while away a few minutes here and there, but it’s not the experience that Batman fans deserve.