A Disappointment Three and a Half Years in the Making.

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Posted by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

June 2010, e3: at the last Nintendo e3 conference before the launch of the 3DS(and possibly the last Nintendo e3 conference ever), the presenter showed off a wall-sized collage of the major franchises confirmed to be appearing on the new handheld.

My eye settled immediately on the unmistakeable logo of the Batman: Arkham series(which, of course, hadn't seen a sequel yet) and I was positively ecstatic. My favorite pasttime had been playing the combat challenges in Arkham Asylum and climbing the leaderboards, so to me, the idea of punching badguys on the go- even if it had to be dumbed down a smidge- had to be the most awesome thing to find on a handheld. It was a dream I held onto even after the announcement and release of the system and even after Lego Batman came out- which was worrisome until I convinced myself that the logo was for Batman: Arkham and not just any Batman release.

In the meantime, I picked up any 3ds game that offered anything approaching an Arkham-style melee combat system, and waited. Early this year(or was it late last year?), I got an issue of Game Informer which confirmed the existence of the game I'd been waiting so long for and gave some initial details on the gameplay format. I was a little dismayed to find it was going to feature a full story-driven campaign rather than just being an arena challenge compilation a la Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D. I still kept faith, though, in the combat.

I picked up the game on launch day- I had even considered foregoing the console release altogether. I'm now about 80% of the way through Arkham Origins: Blackgate and I can't fully detail all the ways I'm disappointed in the game. It isn't a game about punching dudes in the face the way every Arkham game's been since Asylum- it's an hours-long easter egg hunt. The game has you entering 3 separate mazes that are interconnected and you're left feeling around almost blindly for the next step on the road to the finish- sometimes without even a waypoint on the nearly useless map.

I call the map "nearly useless" because it's a floor plan- a bird's eye view of the compound when you cannot access the rooms from any direction but left-to-right and all the twisting and turning is handled automatically. A 3D map would have helped immensely in navigating the environment.

The combat is the merest shadow of what even Arkham Asylum had achieved- strike, counter, stun and dodge are the basic options, but there are no combo gadgets, no blade dodges, special takedowns or any advanced maneuver other than the beatdown. Even the ground pound doesn't function as part of a combat encounter, but is used strictly as a predator maneuver. Further, you cannot target individual enemies in a combat encounter, but rather you only have control over whether you attack an enemy to the left or the right of you. This is especially troublesome when there is a special enemy type in the mix- knife wielding enemies or enemies with stun rods need to be managed in specific ways that can disrupt your combo if targeted on the wrong enemy.

I've always viewed the campaigns in the Arkham games to be a nuisance to be dealt with and forgotten once I've earned all the available combat upgrades. I put so many hours into Arkham City because I was able replay and improve my scores in the combat challenges over and over again. But there appear to be no combat challenges at all in Blackgate. And what's more, enemies don't respawn when you travel from one area to another. So if you're lost on the way to the next under explained objective, there's literally nothing to do but wander around.

So on the whole, I am disappointed that Arkham Origins: Blackgate, a game I have literally been waiting for for years, decided to go in exactly the opposite direction to how it could have best shined as a handheld entry in a console franchise.

The game isn't bad- maybe a little frustrating, but not bad. It's just focussed on, in my opinion, the wrong side of the franchise. Too much exploring and scanning, not enough punchin' stuff.

Have any of you got any opinions on the game?

#1 Posted by turtlethetaffer (16672 posts) -

I remember you getting uber excited about the game... Sad to see that it wasn't what you hoped. The fact that there aren't any combat challenges like in the console games baffles me, though... You'd think that the bite sized nature of them would translate perfectly to the handheld, allowing for quick gaming on the go.

Ah well, I guess we can always stick with City until the next Rocksteady game comes out.

#2 Edited by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

@turtlethetaffer: Yeah, I was really bent out of shape when I realized that Captain America: Super Soldier (a 3DS port of the Wii version of the game) was a better Arkham game than the one I waited so long for. And I bought that 6 months after I got my 3DS.

Even if they'd gone with a level based format where each level was like the Gotham City intro, it would have been better(or at least offered more replayability) than the current state of the game. Constantly wandering around disserted hallways gets old fast.

#3 Posted by turtlethetaffer (16672 posts) -

I'm always really cautious about handheld versions of console games. They are usually pretty bad, with some exceptions obviously.

#4 Posted by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

Not always- on the old DS, some of my favorite games were handheld entries in console franchises: Assassin's Creed 2: Discovery, Brothers in Arms DS, Call of Duty 4, GTA: Chinatown Wars, Guitar Hero: On Tour, Lord of the Rings: Conquest.

But like I said, it's not a bad game, it's just poorly executed. And it's the complete opposite of what I was hoping for. They said it has a New Game + mode and I'm at the endgame now, so I'm probably going to go through it again to see if familiarity with the map effects how I view my next playthrough.

#6 Posted by ZZoMBiE13 (22911 posts) -

Yeah, Blackgate was a big let down. The combat was dull, the traversal was the weakest kind of "walk here, do a thing, walk there do a thing" type of lazy design.

I took it back and traded it in mere days after picking it up.

#7 Posted by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

Anyone beat the game facing Blackmask last?

#8 Posted by dvader654 (44752 posts) -

I bet I am better than you at AC. :P

Ok probably not, I focus more on the predator challenge leaderboards.

#9 Edited by Metamania (11971 posts) -

I bet I am better than you at AC. :P

Ok probably not, I focus more on the predator challenge leaderboards.

He's pretty good at the fights though. El would always try to get me to compete with him by working on the Ice Lounge in Batman: Arkham City.

#10 Posted by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

@dvader654: What's your all time high score on the Iceberg Lounge VIP Room?

I bet it ain't better'n 2.5 MILLION points.

#11 Posted by dvader654 (44752 posts) -

@dvader654: What's your all time high score on the Iceberg Lounge VIP Room?

I bet it ain't better'n 2.5 MILLION points.

I am sure its not. But I have been top 3 in predator maps.

#12 Edited by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

@dvader654: the top ten in predator challenges are usually under 5 seconds. What was your time?

I'm no good at predator maps- too much thinking, not enough punching stuff in the face. I could go through them all and (probably) get all the metals, but my times are generally atrocious- usually in the 8-10 minute range.

I'm more direct in my tastes- an endless flow of badguys with nothing between them and me but Batman's fists. And feet. And batarangs, electrical charges, freeze blasts and so on.

Come to think of it, there's a lot standing between me and them.

#13 Posted by dvader654 (44752 posts) -

@dvader654: the top ten in predator challenges are usually under 5 seconds. What was your time?

I'm no good at predator maps- too much thinking, not enough punching stuff in the face. I could go through them all and (probably) get all the metals, but my times are generally atrocious- usually in the 8-10 minute range.

I'm more direct in my tastes- an endless flow of badguys with nothing between them and me but Batman's fists. And feet. And batarangs, electrical charges, freeze blasts and so on.

Come to think of it, there's a lot standing between me and them.

It was early on before everyone cheated.

#14 Edited by Business_Fun (2281 posts) -

I'm the opposite - campaign is the meat and drink of any Arkham game as far as I' concerned. The challenge rooms just mock me with game playing skills I'll never be able to master.

#15 Edited by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

@Business_Fun: That's a curious statement. What do you mean, "game playing skills I'll never be able to master"?

#16 Posted by ZZoMBiE13 (22911 posts) -

@El_Zo1212o: I have to say it, I love having your scores pop up on my friend list leaderboard. Gives me something to strive for.

I think one of the main reasons I did so well at Arkham Asylum's combat challenges was because Lucas and I had a friendly rivalry going. It drove me to improve. By the time City rolled around, he'd moved on to using PS3 for multiplatform releases and no one else on my list was even close to my level.

You kinda bury me. But I dig that (heh, puns). Means I need to do better.

Of course, I likely won't DO any better since XCOM has come out and is eating up all my game time at the moment. I'd logged over 300 hours in XCOM before the expansion, and the expansion does a lot to shake up the status quo.

#17 Posted by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

@ZZoMBiE13: Yeah, for me it was all those anonymous names on the leaderboards drawing me to greater and greater heights of badassitude. I don't feel the same draw with Arkham Origins, though- I doubt whether or not I'll even manage to top your score on 100 to 1.

It seems like before I'm getting really warmed up, the match is over with.

#18 Posted by ZZoMBiE13 (22911 posts) -

@ZZoMBiE13: Yeah, for me it was all those anonymous names on the leaderboards drawing me to greater and greater heights of badassitude. I don't feel the same draw with Arkham Origins, though- I doubt whether or not I'll even manage to top your score on 100 to 1.

It seems like before I'm getting really warmed up, the match is over with.

I've actually been playing more Joker's Carnival as well. I never did beat that million point challenge and I've always wanted to go back and try to finish that last medal.

#19 Edited by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

@ZZoMBiE13: I never managed that with Batman(I don't think). With Robin, his raw speed made it, if not exactly a breeze, possible at least. The key is to identify and eliminate the targets most likely to hit you first- ninjas, anyone going for a gun, shields and especially the Joker. Also, when things get hairy, don't hesitate for an instant to bank. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to level 4 or 5 and then losing the bonus time and points because you hesitated to bank it up, thinking you could squeeze your way out of it.

Also, remember that your combo multiplier, while still important, is less important to making that big score than the bonus points you can rack up.

#20 Edited by Business_Fun (2281 posts) -
#21 Edited by Business_Fun (2281 posts) -

@El_Zo1212o:

I mean that my ability to use Batman's toolset to maximum potential will never be good enough to make dent in those challenges (my predator encounters in the campaign are typically scrappy affairs).

#22 Posted by MirkoS77 (7142 posts) -

Nice impressions Z, though unfortunate it turned out so bad. I was planning on picking this up along with the system but think I'll be passing instead.

#23 Posted by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

@MirkoS77: Well, now, that depends on what you're looking for- as a Metroidvania "find-this-to-get-past-here" experience, it totally succeeds. Well, except for the map thing. It's even got a passable story(if a little thin). It's just a couple of design decisions that focus the game away from combat that really bummed me out. So if you're looking for a good Metroidvania game, there IS one in Arkham Origins: Blackgate, but if you're looking for Arkham Combat on the go, this one is barely passable.

If you like Punchin' Stuff games, look up Captain America: Super Soldier(if you can handle the art style) or the Amazing Spiderman.

@Business_Fun: Ah, but you see, that's exactly what the challenges are for. If you subtract, oh... 30 hours for my campaign playthrough(I only ever did one), I've spent 280 hours playing mostly just 2 combat challenges- Joker's Carnival and the Iceberg Lounge VIP Room. The Iceberg Lounge especially. I'm still a little iffy about using the explosive gel in combat, so I only ever use it once for the variation, but after spending hours and hours just clubbing badguys, most of the combat moves are second nature to me.