Have You Played… Batman: Arkham Origins?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin’s flown away…

Arkham Origins definitely isn’t the best of the latter-day Batman games, but at least on PC it’s definitely not the worst, either – and it’s ageing well. More importantly, it’s set at Christmas – something of a Gotham tradition, with Burton movie Batman Returns very much the high point of rubber-suited holiday fun. Depending on what you’re into, of course.

Origins seems a lot better in hindsight, too. At the time, it seemed too much like more of the same, and even too straightforward against the soaring ambition and mania of its predecessor, Arkham City. I suspect some sour grapes that it wasn’t made by series creators Rocksteady was involved, but in any case its quieter exploration of the Batman/Joker relationship was a welcome counter-balance to the apocalyptic tone of City. But really, the Batman games are about Gotham City, and this particular Gotham City was very much the snow-bound, ugly-pretty one that we so often think of when we hear the name of Bats’ fictional stomping ground.

Batmobile lost a wheel and the Joker got away, hey!

Happy Christmas, everyone. It’s gonna be a hot time on the cold town tonight.

52 Comments

  1. Risingson says:

    Nope. Given that Asylum bored me, I don’t even know why this one is on my steam backlog.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I started to get bored at the end of “city”. This one’s also in my backlog. Probably was on a bundle or something.

    • Cryio says:

      Asylum bored you ? Then you have no taste

    • MikoSquiz says:

      In my experience practically any AAA title gets boring about 6-8 hours in.

      Then they make eight identical sequels that are 40 hours long each, for no readily comprehensible reason.

      • Risingson says:

        Well, that’s something of the modern design, actually, and you can notice that in the Bethesda/Bioware/Obsidian rpgs: is there a mechanic that works? Then let’s make the player repeat it during the whole duration of the game, a thousand times.

        But it is not my problem with Asylum. Linearity is not either. It’s one of these games that makes me feel like I am stamping letters one after the other. One of these games that is for being in the bed while playing and catching sleep. Recently it happened to me with Dead Space, so now that I am ranting…

        … I remember some years ago, like 15 or 20, when Final Fantasy VII was released, that I could not understand the appeal of the game, and entered a discussion about it I cannot remember if in IRC or in a mailing list. Then, one of the guys who was kind of a friend, answered: “it is because you don’t get these games. Console games are to be sat down on your sofa, with a beer in one hand and the pad on the other, relaxing, while you pass the game and conversations”. This, when I accused the game of being little else than pushing the “A” button repeatedly.

        This is a feeling I get with modern PC gaming. Another user told me some posts ago that he (she?) preferred games as when coming home and binge watching a series, another extremely passive activity I tend to avoid unless I am extremely tired (or the series are brief enough). It’s like we are asking developers to make games that avoid any challenge that is outside the box.

        And the Batman games, the Dead Space games, they feel like that to me. I find the AssCreed ones more fun for reasons I cannot explain right now, though they are also pretty close to routine.

      • Cryio says:

        6-8 hours in?

        I was hooked in games like the Arkham series (all of them), all Assassin’s Creed, all Grand Theft Auto, all Witcher games, etc.

        It’s quite easy for a game to hold up your attention for 8 years. It depends from person to person.

    • Kefren says:

      I played it for the first time this year. I felt it was quite average – a few highlights, but also lots of things I hated (a long and boring maze – set in the sewers of all things; silly Riddler puzzles I ignored after the first, just boring and impossible to believe he’d set them all up). Towards the end I just wanted the game to be over, so I could see the end. It really felt like padding by that point. I tried the bonus challenges but they were just more of the thing I’d done thousands of times already – so I was glad to uninstall at that point. Maybe if it had been first person perspective I’d have enjoyed it more. I didn’t feel like Batman, I felt like I was watching a Batman toy moving around.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      Ignoring the fact you’re utterly wrong, Origins isn’t like Asylum, save for the combat (so if that bored you, this will to). This is more an evolution of ‘City rather than ‘Asylum. (it’s also better than City, but that kind of talk will get you strung up around these parts).

  2. Avi says:

    Overall an OK game and definitely not the best in the series. I think they missed a great opportunity exploring the first year or two of the Batman. Things like his very first mission dressed in a hiking gear from Lucius(like in Batman Begins) would have been very nice and we would’ve been exposed to the true creation of him. In the game he’s already two years into being Batman so for me it didn’t feel like the origin of Batman, maybe the origin of him and the Joker…

  3. SparksV says:

    I’ve been replaying it recently since there’s no snow in my town yet. I really like that it has it’s own art style and isn’t just “gritty-dirty” like the others are. The snow on the city rooftops is great. I really liked Troy Baker as the Joker. The Boss battles are good and creative even if some are half-assed (hey Shiva). It’s up there with Asylum in my favourite batman games list. I do think WB Games Montreal would’ve benefitted from a 6-12 months delay for more fleshing out and polish. I’m eagerly waiting for WB Games Montreal’s next game.
    They could make a sequel to Origins, they could go with the Court of Owls story (the statues on the Hotel in Origins are already Owl figures), telling the story between Bruce and Harvey Dent. I’d love it if was a linear game like Asylum but that’s 99% impossible.

    • Kollega says:

      I honestly hated Arkham City, and barely managed to finish it. However, I enjoyed Origins very much. And do you know why? Because Origins wasn’t so rusty and bloody and gritty and diaplidated that it looped over straight into ridiculousness. I honestly loved the aesthetic of Christmas in Gotham, because due to its restrained usage of color and texture, it felt far more like a real place than City’s borderline apocalyptic urban decay.

      Bottom line: sometimes a more restrained and organized approach is called for, because Arkham City honestly felt like too much of a mess aesthetically. Even for a hastily-partitioned makeshift prison. By contrast, Origins actually felt like a ginormous, intimidating city noir that Gotham is supposed to be.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      If you haven’t played it, I recommend the Cold, Cold Heart DLC for Origins.

  4. PsychoWedge says:

    Well, it’s definetly better than Arkham Knight which to me is the worst of the series (and not because of the technical issues) but it’s still only the third best of it too. xD

    I actually like the winter theme quite a lot but I just can’t get over Bats’ voice and the tiresome rehashing of the previous world. And of course there are countless little narrative problems and stretches of the in-universe logic. But I think ultimately it fails on the level that it tells the Joker/Batman-origin story. Again. Because that isn’t the most overtold story in the Batverse.

    On the other hand when I first played it I thought the combat was incredibly off and almost unplayable from the musical rhythm/beat flow. But when I returned a year later to finish it, they seemed to have fixed it because the combat flow was as precise and timed as it was in Asylum/City. So I give them props for that and it was actually a pleasant playthrough.

  5. JakeOfRavenclaw says:

    The lesser son of a noble house, but still a good time if that’s what you’re into. I liked that Origins had its own aesthetic, trading City’s mixture of riotous color and extreme urban decay for a vision of Gotham that’s all cool greys accented with neon splashes of red and blue. It also had surprisingly nice-looking snow, and I spent a fair amount of time just having Batman slide around in it so I could admire the trails he left behind. I remember the crime-scene investigation bits being criticized for their simplicity, but I still quite enjoyed them–Batman feels more like a detective in this game than in Rocksteady’s efforts, anyway.

    There were some oddities like the weirdly linear progression system, but the weakest link is probably the writing, which follows the series tradition of wobbling between enjoyably pulpy and unbearably stupid. A big part of the problem is that Batman is kind of an asshole, and the rare moments when he is humanized through interactions with the supporting cast are all too rare. Still, I’d happily play an Origins 2 built on Arkham Knight’s tech (assuming they can work out the glitches. Personally I never encountered any technical issues, although I’m apparently in the minority there).

  6. montorsi says:

    It’s a bit like an amateur trying to emulate a master. If you play these games on the harder difficulty for the combat, this one is absolutely dreadful. They somehow have no idea what makes the encounters engaging in the previous games and it becomes a horrendous slog of numerous bad guys with no thought to how we will have to fight them.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I got this bundled in with a video card so it was one of the first games I got on my new PC. Tried the game out for a little bit but I couldn’t get into it.

    One of these days I’ll play one of the Batman games. I’ve gotten all 4 of them either through Humble Bundles or Nvidia bundles.

    • MisterFurious says:

      “Asylum” is good. “City” is OK. This one kind of sucks. I didn’t play the last one.

  8. WJonathan says:

    I always sang it as “…Robin laid an egg.”

  9. nimbulan says:

    I found Origins pretty piss-poor myself. I hadn’t run into such a buggy game since Oblivion – constantly getting stuck on things, glitching out while gliding, side quest boss fights bugging and forcing me to reload, the performance problems they never fixed…

    If that wasn’t enough, the game’s full of boring villains, the boss fights are tedious QTE-fests, there’s way too many cutscenes, and the combat timing just felt off, like they’d thrown out all the improvements made in City. They also somehow managed to make the graphics worse than City, even though it runs worse as well because of several new graphical effects they added.

  10. Eight Rooks says:

    Nope, it pretty much is the best one for me. Not played Knight, but I doubt it’d change my mind. Rocksteady’s games are technically stunning and yet utterly, utterly soulless – they do precisely zip with the character and his world other than provide a rogue’s gallery for people to point and gawp at and an endless parade of mooks to punch in the face. Origins is the only one that feels as if it has an actual story, where any kind of thought went into portraying the actual MY PARENTS ARE DEAD side of things. Asylum was passably entertaining but dull, City was nigh-on physically painful towards the end. Totally serious, no hyperbole intended – that’s one reason I haven’t bought Knight; it was bad enough crawling over the finish line without being forced to chase down hundreds of collectibles. Origins was the only one where I was actually playing because I wanted to see what happened next, and where story cutscenes actually made me cackle with glee at their artfulness (the Joker sequence alone pretty much tops anything Rocksteady ever managed). So yeah, I’ve played it, and yeah, it was the best of them all, ta. :) I’m very interested to see what Warner Montreal do next; I could hardly care any less what Rocksteady are planning.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      EDIT: Oh, and I bought it day one, so I had to put up with all the bugs, too. Doesn’t change my opinion one whit.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      I had a feeling Eight Rooks would already be holding it down.

      It’s the best of the lot. The cast of mostly second-string villains, rather than being a drawback, ends up being a strength: it allows for some actual characterization and story rather than ceaseless Here’s That Crazy Guy You Remember pantomime. It has some of my favourite environments in any game, and the writing even manages – for a video game about beating up poor people in your special-order pyjamas, anyway – some actual nuance at certain points (the Anarky side quest is a good example; so is much of the surprisingly plentiful mook chatter you happen upon while gliding between missions.)

      Batman games are guilty pleasures at best, of course; but for me, this is the one that approaches being simply a pleasure.

  11. Talahar says:

    I hate its bossfights with the passion of a thousand suns. I haven’t played Knight, but with City and Asylum I could at least beat the games. Origins’ proper fight against Bane I just could not beat. Even after numerous tries. And I already played on the lowest difficulty. Made me pretty mad, as I play games mostly for story, and Origins keeps it from me. And before any of you suggest it, no, it’s not the same just watching it on youtube.

  12. scorza says:

    Probably the weakest of the first three games (haven’t dug into Knight yet) but that still makes it better than most games out there. Also the corrupt cop angle was awesome. Made Batman feel wilder and actually illegal.

  13. Fnord73 says:

    “It’s gonna be a hot time on the cold town tonight.”

    Is that a Foetus reference I see?

  14. ariston says:

    Attention: weird loner opinion coming up.
    Batman AO was *just as good* as the first two games. After reading all of the negative takes on it, I postponed buying it until some Steam sale or other. I was really surprised, because I was expecting a second-rate Bat experience. Well, shucks, I got that second-rate experience with Arkham Knight instead, and no, not because of the bugs and glitches. Rocksteady had succumbed to the pressure of following up two great games, and they responded by throwing everything they had at it, instead of concentrating on what made the first two great. Pure overkill. The Batmobile was a really bad idea. No, scratch that – it was a great idea, but poorly executed. And the character models were really ugly, from Poison Ivy’s gaunt “drug-addled prostitute” look to Catwoman’s pointed nose to Batman’s unsightly jowls to Jim Gordon’s wasted face… ugh. Why doesn’t this get mentioned anywhere? Do people actually like these faces? Am I missing some NVidia iFace extra here that magically makes everyone pretty again? *end rant*

    The only bad thing about Origins – to my mind – was the weirdly British Joker voice – Mark Hamill’s genius was sorely missed here. But the boss fights? I hate boss fights, usually, but these were really well done. Batman at odds with the police for added tension? Check. Interesting crime scenes, snow, Batman-Alfred conflicts, manageable Riddler riddles… all well done. Combat as smooth as ever, a bit more challenging, but that was as it should be. Great characters, and some nice humour thrown in for good measure (the “boss fight” against Electrocutioner had me split a few stitches laughing).

    I loved Asylum, but I really do think most people are being nostalgic when they call it the “best” of the series. But then, I always liked Doolittle more than Surfer Rosa, and No Code more than Ten.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      Are you sure you’re not me?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Trompe La Monde has Alec Eiffel; Arkham Knight has Take Me Home To The Asylum. But then Trompe La Monde has all those repetitive shooter sections with the Frankblackmobile and… Wait, where was I?

    • onionman says:

      Honestly I think most of the complaints about Origins were overblown, very much the result of those sour grapes. There were only two real problems:

      1) First and foremost, the combat timing was off. I played both Asylum and City on hard to start, actually 100%ing all the challenge maps, and so much of the enjoyment for me lay in perfect execution. I never took a hit that I didn’t deserve, never failed to land a punch that was timed correctly. I don’t know if it was engine-related or a result of the well publicized development crunch (probably both), but the combat in Origins was loose and frustrating. There just wasn’t the same frame-perfect input response, and that gave me many sads.

      2) Gotham was big and pretty, but vacuously empty. This is the flip side of City’s insanely jam-packed anthill, and I guess to a certain extent it comes down to a matter of taste. I agree with the general thrust of the City critiques, however while the interior environments in Origins were quite good, Gotham itself feels weirdly vacant. And no, “it’s Christmas” as a narrative conceit does not solve this problem.

      Also Doolittle is definitely better than Surfer Rosa.

    • epeternally says:

      I basically agree with everything you said. City is still my favorite overall, even if it isn’t the best in some way I found incredibly engaging, but Origins is a magnificent game. I’m near the end of a second playthrough and it really holds up. To the point where I will probably do New Game Plus at some point. I adore the snow covered city and, while I don’t care for Troy Baker’s Joker, the sound design is fantastic. The combat is very smooth too, even if it’s barely changed from City, and I’m grateful for how much straight up fighting you get to do after spending time stuck in the boring Batmobile fights of Knight.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      I liked the Joker better, too. Hamill’s Joker is a clown who’s there for nostalgia first and foremost: Troy Baker’s Joker was a dangerous, unpredictable, murdering psychopath who I found genuinely scary as well as weirdly sympathetic. Seriously, the moment that first cutscene with him finished (foiling the bank raid, or trying to) I was thinking God damn, how come Rocksteady never once managed to creep me out like this?

      • ariston says:

        Funny you should say that, because I liked this iteration of the Joker as well. He was the scary maniac of the Death of the Family story arc, whereas the previous (latter-day?) Joker leaned more to the “clown prince of crime” side. I just love Mark Hamill’s voice work – I never found him convincing as a powerful Jedi, but his acting is so good here…

  15. hermpesaurusrex says:

    Didn’t this one have multiplayer? How was that> Dreadful I imagine.

    • airtekh says:

      It wasn’t actually, it was superb.

      An asymmetric 3 vs 3 vs 2 eight player team game. Bane goons vs Joker Goons vs Batman & Robin

      Both sets of goons have to eliminate the other side to win (using Battlefield style ticket system) or capture objectives. The Dynamic Duo had to ‘intimidate’ both sets of goons, by performing actions like stealth takedowns and such and could reset progress made by goons on their objectives. Goons had their own faction specific tools and also had an opportunity to bring a supervillain into the fight midway through a game (either Joker or Bane – both of whom were stupidly overpowered). It was a really fresh attempt at a multiplayer action game.

      Sadly it was plagued with connection issues that weren’t fixed (at least they weren’t when I stopped playing it) and a small community that never really took off. I would love for an indie developer to steal the idea and build on it.

  16. dethtoll says:

    It’s kind of turning itself into a holiday tradition for me. Two years in a row I’ve played it now; the only reason I’m not playing it this year is ‘cuz I got Arkham Knight for my birthday a few days ago so I’m playing that instead. But rest assured, starting next year, the whole-series cycle begins anew.

  17. Boult Upright says:

    Ok – you got me. I will play it now and work out which bit of Black Francis genius it most resembles.

  18. Jerykk says:

    Origins has the best character design and writing of the whole series. Killer Croc looked like a mutated human (similar to his Animated Series appearance), as opposed to a humanoid dinosaur. Black Mask looked appropriately stylish and sinister. Bane was actually intelligent and methodical, as opposed to the mindless brute he was portrayed as in Asylum and City. The redesign of Copperhead was great and actually made the character cool. Just great stuff all around.

    Most of the hate for Origins comes from the fact that it’s a prequel from a different developer and doesn’t have the regular voice actors. Petty concerns but concerns nonetheless for many people.

  19. Metallian says:

    Not all of the game is bad. There are several touches all around that show that a lot of people worked very hard on it and I don’t want to claim otherwise, but somebody threw such a big wrench into it that the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    The nuts and bolts of Origins were so far off as to be infuriating. City’s perfectly fine-tuned fighting was fiddled with(why? why would you do that?) in several minute ways that really just trashed the whole system. Timing was ever so slightly off. Enemy balance was thrown out of whack as they stuck in too many slightly-different brutes. They effed up the other side of the equation with the awful, awful shock gloves that took all the joy out of a well-executed combo. The environment was the greatest enemy, as thugs would get stuck on the smallest corner, ruining attacks and breaking combos. There are so many areas with added difficulty simply because EVERYTHING IS BLUE. The enemies, the lighting, the environment, the counter icons. Hit and counter effective ranges are likewise arsed with.

    What really puzzles me is why, when they obviously cribbed so much from City’s files, they decided to fix the obviously unbroken parts. So hard. With a hammer.

    Also the story took a real shit, Joker doesn’t need to be in absolutely every Batman story, but even Rocksteady themselves obviously can’t get over that.

    • Jalan says:

      On that last point, I think most developers struggle with the notion of their consumers’ potential unfamiliarity, especially when it comes to comic book properties. I’m not saying I disagree (quite the opposite, in fact) but at the same time, I can’t see them taking too big a risk by foregoing the presence of a character like the Joker (or any of the more recognizable members of Batman’s gallery of rogues) much less giving a lesser-known a true chance to hold the story on their own.

      For every one person who would buy a game where they knew a villain like the Mad Monk took center stage, there are probably ten or more that would skip the game based on the fact that villains they enjoy/were familiar with weren’t in them and that lack of guaranteed sales is exactly why we get the retread treatments.

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    cairbre says:

    I must try this game again

  21. tomimt says:

    When I was playing Origins, I couldn’t help but to feel, that had it been released as an expansion pack for either Arkham Asulym or City it would have been received much better. It really does feel more like an expansion pack to me rather than full blown stand alone release.

  22. kud13 says:

    Solid game. I played it way post-release, so bugs were mostly fixed (still had the occasional “glide fail”).

    I felt the “focus on fighting as opposed to gadgets” in boss fights was rather well executed. For whatever reason, I had most prompts turned off even on Normal, but even so, it took me under 10 tries each to beat both Deathstroke and Copperface (the 2 “most fight-y” bosses), so I can’t complain about difficulty. The story did get a bit out of whack towards the end, but overall it was enjoyable. Side-stuff was probably done even better than City ( Anarky tags-I enjoyed looking for those).

    Among complaints-having the city empty “due to a snowstorm on Christmas Eve” was pushing it. It didn’t ruin the game for me, but… I did cringe a bit.
    Also, the linear progression system. City’s “do challenges in any order” was better.

    I still need to go back and do a NG+ run of this.

  23. PancakeWizard says:

    Only two things wrong with Origins:

    1. It’s Batwing fast travel, not Bat mobile. As this is a prequel, that’s just stupid.

    2. The unlock system can’t be completed wherever, and has to be done in order. So ignore/mess up the stealth stuff and you’re screwed for the 100% because you need story missions that aren’t there. This would’ve easily been fixable if WB Montreal had allowed you complete them in the open world areas.

  24. Asurmen says:

    Why is it being Batwing rather than Batmobile stupid?

    • Asurmen says:

      My first reply fail!

    • PancakeWizard says:

      Because it stands to reason that the Batmobile was made first, and Batman is ‘new’ in this game. Indeed, they have in the Batcave ‘being worked on’. The Batwing in this looks like something straight out of Batman Beyond. It doesn’t fit at all. It really feels like it was just a quick and dirty solution to fast travel so they could drop you in from height. As heinously uninteractive as it sounds, I would’ve much preferred a cutscene of Batman leaping out of the Batmobile at ground level, and it self-driving off screen at each fast travel point, just to maintain the setting.

  25. PikaBot says:

    Coincidentally, I just started replaying it as part of a big Arkham-series wide replay I’m doing. It holds up better than I remember, although part of that is probably bugfixes which occurred between now and then – the first time I played it, Killer Croc kept flickering in and out of existence in that first boss fight, for instance, but no sign of that here.

    One thing I found surprising was that the combat – when it’s functioning properly, which is most of the time but not all of it – is actually substantially more satisfying than City’s. The animations are slightly weightier than their City and Asylum counterparts, and the recovery on several of Batman’s moves is reduced so you can get away with last-second counters you never could in City. It’s minor stuff, but it makes a big difference.

    And the story is a whole level above the previous two games. Arkham Asylum’s plot was just an excuse to have Batman run around various areas of the island and beat up iconic villains, and nakedly so. Arkham City tried to do something a bit more but apart from one big twist and the last like five minutes of the main plot, none of it really worked on a level beyond ‘excuse to run around Gotham and biff bad guys’. Arkham Origins is a lot better written – in many ways it feels like a love note to Year One, especially in the development of the Batman/Gordon relationship. I don’t think it’s quite as good as Arkham Knight’s writing, but it’s damn good as well.

    And it’s approach to boss battles is much better than either of the pervious games. Arkham Asylum had terrible charging monsters, Poison Ivy, and Titan Joker, all of which (especially the latter two) felt like totally different games, and substantially less fun ones. Frankly, they stank. Arkham City was a lot better about it, but once again, the boss fights (Grundy, R’as, Clayface) felt like totally different games. In Arkham Origins, the boss fights feel a lot more like the usually combat – tweaked, not thrown out entirely.

    So, with all this praise, what’s wrong with the game? Well, two main issues.

    1. There are two new powers you are given which completely shatter the game’s difficulty curve. The shock fists (for free flow combat) and the remote line launcher (for predator sequences) are so absurdly powerful that they break the game completely.

    2. Polish, polish, polish. Some environmental textures look appallingly bad, like we’re having a case of texture pop in where the texture never actually pops in. The geometry around the edges of arenas is fiddly and can cause you to drop your combo for no real reason. Every now and then an enemy will simply bug out and start behaving weirdly – I had one thug who kept running towards me like he was going to attack, and then instead turned away from me and started making threatening motions towards empty space instead. I also got trapped in level geometry once at the end of a particularly frustrating fight, which wasn’t great.

    This lack of polish also extends to the level design. All interior Arkham environments are essentially glorified corridors, of course, but they’ve never felt quite so corridor-like and yet so impossible to navigate. I begin to feel ill at the prospect of walking around that damn boat again, for example.

    The unlock system is great in concept, but needs polish as well – especially the Predator branch of the Datk Knight Challenges. Because they have to be done in order, and because there’s a limited number of predator rooms and explicable walls in the game, you can easily make it impossible for you to complete the Predator challenges unless you are dead set on them from minute one.

  26. Anonymous says:

    In short, I loved playing it and it’s my clear favourite in terms of story (although City wins for personal experience). However, it was the game where the formula grew immensely tired, the illusion completely shattering to reveal the grinding treadmills beneath. That and a lack of Hamill/Conroy means I probably won’t touch the series again.

  27. Jay Load says:

    In short, I loved playing it and it’s my clear favourite in terms of story (although City wins for personal experience). However, it was the game where the formula grew immensely tired, the illusion completely shattering to reveal the grinding treadmills beneath. That and a lack of Hamill/Conroy means I probably won’t touch the series again.