Newly released on October 25, 2013, Batman Arkham Origins is the third instalment in the video game series and features more of the same great beat-em-up combat found in the previous two games. Now, despite the franchise having been around for several years, I was surprised that in the vast reaches of the internet, I couldn't find a single and simple explanation on exactly how combos worked in Batman games and more importantly, exactly what Freeflow Mode meant.
With all due respect, the official game guide barely touched upon these aspects and merely teased with a few vague references leaving newbies to struggle to figure it all out on the fly while engaging in combat in the game (read: getting clobbered back to the stone age while earning a PhD in button mashing). This article is intended to alleviate that situation and save you the time and trouble having to slowly piece all this together so that you know exactly what the rules of engagement are whenever you take Batman into battle.
A combo is simply an unbroken string of successful hits Batman makes while fighting enemies. The hits could be on the same enemy or different enemies, it doesn't matter. Once you start building up a combo, a running total of the number of hits you've made in that combo is displayed in the top left corner of your screen preceded by a 'x'. So if you see x5, this means you've made an unbroken string of five successful hits.
In the game, this combo hit counter is called the Combo Multiplier (an unfortunate name since nothing is actually 'multiplied' in this combo hit count but rather it's all added on). Every time you break a combo, the Combo Multiplier resets to 0 and starts over.
Three things will break your combo:
- You try to hit an enemy and you miss (swing and a miss).
- An enemy hits you.
- You don't make the next successful hit within approximately 1 second of the previous successful hit. (In this and future articles, I'll refer to this as the 'timeout clock').
Everything you can hit the enemy with can potentially build your combo including quick-fire gadgets and counter attacks, a.k.a., counters. You essentially make up your own combos. Unlike classic fight games, it doesn't have to be a specific sequence of moves.
So you could, for example, start by quick-firing a couple of batarangs at an enemy and then immediately follow up with a strike (punch) on another enemy. You'll now have a 3 hit combo and, respectively, x3 will now appear in the top left corner of your screen. Make another successful hit within 1 second (it's actually more like a second and a half) and you'll have a 4 hit combo. Keep doing that to build up your so-called Combo Multiplier.
Freeflow Mode Explained
Freeflow Mode is simply a special way that Batman moves starting with the third hit in any combo. At this point Batman no longer needs to be right next to an enemy when you hit the Strike button in order to punch or kick that enemy. You can now target enemies much further away and Batman will leap across the room, space, whatever and hit that enemy. You target enemies by using the directional controls (joystick or keyboard directional keys) which means you point Batman in the direction of the enemy you want to hit and then press the Strike button.
Or better still if you're on the PC version, you can simply use the mouse to swing the camera around to point at the enemy you wish to hit and then press the Strike button. I prefer this method as it allows you to target enemies much further away who may not necessarily appear on your screen if you were simply keeping track of Batman from a top-down point of view.
Once you break into Freeflow mode, all Batman's movements are done in a kind of fluid slow motion giving you much more reaction time. When you get accustomed to Freeflow mode, you'll be able to string together large combos with ease without having to do any button mashing. Instead, you'll be pressing the Strike button a single time for each hit sending Batman leaping across to punch or kick your next target. As soon as he lands that hit, swing the camera around (or use the joystick to steer Batman), spot another viable target and tap the Strike button again sending Batman flying across to hit the next enemy. Rinse and repeat and you're now freeflowing like a pro.
Special Takedowns Explained
When you've successfully executed an 8 hit combo, the Combo Multipier will display x8 and will turn yellow indicating you are now eligible to perform a special combo move. Quickly target an enemy as described above using the camera or joystick and press the Special Combo Takedown button to have Batman leap over to the target and perform a bone-breaking wrestling move to take that enemy permanently out of the fight. This will count as a hit so now your Combo Multiplier will read x9.
Keep the same combo going by hitting more enemies to build up your combo another 8 hits until your Combo Multiplier reads x17 at which point it will turn yellow again indicating you're eligible to perform another special combo move. Hit the Special Combo Takedown button again to permanently take another enemy out of the fight. And it's that simple.
You don't have to use up your special combo move the minute it becomes available every time you add another 8 hits to your combo. You can save it and use it later as long as you don't break your combo. Be advised, however, that if you decline to use your special combo move and then build up your Combo Multiplier to x16, don't expect to have stockpiled two special combo moves that you can use one right after the other. This ability will only become available later in the game after progressing through the Story mode missions and acquiring the Shock Gloves.
At the beginning of the game, only one type of special combo move is available to use every time you add another 8 hits to your combo count and this move is simply called the Special Combo Takedown. As you earn XP for completing objectives, winning fights and doing special challenges, you'll earn upgrade points which you can apply to the Waynetech upgrades skill trees and eventually unlock other special combo moves you can do such as the Special Combo Multi Ground Takedown. This adds to the selection of moves you can do whenever you add another 8 hits to your combo count. The Special Combo Multi Ground Takedown basically sends Batman flying into the air to hurl instant takedown batarangs at any and all currently downed enemies permanently taking them out of the fight.
Progress through the game and earn more XP to unlock more special combo moves to increase your options whenever you become eligible to do a special combo move in any fight.
Freeflow Focus Mode Explained
To enter Freeflow Focus mode, you must build your Combo Multiplier up to x12, i.e., do a 12 hit combo, without using any special combo moves. At this point, your Combo Multiplier will turn a bright reddish-orange indicating you're in Freeflow Focus mode and will remain as such as long as you keep your combo going and as long as you don't do any special combo moves.
In Freeflow Focus mode, Batman freeflows considerably quicker allowing you to rapidly jump from one enemy to the next building up your combo. In game, Freeflow Focus is described as giving you more reaction time but really the one-second timeout clock stays the same as before. What happens in reality is you're moving so quick that enemies will have less time to react to your movements which in effect makes it easier to stay out of harm's way.
Certain challenges are connected to Freeflow Focus mode which will earn you a ton of XP. Generally speaking though, Freeflow Focus is more for those who are quite adept at freeflowing and wish to turn up the volume, so to speak. Normally, you'll want to take advantage of all special combo move opportunities whenever they arise in order to quickly reduce the number of assailants in a fight.
And that's pretty much the basics of what you need to know to make the caped crusader do some spectacular smackdowns in Batman Arkham Origins.
For a video walkthrough of the game (and that is a REAL walkthrough, not a blind playthrough), check out my Batman Arkham Origins Walkthrough playlist on Youtube!