This may be one of my favorite _J_isms: Ontologically Convoluted Masturbatory Process
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
A few years ago, Culdcept was brought over to the US and virtually everyone who has played it has rightly described the game as being a mix of Monopoly and Magic: The Gathering. There is a bit more to it than that, but anyone who enjoys Monopoly or Magic (or is intrigued by the idea of a hybrid of the two) stands a good chance of enjoying Culdcept. It takes the fun and interesting ingredients from both games and turns them into something new and fun and interesting, just like taking flour, sugar, eggs, and water to create a delicious cake.
Drakengard is another hybrid game, combining Panzer Dragoon and any one of Koei’s endless string of “one man against an enormous army” games (Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Sengoku Musou etc). It took what might have been the fun and interesting ingredients of both games but didn’t quite understand how to mix them, resulting in a cake full of egg shells and salt instead of sugar.
I mention all of this in hopes of showing that it is possible to build a game out of parts from other games and either succeed or fail in creating something worth the trouble of doing so. It is easy to stigmatize a game for drawing too obviously from some existing well for inspiration and to dismiss it as a rip-off. I would argue that being derivative is not necessarily a bad thing any more than being novel is automatically a good thing (see: the Wii). All I really ask is that the game find something new and interesting for me to do or see, even in familiar mechanics, without falling to gimmickry. Even without creating something actually new and good, this can be done with anything from changing the tone and context of an aged genre (part of Disgaea’s appeal) to, in the case of Culdcept, putting old games together in a new way.
Darksiders is, quite unmistakably, a mix of God of War and The Legend of Zelda in the Culdcept vein. Like Culdcept, it takes the disparate but oddly complimentary aspects of both source games and leaves them almost fully intact, letting the unique flavor of the mixture create interest rather than attempting some contrived reworking of the individual formulae.
The God of War influence is the most apparent from the game’s outset, which feels almost like the video game equivalent of a shot-for-shot remake in film. It even goes so far as to cast Darksider’s main character, perhaps to acknowledge the influence of its predecessor, as the personification of War. If there is any argument to be made for Darksiders as a mere rip-off, it must certainly come from this first stage. It is soon rescued, however, when it is complicated by the Zelda aspects.
These Zelda aspects are most apparent in the subweapons that flesh out War’s arsenal. Their names are different but there is no question that he is essentially throwing a boomerang and swinging around from a hookshot. Of course, it wouldn’t be enough to simply provide these tools without also designing dungeons and boss battles that make good use of them, and, of course, Darksiders provides both.
And this is where the real payoff of the God of War aspects come into play. For me, it is entirely satisfying to, after spending an almost completely fruitless length of time trying to solve a Zelda-style puzzle using whatever tools I’ve gathered, finally solve the thing and then proceed to stomp a guy to death and cut off his cohort at the legs and swing him around on the end of my sword. Call me barbaric, but I absolutely delighted in the interplay between problem solving and ending lives spectacularly. The violence punctuates that “eureka” moment that comes when the solution finally puts an end to all the impotent head-scratching by following it up with a quick return to supreme power in battle.
That isn’t to say that God of War didn’t have puzzles, it absolutely did, but they were God of War puzzles, not Zelda puzzles. They were included to break up the action and give the player something else to do, I suppose, but not necessarily to stump him very often or for very long. As a result, the eventual return to slaying didn’t quite feel as good because I didn’t ever really feel lost and powerless first. Being an unstoppable war machine is more fun when it comes as a reward for being powerless but perseverant, I think.
A similar expression of this sort of thing is a part of most of the boss battles. The familiar work of nimbly avoiding incoming attacks while looking for chances to use your new equipment on an otherwise invulnerable boss is thoroughly Zelda, but I would say it is far more rewarding to finish the exercise, not by merely hitting the monster in his weak spot for the third time, but by then snapping off his jaw and tearing his heart out.
Link has had some great finishing moves, mind you, but I wouldn’t say that they are his trademark. I seem to recall a lot of puffs of smoke and explosions into little hearts following the killing stroke which was, for the most part, indistinguishable from any other blow.
In case you are wondering, Darksiders does not break off into a quicktime event for finishing moves. All the player needs to do is initiate the finisher and the rest plays out like a cutscene.
Besides the two prevalent influences that run throughout Darksiders, there are a few other clear inspirations, including a Panzer Dragoon stage and a Portal gun. I don’t think I’ve ever played a PD-style rail shooter that has actually been as fun as PD, and Darksiders is no different. The Portal mechanic, however, is still excellent. I can see how it might become boring with overuse and a lack of new ways to jump through one hole and pop out another, but I still think it’s a keen idea. I fully enjoy mirror and light puzzles in any and all forms, incidentally, so I suppose my thoughts on this might be somewhat skewed.
Also, Mark Hamill is in the game as the Joker as one of the monsters from Sacrifice (or something).
Darksiders gets ten railroad cars to the teeth out of a possible teleportation brain removal.
"Governor Palin has captivated everyone on both sides of the political spectrum and we are excited to add her dynamic voice to the FOX News lineup," said Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming.
I cannot fucking wait for the hilarity which will ensue.