I thought long and hard about whether I would be delving into the depths of a Christmas topic this week. I mean, after all, this column will be out on Boxing Day and not Christmas Day itself, and Christmas themed things are – in general – pretty lame most of the time. That was when, however, I was reminded of a game that was kind of swept under the radar back in 2013, a game that received mixed reception at the time and then disappeared from gaming discourse shortly afterwards. That game was Batman: Arkham Origins.
Now, for context, I want to establish one very simple thing first: 2013 was a huge year. In fact, it was one of the best years the gaming industry has ever seen, and most certainly puts 2021 to shame (seriously, so little came out this year!). Arkham Origins had to come up against beasts like The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V, as well as other big titles like the Tomb Raider reboot, Bioshock Infinite, Assassin's Creed IV, God of War: Ascension, Metro: Last Light, Dead Rising 3, Gears of War: Judgement, Super Mario 3D World, Crysis 3, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Saints Row IV, the list goes on. Hell, Batman: Arkham Origins wasn't even the only DC game to come out in 2013, with Injustice: Gods Among Us bringing the DC Heroes and Villains to a Mortal Kombat-style fighting game.
Picture this: the year that saw the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, less than a year after the release of the Wii U. Splinter Cell Blacklist, Devil May Cry's reboot, Rayman Legends, and one of my favourite games of all time, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons also dropped. This was a magnificent year in gaming, so it is no wonder that a game like Batman: Arkham Origins, that was seemingly unimpressive compared to its competition, was lost in the flood. That all being said, it was a great shame that this became the case. After all, Batman: Arkham Origins was one simple thing... the best Christmas game ever to be released.
Along the same vein as a film like Die Hard, famous for being a "sort of" Christmas movie, Batman: Arkham Origins was a strange sort of experience. To set the scene again, but this time for the game itself: it's a dark, gloomy, rainy, atmospheric Christmas Eve, and Black Mask has hired eight assassins to kill The Batman! I'll be honest with you, the setting, moodiness and concept of this game hooked me as soon as I leaped in. As an avid fan of Arkham City and Arkham Asylum before it, Origins was a game that I was nervous to begin. Was it going to meet my expectations? Or was it just a lazy cash grab? Was I about to experience franchise fatigue?
Here in Australia there was this fantastic show on our national broadcaster called "Good Game". They also absolutely loved Batman: Arkham Origins...
As soon as I set foot in this open world, the biggest that the Arkham series had seen when it came out, I was immediately impressed by the game's aesthetic. It was gorgeous for its time, had incredible lighting, some of the best cutscenes around, and an insanely engaging story. That very story, though, is where we are focusing our efforts today. This is, in the end, our Christmas Column, so I should return to the point as quickly as possible. You were the Batman, there were eight assassins out to get you, but what was your goal? To defeat all eight of them before Christmas.
I mean, after all, even Batman wants to at least have a nice-ish Christmas, doesn't he? Maybe he wants to hang out with Alfred, have a joyride in the Batmobile, a couple of Margaritas under the Christmas Tree at Bruce Manor. Look, I am not sure what Batman would want to be doing on Christmas Eve, but I am sure that he wouldn't want to spend it fighting bad-guys who have been sent out to kill him. He certainly wouldn't want to be dealing with a Troy Baker-voiced Joker, I mean that's just unfair!
This game was brilliant because it brought in this suspense, this sense of a ticking clock, despite the fact that Arkham Origins was an open world game with no time limit to complete its story. It was a novel idea, and one that was really well executed, even if the game's gadgets were a little stiff and the game was very much a re-tread of what Rocksteady had done only two years before. It was a compelling story, with a younger Batman whom had not matured in the way we usually expect our grizzled hero to have matured. It was a scary, tense setting. It was a beautiful world, and it was a whole lot of fun to play.
Arkham Origin's open world was littered with fairy lights and giant neon statues devoted to its Christmas theme, it felt like a classic 90's Christmas film, and absolutely delivered in every area that counts. It's a shame that this particular game got swept so far under the radar, but I wanted to give it a shout-out here and now. It's Christmas time, so time for giving, time for showing appreciation, time for showing love. I love Batman: Arkham Origins, and I love its setting and theme. It is by far the greatest Christmas game ever made, and I will never backdown from that unless a different game comes around and usurps it. To be honest, I really don't think that's going to happen. I hope you had a Merry Christmas, readers, and I hope you will have a very happy New Year.
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