Batman Arkham Origins: Good or Bad?

Let's look back on the 2013 action game Batman Arkham Origins, the redheaded step-child of the iconic Arkham series, and see if its reputation as the worst game in the franchise is earned, or if it's better than it gets credit for.

Batman Arkham Origins: Good or Bad?

Many people have taken to reflecting on the iconic Batman Arkham series as they await the release of developer Rocksteady’s next project – Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. A game I am reliably informed at least one person still cares about.

Rocksteady’s Batman has seen its fair share of remasters and ports since Batman Arkham Knight‘s release in 2015. With the first two games being remastered for modern consoles, and the trilogy being ported to Nintendo Switch this year. However, there’s one game they rarely ever mention: Batman Arkham Origins.

Arkham Origins is the third game in the series. It was developed by WB Games Montreal instead of Rocksteady. As Rocksteady needed more time to work on Arkham Knight, and didn’t want to keep fans waiting. This being the same studio that hasn’t released a single full game in 8 years. Fun Fact: The gap between Arkham Knight and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is larger than the gap between Arkham Knight and Arkham Asylum, the first game in the series.

Arkham Origins released in October 2013 and was met with mixed reviews. With many people saying it failed to live up to the standard set by its predecessor: Arkham City. But is it really as bad as people remember? Is it still the worst Arkham game by default? I say it deserves a second chance ahead of its 10-year anniversary.



The Good

One Night Stand

Arkham Origins follows the same standard format of all the other Arkham games. An inciting incident snowballs into a Herculean amount of obstacles the Dark Knight must overcome before the sun rises. And in each game, it’s less and less believable that Batman can pull everything off in 10-12 hours. Even though he is Batman.

This game is the only one that really plays with that idea. Instead of being a series of events that happen on one night, everything is happening on that night for a reason. Black Mask puts a bounty on Batman’s head, and tells all the assassins they only have one night to kill him. It puts a timer on the whole story, and explains why things escalate the later the night goes. As the remaining assassins grow more desperate to capture the bounty before the night is through.

The setup is superb, and the execution is great. Everything slowly ramps up and pushes this young Batman beyond his limits. Testing his dedication to his mission, and forcing him to adapt in new ways. Not to mention the additional threats he has to deal with like Enigma and Anarky. Not everything is flawless, though the sections dedicated to Firefly and Bane are perfection. 

Batman vs. Deathstroke

Batman vs. Deathstroke

Roger That

Batman is voiced by the late, great, Kevin Conroy in every other Arkham game. However, he is voiced by Roger Craig Smith in Arkham Origins, as WB Montreal wanted a younger-sounding Bruce Wayne. Kevin Conroy is the definitive voice of Batman, so stepping into his shoes is no mean feat. However, he does an exceptional job.

While Kevin perfectly captures the assertive deep tones of a seasoned Batman, Roger plays an aggressive and angry Bruce Wayne. One who hasn’t fully learned how to control his emotions, and is driven by the rage inside of him. He’s able to balance those cool Batman moments with the more personal and vulnerable Bruce Wayne moments. Way better than the whiny brat from The Batman

None of the voice actors are bad by any stretch of the imagination, but you hear Roger’s voice the most, and his performance is the most impressive. Batman is not an easy character to play. However, he made it his own and cemented himself as one of the best voice actors to ever don the cape and cowl.

Typical Batman interrogation

Typical Batman interrogation

Gotham City’s Sirens

Arkham Origins took Arkham City‘s map and expanded on it to create their version of Gotham City. And while it’s not as impressive as the versions of Gotham seen in Arkham Knight or even Gotham Knights, it gets one big thing right that the series finale did not.

Gotham City actually feels alive. With Batman intercepting police dispatch calls for randomly generated crimes in progress for him to stop. Along with that, there are the crime scenes that Batman can investigate, which give us the best visual examples of Batman being The World’s Greatest Detective. And they don’t lead to supervillains, just regular criminals. Not to mention the Cyrus Pinkney mystery and the Anarky tags.

Finally, there’s the simple fact that the game takes place on Christmas Eve. So the city is filled with festive decorations, and in the middle of a snowstorm. It’s a setting that isn’t utilized nearly enough in open world games like this. It helps the setting stand apart, and gives it a distinctive flair not seen in any of the other entries. Arkham Knight takes place on Halloween, but they barely use that at all. 

Gotham City concept art

Gotham City concept art

A Warm Hand

Finally, there’s the “Cold, Cold Heart” DLC story all about Mr. Freeze. In what is essentially a playable adaptation of the award-winning episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Heart of Ice.” Players see the origin story of Victor Fries, and the grey morality that defines the character.

It took years for the Mr. Freeze character to overcome the travesty of 1997’s Batman & Robin. And it’s thanks to this series that people remembered just how good he is. Freeze’s role in Arkham City is iconic, with his boss fight easily standing as one of the best of all time, but he didn’t get the focus he could’ve.

“Cold, Cold Heart” goes deep into the background of the tragic scientist just trying to save his wife. Not only that, it teaches Batman a valuable lesson. He learns that not all the criminals he comes across are the same. It’s a thrilling expansion with an engaging story, fun gameplay, and a cool new suit. What more could you ask for?

"Heart of Ice" Most Depressing Mr. Freeze lines

(Video by Michael West)

The Bad

The Killing Joke

Unfortunately, not everything in the story works. It’s revealed about halfway in that Black Mask isn’t the main antagonist. It’s always been The Joker. And then the game pivots to being all about Batman and Joker meeting for the first time, and how that changes them. This wouldn’t be so bad if the previous two games weren’t all about Batman and The Joker too.

Batman has the greatest cast of villains of all time, so it was disappointing to see them go back to the same pale well a third time. Though, not as disappointing as when they did it a fourth time in Arkham Knight. The game would’ve benefitted from not featuring Joker at all, and saving him for an endgame tease similar to 2005’s Batman Begins

The game’s failure to have a unique main antagonist absolutely hurt its standing. Especially since it doesn’t do anything not done better in the two previous installments.

Black Mask

Black Mask

Harley Paying Attention

We’re not done with Mr. J just yet, as WB Games Montreal also decided to take a swing at a Harley Quinn origin. But instead of hitting the ball, they hit an egg. And that egg was filled with bees. And the bees stung them relentlessly.

Joker gets arrested and shipped off to Blackgate Penitentiary, where his psychiatric evaluation is done by Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Joker recounts the events of the night and meeting Batman, and this woman who supposedly has a PhD thinks he’s talking all about her. You know an origin story is scuffed when it completely falls apart with the addition of one pronoun.

And it completely contradicts known information. The audio logs in Arkham Asylum cover Harley’s origin. And it’s not that. She doesn’t even add anything to the plot. It’s a 100% superfluous addition that only harms the overall package. 

Blackgate Prison concept art

Blackgate Prison concept art

Sideshow Routine

Yeah pretty much every main flaw this game has ties back to Joker somehow. Not every assassin after the bounty gets equal time to shine. Despite being the catalyst for the entire game. Bane, Firefly, Copperhead all get their moments in the main story, but that’s it. Deathstroke shows up for a fight early on and nothing else. Electrocutioner goes down in one move and then dies. Batman takes on Killer Croc in the prologue. Deadshot and Shiva are optional side missions. 

When the game switches focus to Joker, it leaves very little room for anyone else. The eight assassins are a key part of the game. They should all have equal time in the spotlight. Especially since the Arkham series loves shining a light on lesser-known villains. Batman doesn’t have to take down eight assassins. He has to take down four. That’s not good. Especially since this night is supposed to push Batman to his absolute limit.



Overall, Batman Arkham Origins is better than it gets credit for. I’d say it’s actually the third best Arkham game, ahead of Arkham KnightOrigins gets a lot more right than Knight did. The story is fun and engaging for the most part. Though the core gameplay isn’t as fun as the rest. It’s a strong Batman story that crumbles a bit at the end. But it’s still a ton of fun.

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