Batman DLC promoted weeks before the game’s release–Why do I even bother?

Remember when game add-ons and patches and DLC sounded like a good thing? Internet connections were once like an all-healing, benevolent messiah that could iron out a game’s technical issues, then shower us with bonus content of all flavors and sizes.

Then game companies got greedy.

As a lifelong Bat-fan, I’m itching to play the latest Batman game installment, Arkham City Origins. Trouble is, I’d feel like a dope buying it on day one. Or even year one.

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Oh wow! For just an extra twenty bucks I can complete the game I already paid full-price for. Total steal!

A little over a week ago it was announced that a DLC package entitled “Initiation” was already in the works. The gist of Initiation is that you’ll play through Bruce Wayne’s pre-Batman ninja days. Anyone who has seen Batman Begins knows that Bruce embraced his physical skills and abilities through ninja training. The Initiation DLC won’t deal with Ra’s al Ghul or the League of Shadows, but it will provide some nifty narrative backstory… For a fee, of course.

Obviously, DLC and bonus charges are nothing new, but it’s ridiculous that Origins’ producer is touting upcoming DLC when the game itself hasn’t hit a store shelf yet. And don’t give me that “Just buy a Season Pass” nonsense either. The issue here is that game companies have abused a system that was meant to benefit gamers. We welcomed the idea of downloading updates to fix a bug or two. We loved the idea of having access to bonus content; even when companies slapped a price tag on it, we welcomed having the option.

But now, I feel that new releases aren’t games anymore. They’re subscriptions. And the $60 that loyal fans lay on the sales counter is just the start.

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Instead of bat symbol, why not just be frank and make it a dollar sign?

I’m on the fence about buying Arkham Origins this year. I’d love to play the game, but spending $60 on it seems wasteful and foolish, especially when (Spoiler alert!) the inevitable Game of the Year Edition is due in 2014. And once the GOTY version hits the market, it’s price will plummet, just like Arkham City’s GOTY edition, which can be had on Amazon for fifteen bucks.

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Blackgate: The Batman game no one is talking about

Nine times out of ten it’s a terrible idea to release the latest console and handheld installments of a franchise on the same day–at least from the handheld perspective. Sure, Metroid Fusion thrived despite hitting the streets the same day as Metroid Prime, but Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (3DS/Vita) seems destined to end up as one of the nine unluckier examples. Not only is the game getting completely blanketed by its console-cousin’s hype, but there seems to be a bare minimum of news coverage for the game. Bare minimum. And not in a sexy-dirty way.

In case you’re completely unaware of Blackgate, it’s a 2D Batman sidescroller set in the Blackgate Penitentiary, where a slew of villains ranging from the Joker to Solomon Grundy are held up… though not for long. I hesitate to call the game a 2D platformer because Batman is reportedly unable to jump, although he can grapple to reach gargoyles and high ledges. In addition to grappling, Batman will utilize a bundle of other gadgets and techniques from the console Arkham games.

As for the story, Blackgate serves as a sort of epilogue to Arkham Origins, although the storylines will not lend to spoiler-heavy overlaps. Blackgate is also taking a page from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker by telling its tale through scenes that resemble hand-drawn comicbook art.

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The move to 2D won’t evict Arkham’s stealth segments. Enemies will have sightlines, and Batman can slip from the foreground to background to avoid them.

Don’t think for a second that Blackgate is some mailed-in portable version of Origins. The 3DS and Vita game has been built from the ground up to serve as its own Arkham experience. You’ll still recognize gadgets, Detective Mode, and the freeflow combat from the console Arkham games, but Blackgate’s developer Armature Studio has started from scratch to best serve Batman in the second dimension.

What has me absolutely amped for Blackgate is the game’s Metroid influences. Most notably, the level-design will offer item-based exploration through the labyrinthine prison. Considering that we haven’t seen a new 2D Metroid in nearly a decade, Blackgate should get fans’ juices flowing, if not bubbling (mine are boiling for the record). And to sweeten the deal, Blackgate’s director happens to be Mark Pacini, the man who directed the entire Metroid Prime trilogy.

Metroid isn’t the only classic 2D series influencing Blackgate. Turns out players will be able to fight Blackgate’s bosses in the order of their choosing. After defeating a boss, Batman will receive a new gadget for battling enemies and exploring new areas. If you’re getting misty for Mega Man’s boss-and-weapon formula, we’re on the same page. My only concern is how the exploration and boss-order will balance. How exactly will I be able to fight any boss of my choosing if Batman needs certain items to navigate different areas?

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“Because Blackgate’s the game Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”

The Caped Crusader will hit portables on October 25th. Chances are, Blackgate will get buried among the hype and reviews for Arkham Origins. I can’t blame you if you’re aiming to grab Origins early, but if you have any love for 2D stealth and exploration, check out Blackgate.