Batman: Arkham Origins promises surprises
Eric Holmes doesn’t sound as exhausted as he should. Despite having just returned home after 37 days on the road—travelling to Tokyo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sydney, and New York, in that order—his excitement is palpable even over the phone. Holmes was called into action to promote Batman: Arkham Origins (Warner Bros.; PS3, Wii U, Windows, Xbox 360; rated teen). The first major game developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal hits shelves on Friday (October 25).
Arkham Origins, which follows Arkham Asylum (2009) and Arkham City (2011), is the first title in the blockbuster franchise to be developed by an outfit other than Rocksteady Studios, which originated the series. In recent months, when Holmes was confronted by fans nervous about this Batman game being made elsewhere, he simply handed them a controller and invited them to play. Even the most cynical of gamers, according to him, tended to walk away with a smile.
Holmes said that’s because his team of developers maintained the essence of what had already been created. “That physical core—that solid, central ability—comes from Rocksteady’s games,” the creative director told the Georgia Straight.
What the studio added includes new enemy and encounter types. There’s a much larger Gotham, which in Origins comprises two islands connected by a bridge. And because Holmes believes that narrative is vital to Batman and the Arkham franchise, he came up with a new plot. “This is not taken from an existing Batman story,” Holmes said.
The third game is actually a prequel, set when Bruce Wayne is only two years into being his alter ego. Since he’s been better skilled and equipped than his opponents, he’s had two years of success. “That has a predictable effect on his head,” Holmes explained, “which has led to him being a little bit cocky.”
Arkham Origins opens on Christmas Eve, when Black Mask has issued a bounty of $50 million on Batman. Holmes said the greatest assassins in the DC Comics universe—from the likes of Deadshot and Deathstroke to Electrocutioner and Firefly—appear in the game. As they all converge on Gotham, the level of chaos in the city rises. Holmes explained that Batman, as a result, is challenged not just physically but emotionally. “We have a series of events that cause him to question what he’s been doing and cause others to question what he’s doing,” Holmes said.
Secondary characters such as Alfred and James Gordon also appear, but in roles that are appropriate to the game’s setting. Gordon, for example, is only a captain in the police department and is assigned to the task force trying to arrest Batman for being a vigilante. “He’s no friend of Batman,” Holmes noted. And while Alfred is loyal to Bruce Wayne, he doesn’t understand what’s driving the young man.
“There’s something very special about this earlier career space,” Holmes said of the younger, rawer Batman. “We know what he’ll become, but we don’t know how he’ll get there.”
He expects even the most ardent fans to be shocked by the twists and turns that are in Arkham Origins. “For this to feel important to who Batman is, we had to take a few risks,” Holmes said. “I hope that we get some edge-of-the-seat moments and some open jaws when people see some of the surprises we’ve got in store for them.”