I know I’m a little late to the party with this one, but for the past couple of weeks I’ve been working my way through Darksiders. I’m going to put this right out there and say that the game has really surprised me, and it’s the most fun I’ve had with a new IP in a good while. For anyone out there that doesn’t know, Darksiders is an action/rpg in the vein of Legend of Zelda, and it’s also the freshman effort from developer Vigil Games.
You may have heard, but the thing about Darksiders is that it doesn’t do anything terribly original. It is a very good game though, and unfortunately it’s often slated for the fact that it borrows heavily from other big name franchises like Zelda, God of War and, surprisingly, Portal. I was intrigued when Darksiders was released a couple of years ago, but some negative press dismissing it a shameless rip-off placed it low on my priority list. It was only last month when it became free as part of PlayStation Plus that I finally decided to take a crack at it, and I’m glad I did.
I should say that as I grow older, the more nostalgic I am becoming. I find myself watching old TV shows, listening to music from my childhood, playing old games, etc. Hell, I even bought some 8-bit pixel art for my house last week. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that there is comfort to be found in the familiar, and I think this is a big part of why I like Darksiders so much. With so many games nowadays trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s nice to have something that’s comfortable. Although I’m playing this game for the first time, I often feel like I’ve played it before, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. As grizzly as Darksiders is on the surface, I keep getting these warm, fuzzy feelings when I obtain a classic power-up or extend my life bar.
Some people have called Darksiders a rip-off, but to me that implies cash-in, and that’s not how I see it. It’s obvious that a lot of effort went into making this game, and coming from a talented new studio, I see Darksiders as more of a loving homage. Truthfully, it feels like the kind of game my friends and I would create if given the opportunity. I can just imagine the team at Vigil brainstorming in the early stages of development: Guy No. 1, “You know, I really like Zelda, but what if it were darker? We could take that formula to a level Nintendo wouldn’t dare.” And Guy No. 2, “We could make it violent and really expand the combat. We all like DMC and GoW, right?” Yes, guys, we do.
If you play Darksiders it becomes pretty clear that the team at Vigil have a lot in common with their audience. These guys play games–not just make them–and they have their favourites. What they have done is take the standout elements from many of these and combine them into a very entertaining amalgamation. I love the Zelda formula, and especially what Nintendo have been doing with the franchise recently, but I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when I’d entertained the possibility of a more mature title. It seems like Vigil thought that, too, and that’s what they’ve given us in Darksiders.
I’ll wrap this up by saying that while I am not preaching an across-the-board “if it ain’t broke” philosophy to games development, I do think it’s fun to experience a new spin on stuff that’s been done before—if that makes any sense. Ultimately, if you like some of the influential games that I’ve mentioned above, then chances are you will like Darksiders, too. It’s familiar and new at the same time, and I’m excited to finish it play future titles from this studio starting with Darksiders II next month.