Over the last two years nobody would get off my case about not having tried out Darksiders. This issue came back up every time the game showed up on a Steam deal. I only just now got the time to play a copy off of GameFly, and I still don’t know man…
I got intrigued every time people talked about how whoever made Darksiders basically just cribbed from all their favorite games – especially Zelda, and how you could tell it was made by guys who were genuine fans of game design. You’d be surprised at how well that kind of thing can work out, but I don’t think a developer borrowing from their favorite games is enough.
Darksiders’ problem – as I’m sure has been mentioned in the two years since its release, is that the game has no soul of its own. I’m not just talking about how it doesn’t really have any original mechanics – most of the game’s fans admit this. I’m talking about how the game doesn’t manage to bring its own flavor to the concoction that it mixes.
I played to the end of the first dungeon, and I really just feel like I’m going through the motions of other games that I’d rather be playing. It actually felt sort of similar to finally starting up Ocarina of Time 3D and beating that classic adventure for the latest time over the last 14 years.
Back in 1998 Ocarina’s world and characters blew me away, and I just loved inhabiting and soaking up the game’s environment. In the 3DS version I just blazed past all that dialogue and exploration to get straight through the dungeons – which hold up surprisingly well in terms of level design. I still enjoy Ocarina a lot, but really only for the core game – not the experience. It’s almost become just a giant obstacle course for me. Ever since people recently found that new exploit the speedrun culture for Ocarina has resurged and it’s basically become an eSport.
Darksiders feels soulless in a similar fashion. The thick gameplay and good level design is there, but it’s kinda just a shade of something else. This is coming from somebody who defends the modern Zelda games and doesn’t feel tired of them at all.
Let’s make another comparison: God of War. Darksiders is also considered a clone of this game, which itself is a clone of Devil May Cry. The difference is that GOW managed to portray that gameplay formula with its own sense of brutality that permeated through the setting, art design, gameplay, and even the feel of the controls. The game didn’t just look unique, it felt unique. Darksiders does not, which is why I get the urge to slam in God of War III whenever I engage in its combat.
This is probably just a subjective thing, but I really don’t like the art style of Darksiders either. I know some people like it, but to me it just looks over-designed. Zero Punctuation put it right when Yahtzee said “it looks like somebody started drawing [the protagonist] and didn’t fucking stop”. The only unique thing I think Darksiders has going for it is that it actually has a pretty interesting storyline. Sure it’s a comic book reimagining of the Book of Revelations, but I’m surprised to find a fair amount of intrigue in its world.
The main reason I think people took to Darksiders so much though is because it’s pretty much the closest thing there is to an HD Zelda game. I’ll admit I got serious Link to the Past vibes when I started exploring the first dungeon, but I’d still honestly rather play Skyward Sword, and I don’t care that it’s a standard definition game – I still prefer its world, characters, and art design.
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