To know how well you're going to like Warner Brothers and NetherRealm's latest superhero action game, Batman: Arkham Origins [Free], you need to ask yourself a few questions. Was the combat in Batman Arkham City Lockdown [$5.99] too complicated for you? Did you find Injustice [Free] had too many characters who weren't Batman? Do you love badly implemented stamina meters? If you answered yes to all of these questions, please smack yourself in the back of the head, and then head to the App Store to download this game, because friend, is this one for you!

Well, look, it's not all bad. The game looks great, is packed full of stuff fans will dig, and the gameplay isn't that bad while you're actually playing. There's a clear evolution to the games coming out of NetherRealm on iOS, however, and it's not a very pleasant one. At this rate, I expect their next game to just be a Batman virtual pet who threatens you if you don't toss money in after every ten minutes of tapping to level up.

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In case you didn't know, there's a new Batman Arkham console game coming out. It's got a new developer and looks a little uninspired compared to its stunning predecessors, but I'm sure it will turn out good enough, since they're following the blueprint left behind by Rocksteady. It has some spin-off titles, too! The 3DS and Vita are getting a side-scrolling action/adventure in the vein of Metroid, developed by people who formerly worked on Metroid Prime. It looks pretty nifty, which leaves me with one question to which I'm pretty sure I already know the answer: why not that one for iOS gamers?

Batman: Arkham Origins iOS is, in concept, similar to Lockdown. You go to various locations in Gotham, you fight a series of thugs one at a time, and occasionally a proper super villain shows up to engage in fisticuffs with you. You earn experience points and currency, which enable you to power up Batman and unlock new abilities and suits. This makes you stronger and more able to handle the next wave of baddies. Where it differs is that while Lockdown was very clearly aping Infinity Blade [$5.99], the combat here is a simplified version of Injustice. Don't worry about dodging left or right, don't worry about whether you're using strong or light attacks, just tap-tap-tap to success.

The main addition to the combat here compared to Injustice is the ability to change Batman's stance. As you play, you'll unlock a variety of stances, each with access to their own unique special moves. You'll need to make the most of these special moves depending on how the battle is going. Also welcome is the addition of a block button, though if you still want to use the awkward two-finger touch block from Injustice, you're free to. Like that game, the special moves require a variety of QTE-like responses, and some of them are really cool. The combat is fast and thanks to decent sound effects, hits have a nice feeling of impact, but in terms of strategy, there's not much here beyond blocking when the enemy tries their special move, firing off your specials when they're ready, and tapping the screen for your regular attack otherwise.

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Super villains bring a few new tricks to the battle, but, like your special moves, they're essentially QTEs. You'll have to tap circles or swipe along an arrow to avoid their powerful special attacks. If you're successful, you'll have a chance to do a little extra damage, but if you fail, you'll take a heavy blow. Like Injustice, there are sometimes conditions put on the battles, such as constantly draining life, reflecting damage back at you, and so on. It's a really straight-forward battle system without much room at all to offer depth, but it's decent enough.

The story has you playing as a younger Batman, and as far as I can tell, a hit has been called on him for one night only. Eight super villain assassins come out to try their hand at taking down the Bat and winning a reward. Gotham is carved up into regions on your stage select map corresponding to each assassin. Each region houses a variety of missions, eventually culminating in a fight with that region's assassin. There are also side missions which can be repeated as often as you like, usually with the aforementioned special conditions in place. So, you choose a region, choose a mission, and that'll send you to the arena where the fight takes place.

You're basically just pummeling mass quantities of bad guys again and again to level up your Batman. The sad thing here is that I really like leveling up my Batman. It's fun! I like collecting his special abilities, suits, and gadgets. I love watching his stats go up as I use a thug's face as a punching bag. It's simple, but it appeals properly to the Batman fan in me, so as a game, it actually works fairly well. Ten minutes at a time, anyway.

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Like a lot of free-to-play games these days, Batman: Arkham Origins uses that most dreaded of monetization techniques: the stamina bar. Used well, a stamina bar is a minor annoyance, but if it's implemented thoughtlessly, it's almost a game-killer. The best case scenario for a stamina bar is where it's a real showstopper in the early going, but as you acquire more superheroes/cars/suits/llamas, it becomes less of an issue due to being able to swap between said collected goods. This is the way stamina ended up working out in Injustice. Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern need to take five, but hey, Bane, Joker, and Flash are all set to have a wacky adventure.

The worst case scenario has a fixed stamina bar that you cannot get around without paying. There's no swapping to another character, no jumping in that extra car you keep around. Nope, your stamina is gone, and you are going to pay up or wait, no matter how far into the game you are, bucko. Guess which type Batman: Arkham Origins uses? A kewpie doll for the red-headed gentleman in the back row who guessed the latter!

Yes, it turns out the tireless Caped Crusader, the man who will pursue crime doggedly until it fades whimpering in the night, the guy you call when all the chips are down and even Superman's got nothing, gets a wee bit tuckered out after a few fights. He's going to need a sit-down, to the tune of about two hours for his full meter. There's a perfectly fair way this could have gone down, with each of the suits having a stamina meter like Gameloft's Iron Man 3 [Free], but that's not the way NetherRealm went here. As a result, no matter how long you've played or how many suits you've collected, you're still only going to get 3-5 battles before you have to put the game down. A fate so ghastly not even Jason Todd deserves it!

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That's the worst monetization aspect of the game, but it also uses dual currencies, and the second currency is very, very scarce in-game. Like Injustice, you can log in with your WB ID here to get a free unlock, and if you connect it with the console version, more unlocks will mutually follow as you play each game. I don't have the console version yet, so I can't say if the unlocks are awesome, but going by Injustice, they're probably worth the trouble. Curiously, there's no Game Center support in the game, which is another way the game negatively breaks the pattern from previous titles.

In the end, I find Batman: Arkham Origins to be a very frustrating piece of software in multiple ways. Perhaps unfairly, I don't like that even though the hardware is capable of more, we keep getting these increasingly cut-down experiences from Warner Brothers. However, even taking the game for what it is, I'm annoyed that instead of getting a similar treatment as Injustice, where the monetization hooks were somewhat reasonable, the screws have been given another healthy crank to the point of ruining what would otherwise be a decent enough game.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • JBRUU

    Great review. I like the more personal style.

    • detourne

      I totally agree, and it was quite fair to the game.
      He mentioned previous super hero outings and what made them great, and how this game differs.

      I'm starting to find a rhythm to this game as well. No it's not as good as injustice. Not as good as Iron Man or Man of Steel either. But I think it will have more replayability as I level up. The variation in daily challenges and short term challenges is nice. It's just different.
      I played Iron Man to beat the daily challenges and get the story. I play Injustice for their character challenges, unlocking new characters every week or so.
      I just don't quite know what I'm getting out of arkham origins yet.
      I do know though, that I'm not putting in any money.

  • InfectiousRed

    Cross platform unlocks at the expense of the stamina time sink. Yep, they knew what they were doing, and we all suffer for it.

  • macatron

    Great review! I too am getting more and more frustrated that the bigger gaming developers aren't really coming close to pushing the envelope on current iDevice hardware. Time after time, it's the indi-devs who show people how it's properly done, and then the "big guys" take note and gradually start making changes with their future games. I just don't understand why it has to be this way though. With an installed user base the size iOS devices have, it just doesn't make sense NOT to throw down the gauntlet, and make an incredible (premium) title. Granted, due to system limitations across all iDevices, there would still be limits, but I really think we could see a Batman game very similar to the Arkham Asylum games on the Xbox 360. There are plenty of graphical, open world games already on the AppStore, so I don't know why it's so hard for them to just make it happen. It would be like printing money if you ask me. Although, apparently, most big devs are only concerned with FTP models, unfortunately.

  • TheEvilRobot

    DidntGet/10

  • Boris Nguetie

    2.5?? 2.5 for what?? story? gameplay?variety? entertaining? please don't tell me its because of graphics!!

    • Based Xatu

      Read the review.... WTF.

      • Boris Nguetie

        lol!! dude calm down i red it. but do i not have the right to disagree?!

      • themostunclean

        Yes, you have the right to be one of those annoying people who get all huffy over a subjective scoring system.

        I've never read a review that specifically states "this is what each individual star/point is for". You can get a pretty good idea of why it got this score just by reading. No need for someone to hold your hand and explain it to you.

      • Boris Nguetie

        Actually that kind of review exist they set an amount of stars fir every aspect and then the final score is the averageBut nevermind. And also if you've not noticed that yet, this is one of the reactions the comment section of this type of articles is meant for!

      • themostunclean

        Sure, I just thought it was a fairly good, concise article. I came away with a pretty good understanding of why it got the score it did.

  • justin citrowske

    Whe you going to support ipod 4 please respond

    • Zeldaniac

      I know that feel bro. But they won't. We're too poor.

  • Based Xatu

    I was wondering why they hasn't ported the vita and 3ds version of the game to iOS. The platform can more than handle it. Then I realized, you make a lot more money this way, and they love money more than making solid products.

  • http://blog.charlespinker.com/ Charlie

    Just to comment on the pricing aspect for a second:

    The bottom line is that publishers know they'll make more money from a minority of enthusiastic in-app spenders than they will by selling the game outright for a fee, even if it means displeasing the wider majority. This is the state of mobile gaming as a result of consumers' expectations of app pricing being set so low.

    I really enjoyed Lockdown, but I won't be getting this, not despite it being free but because of it.

  • bigjack66

    Great review and you're right this looks great but it's dull dull dull no real effort has went into gameplay . Timers in this game are easy to live with as you soon get bored playing it. All the big name superhero games are doing this, great graphics , dull game! At least Dark Knight Returns gave us a city to run around in even if it wasn't great. C'mon give us a proper superhero game instead of this crap it's not even a decent fighting game!

  • Chris Brady

    I don't have red hair, but uh, thanks for the Kewpie. *Adds it to the collection.*

    Personally, although I mostly agree with the review, the combat system is better and more refined than Injustice. But I definitely agree with the stamina meter gripe. Although I would have given it a 3/5 or 60% score, myself.

  • Mike

    Let us know when they release the hypothetical Batman virtual pet that threatens you to give him more money. That sounds like a good time!

  • iValerio90

    ahah nice title ! but your rating is too generous ! F**K FREEMIUM AND FREEMIUM DEVELOPERS

  • visualplayer

    While I totally respect the author, this game does NOT deserve 2.5 stars. Or even 1.5.

    Graphics were kind of a letdown. The game begins with a gorgeous if confusing introductory trailer. When Alfred pops up your juices are flowing and you're ready to go! But the trailer is the best part of the game. The enemies seem to have been sketched in and tend to look repetitive. Attack of the clones much?

    Gameplay is frustrating. I found the dodge/block controls somewhat shaky. Initially, the attack moves are also repetitive. Tap tap tap enemy dies tap tap tap. I get that the game develops and becomes more complex as you unlock different outfits and stances, but more should have been included at the beginning. I played for an hour and found myself deathly bored.

    Sound seems average to me. And I'm Deaf. Which should tell you something.

    Injustice got a huge boost from the storyline. It helped elevate repetitive gameplay. BAO doesn't have this benefit. The authors should have spent more time on gameplay and less on a fancy trailer that raises hopes soon dashed.

    • Lars Mårten Rikard Nilsson

      you can use swipe to heavy attack too. But basicly the problem is unlocking the moves, once you've unlocked them all you can start out with the standard attack and then pretty much just rotate specials.

  • Lars Mårten Rikard Nilsson

    Unlocked everything except "do 20 dailies" but I'll get that one tomorrow when the last 4 dailies show up. Then it's just a waiting game until AO hits and I get my Collectors Edition.

    • CyanCo

      Neat.

      • Lars Mårten Rikard Nilsson

        Done, now to never play it again... ONWARD!

  • rewyan

    10 minutes per bar isn't horrible, but still, it's pretty unforunate that that's the system. You should only lose stamina if you lose.

  • QuoVadimus

    Nice click bait headline. This isn't a review of "Batman: Arkham Origins" it's a review of the Blackgate ipad app.

    But I'm sure that was an "accidental" headline.

    • Shaun James Musgrave

      "Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate" is the title of the 3DS/Vita exclusive game. The iOS version is titled "Batman: Arkham Origins", just like the console versions.

      • QuoVadimus

        You are correct on that, my mistake. However you should modify your review headline to indicate that it is the iOS version you are reviewing. Unless your intent was to intentionally leave that out and get a bunch of traffic looking for a review of the PS3/360 version.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        Lol what? We're an iOS game review site, we only review iOS games. The title of the iOS game we reviewed here is "Batman: Arkham Origins" It clearly states in the review several times it is an iOS game. I'm sorry this confused you, but you jumped to the wrong conclusion.

      • QuoVadimus

        I understand that, and normally that would not be an issue. However when you have two games that are completely different and happen to have the same name, I think it would be a tad bit on the ethical side to clarify in the headline that this is the IOS game. Yes, you are an iOS review site.

        Not everyone is aware of that. I didn't know that until I got to the site. I was on Google and saw a review link for Batman: Arkham Origins. Now here three days before the game is released on the store, people are out looking for reviews to see if they should spend the money on the game.

        In rare instances like this of a F2P ios game coming out ahead of the more mainstream game that everyone's looking for info for, I would imagine that it would make sense to clarify in your headline that this is the IOS version of Arkham Origins, so that when people see that in their google results, they know whether or not they're clicking through (and let's be honest here, contributing to your bottom line, or at the very least, web traffic) to see the console review, or a review for an app.

        Your site, you can do what you want. Don't mean to be an asshole here at all. Just I see this type of shit all the time, people mislabeling videos or clickbait headlines (Bleacher Report is horrible with that, as is Huffington Post) designed to get you to click on it, even if you suddenly realize you were hosed.

        Nice site though. I liked your Plague Inc writeup I saw on the site.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        Well my point was that it wasn't intentional. The situation you describe hadn't even occurred to me until you brought it up, so I take exception to being called unethical. To be honest it's pretty stupid of WB to give two completely different products the exact same name, but whatevs.

        Anyway thanks for the feedback, it's something I'll consider now when stuff like this happens in the future.

      • So sad

        Well, I thought it was the console version as well. So close to release, I thought I would get an early review, but after clicking then reading, its for the ios. Guess you got your click anyways.

      • QuoVadimus

        You're right, I shouldn't have jumped to the "unethical" card so quickly. I've seen so many people do that online that I just presumed that this was that as well, forgetting that the studios idiotically named two games the same thing.

        Apologies for that.

  • curtneedsaride

    It seems this app was meant to be played in 10 minute bathroom breaks between console play sessions. And unfortunately for me, the iPad IS my console... And my bathroom breaks take way longer than 10 minutes. :-(

    I HATE freemium. I would pay to unlock so many freemium games if they offered premium versions. Too bad they can't offer both. That would actually get them some of my money. But without premium unlocks... no one gets a cent from me!

  • Suji

    Despite the hate about the energy bar which from the start a fight already cost 2-3 energy bars, usually games are ok at first using only 1 bar per fight, but this one is tiring batman out.

    At the last section of the map (lower right), fights are now 4-5, which leaves you fighting for 2 sets, and then leave the game.

    I think there were too few unlockables since there were no achievements in game. I now deleted the game after purchasing the last batsuit (Injustice), the enemies are easy as hell now, and it's also very easy to level up, or maybe it's just me.

    Infight, i think it improved from Injustice, like there's many diversity of actions instead of the old school tap tap tap slash slash, i also liked the block button since the two finger sucks and it doesn't always work.

    Switching stance is kinda good you can click it while guarding or using a skill and it will automatically switch when you let go or when the skill ended.

    Graphics is ok, not that heavy for my 4s it's smooth most of the time, i like the sounds on the game too.

    3 star is my own rating and I wish to see how the Blackest Knight will look like. Wasn't able to see it.

  • reminiz

    So I've played this quite abit and enjoying it but there is quite abit of grinding involved..

    I can't seem to get any more of the bat suits unlocked!! I'm on The Docks missions but the Copperhead mission "Lethal Dose" won't come up?? Anyone else had this issue?

    Seems like it's suck. On level 16 too..

    Cheers.

    • Lars Mårten Rikard Nilsson

      You have to play through all the normal missions in the area before she shows up, you can't get her to show by grinding the special missions.

  • nizy

    So far (and I've just started the 3rd area) the game has been dishing out both currencies to me with very little grinding. I've bought 3 suits and have about 30% of Batman's various upgrades, plus I've been getting enough of the premium stuff to keep playing when I've wanted to.

    I've actually been pretty surprised by how well balanced it is - certainly better than Injustice. That game was a grind fest if you didn't get the gold characters from the console link (like me).

    Also I wouldn't say Injustice's combat had more depth. In that game you had 3 special moves and 3 characters. Fights effectively boiled down to building up to your supermoves and unleashing fury on you opponent. Here you have loads more abilities spread across the 2 stances. With defence and offence stances you have to trade off power of attack vs taking less damage. Knowing when to switch is key to success. Overall I think this system is way better.

    • reminiz

      How do you unlock the 3rd area??

      • Lars Mårten Rikard Nilsson

        Defeat the boss in area 2...

  • TheMerc

    As a huge Batman fan, I regret that I downloaded this. Not because the game is awful - other than the dual currencies and the stamina bar, it's not that bad a game - but because, like the reviewer said, the evolution of these games is pretty clear, and I hate to support this trend when iOS is capable of so much more.

    I completely agree with the reviewer's suggestion that having Blackgate, the 3DS/Vita game, would be, far and away, a much better game to have on iOS than this. However, the reason why it didn't happen was the need to make a profit on the handheld scene: after all, how many people would buy a 40$ handheld game when they could buy the exact same game for 5$ to play on their phones/tablets? I'm still hoping that, much like it happened with LEGO Batman 2 (whose iOS game was a port of the handheld game released several months before) Blackgate will eventually make its way to iOS in a couple of months from now. I doubt it'll happen - since with this companion app out there already, I don't see WB giving themselves the trouble of releasing another one - but I'm still wishing it'll happen.

  • Igor

    FUUUCK >:-(
    Batman games 1 & 2 were one of my all time favs!

  • justin citrowske

    When you going to support ipod 4

  • John Kreicbergs

    Advergame vehicle to promote the lead dog console product. Didn't expect much and **surprise** didn't get much.

Batman: Arkham Origins Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 2.5