Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Darksiders (Xbox 360)

Before playing Darksiders, I had already heard a lot of press about how the game is just one big Zelda rip off. It is accused of unabashedly stealing mechanics from that franchise and others. And you know what, that's no lie. But I fail to see how it's a problem. The Zelda games are almost uniformly excellent. And there really aren't many other games that attempt that gameplay style. So really, there's low supply and high demand for Zelda-style games, and something like Darksiders should be perfectly welcome. I mean, were people really upset when Shadow Complex blatantly cribbed from Metroid? I'm glad the gaming industry isn't as crazy about patents as the rest of the software world - it prevents the culture from stagnating.

When the cell shaded art style for Wind Waker got unveiled apparently a ton of fans were mortified. They wanted some more realistically rendered adult Link. Personally I loved the light hearted cartoon style of Wind Waker. But if some people were still holding out for a grittier, more "adult" Link, then they have it in Darksiders... and then some. Darksiders takes place in a world where angels and demons are battling it out over a post-apocalyptic Earth. You play as War, one of the four horsemen, standing in the middle trying to keep both sides in line through extreme violence. It's like if Link started rampaging around making demonic pacts and cutting people's head's off. Instead of, you know, occasionally harassing chickens.

That theme may not align to your typical Zelda game, but the mechanics are all familiar. You get a boomerang and a hookshot; you'll romp through dungeons with chests, puzzles, and keys; and at the end there will be an epic boss battle with some pattern you need to learn that involves the fancy tool you just found. It's undeniably the same design. But it's all executed very well.

Truth be told, I think I preferred it to Twilight Princess. The visuals are obviously of a higher fidelity, but there are also a lot of surprisingly inspired environments. The controls are tight and responsive (at least compared to my regrettable experience of playing Twilight Princess on the Wii instead of the Gamecube). And overall the game is just that much more streamlined, with a manageable length (which for me is a positive characteristic these days). Overall Darksiders was a nice little game that took a beloved pattern and repeated it. It totally scratched the right itch, so if you've been feeling the need for a classic Zelda romp, then give Darksiders a spin.