Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition
According to the Arkham Knight cover, he’s ending the Arkham Trilogy. But do not think that Rocksteady Studios decided to pretend that there is nothing in the franchise besides their three games: “Knight” surprisingly regularly recalls the events of “Chronicle” – the one that, as it were, does not fit into the definition of “trilogy”. But the funny thing is that in this series there are not even four, but five games – it’s just that everyone somehow forgets about one of them. Mostly so as not to poison yourself and other fans of the soul.
But it would seem. Batman: Arkham Asylum was a rare successful attempt to bring the traditionally 2D metroidvania genre to 3D. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate wanted to pay tribute to the genre that spawned the series, and throw Batman into this most traditional two-dimensional metroidvania. Moreover, the people who participated in the creation of the Metroid Prime series were responsible for the development – that is, they are well aware of genre principles. What could go wrong?
Oddly enough, most of the problems follow precisely from the main concept – attempts to transfer the gameplay of the Arkham series to two-dimensionality. Simple and convenient, but requiring no skills whatsoever, the franchise’s 2D combat system has become ridiculously casual – well, you know, it’s hard to screw up when you’re attacked from just two sides. As a result, the only minimal difficulties arise due to the fact that another element of the system – opponents that require the use of certain techniques – after transferring to 2D, does not work better: Batman is constantly trying to jump over the men who need to be jammed, silence those who need to jump over, finish off those who are already dead… I would say “etc”, but there are only three main types of melee fighters in the game, so oops.
Even worse with stealth: it is both very simple and completely unbearable, because it does not forgive even the slightest mistakes. Batman forgot the gas bombs at home, and the stealth rooms are too small, so if you are noticed and there is no hatch nearby where you can hide, then the hero will immediately lose his life. And if most of the local “quiet” sections are too short to annoy, then for the decision to spin around the stealth of one of the bosses, the designers want to unscrew something in response.
But all the criticism, oddly enough, says almost nothing about Blackgate. Do you know why? Because it feels like some of the creators of Metroid Prime made the game – people for whom combat has always been a secondary element. Blackgate is a game about exploration, finding secrets and buttons, and occasionally backtracking. Battles in one form or another take, it seems, 10-20 percent of the total time of the game – this will scare someone away, but on the contrary, it may attract other fans of classic metroidvanias. It even uses a gameplay element from Super Metroid, when a significant part of the passages can be found only by shining a special scanner that calculates secrets on them – few people dare to do such a cruel retro.
It is clear that such gameplay works exactly until you get stuck for the first time, but here both thoughtful, moderately linear level design comes to the rescue, skillfully hinting where the player should aim, and the fact that the game is divided into three sections that can be played in more or less any order. Why “more or less”? Because each of the sections stores an upgrade for Batman’s arsenal, and sooner or later, on the way to each of the three gang bosses, the hero is faced with the need to look into some neighboring wing of the prison to pick up the missing uniforms.
There are, however, problems with the study of the prison. Serious. And they all follow from a stupid idea to make it not in 3D and not in 2D, but in 2.5D. Batman constantly turns corners or jumps to areas of the screen located in the depths, because of this, trying to navigate Blackgate becomes an unbearable torment. When Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate first came out, one of the main criticisms was the 2D map, which made it impossible to understand anything. Well, for the Deluxe Edition, the authors made a 3D map … and it’s also impossible to navigate by it.
Moreover, theoretically it is good: moderately detailed, functional… But to understand exactly where you are in three-dimensional space, when in reality you always move only left-right and up-down, is not an easy task. When you are looking for a way to get somewhere, you often have to stupidly check all the doors in turn, open the map and see if you guessed it, whether you moved in the right direction. Eh, now, if the map had added a button “Orientation by the position of Batman”, so that it would immediately turn around so that the door on the left was on the left, and the hatch in the right corner was in the right corner, maybe then it would be useful. And in her current state … it’s better not to get lost, in general.
The second problem with 2.5D is that occasionally the authors decide to build another puzzle around the need to navigate in space. Let’s say they put a pump on the map that you can see when you are above it, but you can’t use it. But it is allowed to use it when you find yourself in the corridor, through the window of which you can see the very place from which you saw the indicated pump! .. Only the pump itself is not visible there, and you must either somehow guess that this is the sewer wall – this is a concrete wall above the pump, or use the magic of a successful poke in order to find active points for using bombs and batarangs. It’s good that this rarely happens. But even rarely – this is much more than we would like.
The parade of problems ends with the final act, when the previously frankly imperfect, but still enjoyable research-oriented game slides to the bottom. The bottom line is this: you eliminate the trio of villains who captured Blackgate, open the door to the final … and then they say to you: “But there is no final section, we only had enough budget for one room. So you go through it, and then – run along the already explored locations, eliminating the bombs that suddenly appeared there. Backtracking at its worst, the only reward for which is a chance to spoil a good villain’s good plan, which by no means could not work, given how long it had to take to clear all the bombs …
Good advice: if you do go through Blackgate, stop immediately after the “unexpected turn in Arkham Wing.” Consider that Batman was outwitted – so it will somehow be more honest. Plus, you don’t have to suffer as an errand boy.
As for the game itself, before deciding whether to give it a chance, you need to understand: it is designed for metroidvania fans to a much greater extent than for fans of the Arkham series. And there are not so few competitors in this genre now, many of which surpass Blackgate in all respects. But still, there are some noteworthy moments here: it is quite interesting to explore the prison, despite the fact that it looks gray and monotonous. Amusing specimens come across among the bosses – a local fight with the Joker, for example, is much more in the character of this strange comrade than a scuffle with a mutant from the first game. Even the plot, for all its minimalism and predictability, is by no means mediocre and manages to pull the strings to at least one spin-off that has not yet been created.
In a word, even the worst game about the adventures of the eternally gloomy knight of the cloak and the batarang is by no means bad. The only pity is that it can not be called good at any stretch.