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Disability Game Review: Batman: Arkham Origins

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Disability Game Review: Batman: Arkham Origins
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2013 10 29 Game Review Batman Arkham Origins 500

Batman: Arkham Origins is the third in a series of well-received Batman games, the first of which (Arkham Asylum) was reasonably accessible for most disabled gamers. Arkham City, the second game in the series, was somewhat less accessible. Unfortunately, Arkham Origins follows in this pattern to such an extent that we were barred from fully reviewing this game for certain disabilities because of barriers that arose in other areas.

 

What we can tell you is that the game will probably pose some problems for players with visual disabilities. This because the basic premise of the game demands both a dark color palette and reliance on fine detail. Batman is a hunter of the night and a master detective, which means that he will be soaring around Gotham City’s dimly lit streets and crawling through buildings, back alleys, and air ducts, looking for clues to track down the infamous Black Mask and the eight deadly assassins he has hired to end Batman’s career. The one saving grace for this game from the standpoint of visual accessibility is the trademark Detective Mode, which reappears in Arkham Origins. When turned on, this makes important environmental clues much easier to see by implementing a point of view that can see through walls and highlight important features in the environment. Trying to use this feature full time makes it hard to see normally-easy-to-see features, because Detective Mode is designed to be used when planning out a strategy rather than as a ubiquitous play mechanic. As a result, it is not a stretch to see most players with visual disabilities avoiding this title altogether.

 

Unfortunately, I cannot be more precise about the visual barriers because the fine motor barriers prevented me from progressing more than a couple of hours into the game. Within 15 minutes of starting the game, I had encountered a quick time event that I could not progress past without the help an able-bodied person. To make matters worse, this QTE was the air duct opening mechanic that was to be used ad nauseam throughout the game. The fact that even able-bodied reviewers have said this method of traversing the map is used too much shows how big of a barrier this mechanic is. Once Batman gets outside in Gotham City proper, the game becomes slightly more accessible for gamers with fine motor disabilities, even given the fact that the game requires the use of two hands and there is no controller customization. This is because the combat in the entire Batman Arkham series has always been simple and satisfying. Arkham Origins follows in that tradition, allowing Batman to pinball around the arena, knocking the schtuffing out of various henchmen and thugs. Another feature that helps the accessibility is the fact that once players are in Gotham proper, there is a certain degree of open world feel, which allows players to pick some of what they will and will not accomplish in the game. But, none of this matters since if players want to progress through this story, they will eventually have to reenter buildings in Gotham and there face the QTEs and timed puzzles that make the game completely inaccessible.

 

Players with auditory disabilities will be happy to know that this game is perhaps most accessible for them. In a rare move, developers at WB Montreal directly ask players whether they want to turn on subtitles before they begin the campaign. This ensures that from the beginning every bit of story-driven dialogue has a set of thorough subtitles. The one drawback is that some of the cinematic dialogue is not labeled, so players will have to guess as to who is speaking, but this should be fairly easy. Unfortunately, because of the many fine motor barriers in the game, we weren’t able to move far enough along to speak comprehensively about the subtitles, but from what I saw, Arkham Origins seems to have what it takes to be enjoyable for hearing impaired gamers.

 

On the whole, Batman: Arkham Origins is a disappointment for lots of disabled gamers. But if players have the ability to play it, they’ll be treated to the next entry that has set the standard for superhero story-driven games.

 

Please feel free to leave comments below the article that address your particular accessibility challenges with this game. If you feel there is a major omission in this review, please feel free to e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with the word "revision" in the subject line. Please include specific details regarding anything we may have missed. If necessary, we will update our review based on your feedback.

 

Overall Rating: Partially Accessible
Visual Rating: Partially Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible
Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Released For: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC
ESRB Rating: T
GameInformer Score: 8.50

 

 

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