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Batman: Arkham

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I've recently been marathoning the Arkham series. They're all flawed (Asylum mostly by being small and showing its age, but that is a flaw), but very good.

Arkham City I played a year or so ago and didn't replay, so I don't have much to say about it. It was fun, but I can't remember whether it was 7/10, 10/10, or in between.

Arkham Knight did some great things with its story. It wasn't afraid to impose lasting consequences on the world, which is rare for a comic book property of any kind. It retold an old story in a new way, and didn't immediately give away what story it was (though it's very easy to guess). It had some serious drawbacks – I hated what they did with Oracle, they didn't give Scarecrow time to shine like he did in Asylum, and even Mark Hamill gets tiresome after hearing him without breaks for hours. But it was overall very good.

The gameplay had all the excellent qualities of the series: soaring through Gotham, being a badass predator, and the trademark death screen villain monologues. It also had the bad ones: Riddler trophies that get boring somewhere between 50% and 80% completion and are a chore to finish off, way more BAM! POW! combat than feels appropriate for Batman. To these it added the Fear Multi-Takedowns and associated minigame of taking down many enemies with terror and then refreshing their terror with silent takedowns, which was great, and shoehorning the Batmobile into everything, which was not. The Batmobile just isn't as fun as hunting in the cowl. Riddler challenges, especially, overrelied on the tank, which made those get tiresome even faster than usual.

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Arkham Origins's story was very good. It has a familiar formula, one almost everyone will have seen before (major spoilers: It's basically the same arc as The Dark Knight), but expands the cast drastically, gives the assassins interesting, distinct personalities, and sets up the background for several of the prequels. Such as the reopening of Arkham Asylum, the League of Assassins taking an interest in Gotham and Batman, and how the Ridddler got started and why he became obsessed with Batman.

Its mechanics are also very good; it doesn't have the fear mechanic from Knight, but it generally feels like a more polished version of the mechanics, despite predating Knight. Or, at least, they're very good when they work. They clearly put time into making sure it was the best version of the mechanics from a design perspective, but the implementation is buggy as all hell. This is especially annoying because several in-game progression mechanics are gated on a pseudo-achievement system, and most of these achievements are easily bugged-out to make them impossible to get without starting a new save entirely. There are also many achievements that are roughly "finish this fight flawlessly", and there's no way to create a save before the fight to retry from, except locating the save file on disk and making backups you can swap in. Also, the "predator" encounters in the campaign never regenerate, which means that if you want to get the predator-related achievements you have to be very careful about not completing the story too quickly if you don't want to lock yourself out.

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Overall, what playing these makes me want, more than anything else, is a game with all the swooping around the city, all the 'ghostly predator' encounters, something like half the density of puzzles, and no melee combat at all. Can we get Rocksteady to collaborate with Arkane on Dishonored 4? (No, no we can't. But I can dream.)


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