Thursday, January 11, 2018

Batman: Arkham Asylum

It was time to finally beat the first two Batman: Arkham games hidden in my Steam library. I have a code for the third's DLC too but I doubt I will buy the actual game nor continue with the series.

Solid but not a spectacular beginning

The first title in the series begins with Batman having caught Joker, who's being escorted to Arkham Asylum where they apparently store super villains like him in hopes to cure their insanity. Getting there turns out to have been Joker's plan all along and soon enough Batman is running around Arkham Island trying to stop Joker and all the other bad guys that are breaking free.

I didn't find anything particularly wrong with the game -- it's a solid title all around. Batman as a franchise just doesn't strike me as interesting. The characters are boring and predictable. I feel it's always, if not the same story, at least the same theme that gets told repeatedly.

I also expected more from the game's voice acting -- particularly from Joker who is voiced by Mark Hamill. I had heard he's excellent in the role but I mostly found the character annoying. The rest of the cast caused a similar reaction. Kevin Conroy is evidently Batman's voice in about everything out there but his performance didn't impress me either. I suppose low quality writing was partly reason for that. Especially Batman's lines were dry and dull.

Controller preferred

Still, the game wasn't painful to beat. I shouldn't have done so with mouse and keyboard, though. I thought I would need to browse a guide to find all the Riddler's challenges and having m/kb ready at hand would make the process faster. That didn't turn out to be quite true, however, as Riddler had also left maps around to reveal the locations. Having a guide wasn't thus necessary.

I didn't switch to controller even then because I didn't want to learn a new control scheme in the middle of the game. It is definitely the intended peripheral, though. It is quicker to look around with a mouse and an occasional batarang is far easier to aim accurately. But that's pretty much where it ends.

Not having your camera locked to the direction you're gliding at is helpful too, though. You don't get to glide as much in Asylum as in the second game (which I played with a controller) but I found that moving the right stick is not a thing if you have to also hold down A. Now I know what console players meant with not being able to look around while running in Mass Effect 3.

The origins of freeflow

Most of Arkham Asylum's boss fights also have a fixed camera position, which completely disables the benefit of having a mouse. And the "freeflow" combat I have mentioned in older posts feels more suited for a controller in these Batman games too.

The system was taking its firsts steps in this game and it shows. Having played Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor first made Arkham Asylum's combat feel like a big downgrade. Batman didn't jump from foe to foe with as much ease as I had expected. There are no flashy crowd finishers, either -- you have to work through the inmates one by one. Arkham City improved on that a whole lot, though, and I'll get to it in the next post.

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