Tales of a Scorched Earth

A Love/Hate Relationship with Video Games.

Darksiders: Uncanny

This is War. He has a big sword. It has a name. It is Chaoseater.

Darksiders is a wave of nostalgia. It is playing A Link to the Past (1991) on a Super Nintendo console borrowed from a friend away for summer vacation. It is the limited edition comic book with holofoil cover that never existed; in the game are the characters that do battle on these imaginary pages. Darksiders is what happens when a comic book artist has something to say about a video game’s design. The art direction of Darksiders provides a solid foundation for this original setting, where a generous layer of grunge and oversized pauldrons was applied to a formula so revered by video game culture it has become all but untouchable. This aesthetic becomes one of the strongest points of Darksiders, as it is so convincing that the flagrant plagiarism happening underneath can be overlooked. This is not mere homage; the team at Vigil Games has created a video game. The intent of the game’s design is clear from the beginning, and like the adventure it contains, does not deviate from this prescribed pathway. Darksiders has scope and it has goals, but it does not over-reach. The mechanics are inviting and do not ask for anything but the player’s attention. Darksiders demands to be played.

Darksiders has been criticized mainly for its lack of originality; it seems pointing out an obvious trait of video games in general is cause enough for dismissal. The negative commentary claims everything Darksiders has to offer has been done previously – and better – elsewhere. The most popular example being the one-button finishing moves and gratuitous vivisections of the God of War series. However, when playing Darksiders there should really be only one series of video games that comes to mind: The Legend of Zelda. And this should come as no surprise, as it was always the intent of Darksiders Creative Director and comic book artist Joe Madureira1. Typical for the reception of such an endeavor, Darksiders was the victim of offhanded associations from people who didn’t play the game, or worse – they weren’t paying attention while they played it2.

The individuals that purport to dictate taste through these indolent opinions are propagating a disease within video game culture, one that results in some offensive double-speak regarding the advancement and future of the industry. They want innovation, but they don’t want anything too different. They complain about formulas and sequels, yet express deep reverence for a character or game design as old as video games. No one can do platforming like Mario, or solve puzzles like Link in The Legend of Zelda. These memories are untouchable, and the games that inspired them incorruptible3. By adopting this philosophy, the people who play these games with veneration overflowing in their hearts are limiting themselves to the regurgitations of the same formula, made by the same people, to the hollow ringing of cash registers. And in spite of it all, there is never a shortage of criticism when the big studios keep producing these duplicates. This feedback loop is the unfortunate ecosystem of the video game industry.

For the first half of Darksiders, the plagiarism is so obvious that it becomes a running gag as to see which tool will be received in each dungeon. One dungeon had hard to reach switches, which were obvious call signs for a boomerang. Only in Darksiders it’s called a “Crossblade.” The hook shot? It’s been suitably grittied up as the “Abyssal Chain.” Despite this overt imitation, these items were still fashioned to reflect the world of Darksiders. It also calls into question the Zelda series itself: aren’t the recent installments of the series essentially a facsimile of every Zelda game ever made? What Darksiders has going for it is that it isn’t a Zelda game. The genre bullshit can be cast aside because there is no genreDarksiders is copying a game that has been in a genre of its own since its creation. Darksiders works because it is similarly consistent in its approach. It applies a formula that is obvious from the start and sticks with it for the entirety of the game. As a result there are no surprises, and the disappointments are only from attempting to assign attributes to the game it was never meant to have.

Darksiders begins in some generic North American city in the midst of what is clearly the Apocalypse. The player receives control of War, who arrives with all the bombast expected from one of the mythical Four Horsemen: by emerging from a meteor that had just destroyed a building. Like many recent video games it uses the familiar method of getting a player interested by providing an overpowered character at the start and then thrusting them into the chaos. None of the immediate threats pose any challenge. The player is expected to learn the controls, and to see the endpoint for their avatar in action. Kill, destroy, and ravage as War is attacked by the forces of Heaven and Hell alike. However, the other three Horsemen are missing. Something is wrong. At the end of the starting area there is a fight with the archdemon Straga that there is no hope of winning. War is cast down into some kind of molten limbo, where judgement is passed by the Charred Council. They deem that War’s solo trip to Earth is the cause behind the destruction of Humanity.

From the beginning of Darksiders, the player is encroaching on someone else’s plan. After wrongful accusations about being the catalyst for Armageddon, War must make things right. And nobody wants him to do that, either. They’d rather this wayward Horseman just languish in Hell for eternity with the demons that are allegedly his allies (thus, Darksiders). This is a mission to regain War’s honor and restore balance to the Universe. There are no allies in Darksiders; every one of the allegiances that is formed has its price. Even after the Charred Council permits War to walk the Earth again, they send The Watcher along for the trip to keep War under control. The Watcher is never slow to criticize the player’s actions, yet still manages to act like Link’s fairy companion in Ocarina of Time (1998).

Darksiders is assuredly a revenge story. It will feel familiar to anyone who plays video games. Contrary to the populist sentiments directed towards Darksiders, revenge stories are not new or unique to any particular video game series. In fact, they make the best kind of motivation for the action in video games. It is easy for anyone to grasp. The player doesn’t have to think about anything other than satisfying this basic need, which often involves killing indiscriminately. Darksiders ensures there is ample opportunity for the player to do exactly that.

War may have arrived a little early. Or just in time, depending on how you look at it.

In stark contrast to the game’s chaotic introduction, the adventure begins at a leisurely pace as War returns to a vastly different Earth. The burnt out and blackened cityscapes are realized like a comic book that isn’t shy about using color to illustrate the desolation. I’d compare the philosophy behind the use of color to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003), where a sinister atmosphere can still be conveyed without sacrificing detail or a varied palette for the sake of general dirtiness and a main character drowning in angst. The jagged structures and exaggerated monster design show a consistency of vision employed in each of the game’s environments, and their appeal endures for the course of the game. Even the cutscenes are framed like comic book panels that are only missing the speech bubbles. It captures the spirit of comics that were more interested in showing their readers something that was “cool” to look at – whether it was gratuitous violence or neverending capes – instead of a story worth following. Anyone who read Image Comics in the 1990s will recognize that the world of Darksiders fits comfortably within that period4.

To name War’s sword “Chaoseater” was a dangerous gamble. It would either seem unoriginal and juvenile, or it would tap into the collective subconscious of players who grew up on comic books with similarly ridiculous heroes, evoking a singular reaction: “fucking awesome.” Not only does the name awaken the awkward pre-teen that used to beg for money from their parents to spend at the comic shop, it is pretty much the final word on confrontation in this game. It is a sword that eats chaos, the most uncontrollable thing in the Universe. Its thirst for destruction is insatiable. Chaoseater is an artifact bred from the comic book mentality: physically impossible yet invigorating to possess. There is an inertia behind this sword, and you cannot help but succumb to its pull. When you decapitate some beastly demon, you feel it. It is an unstoppable force. Like War.

Combat is straightforward and unassuming. There is usually only one button to press. Press it a few times, lock on with the Left Trigger, and suddenly War is juggling demons like Dante in Devil May Cry. There are hit counters as well, but this is just a number on the screen. Nobody’s watching.

For the most part, War’s multitude of weapon upgrades and special moves are for the player’s entertainment alone. With the exception of the end of dungeon bosses, the player could hammer the main “Attack” button for the entire game and still succeed as in Fable II (2008). Though Darksiders loses a good portion of its appeal with this approach, because Fable II had all that other stuff like property buying and getting married and avatars growing horns out of their head.

The accessible combat system creates a smoothness that resembles Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009). While swinging Chaoseater, War can be directed to his next target to build up a chain of hits. At the end of the skirmish, a group of stunned monsters are left begging to be put down. Pressing “B” will execute a finishing move that differs for each type of enemy, dialing up the theatrics but providing no other benefit. It doesn’t make it any less satisfying, though.

The flourishes of combat in Darksiders are meant to fill in the gaps of the overarching adventure. The Zelda series has always been about adventure through exploration, and combat was an obstruction on the path towards the ultimate goal. Darksiders has a more developed combat system in comparison: it allows the player to relish the details. It is satisfying without being punishing, and there are enough combinations and special attacks that keep it consistently engaging. It allows experimentation because it allows preparation. It is not about reflexes.

As a result, combat is slow relative to other third-person action games, and easy to get a grip on without ever feeling overwhelmed by the adversaries that are presented. Darksiders revels in the little things: the basic, but satisfying finishing moves, watching War’s horse Ruin erupt in flame out of the ground beneath his feet, running through a desert on horseback while being chased by a giant worm – these displays are all unmistakably inspired by those two-page spreads of a favorite comic book hero performing some inhuman feat.

Vulgrim is like that mysterious shopkeeper from RE4. Always around when you need to buy something.

Too weak to take on Heaven and Hell’s armies, War must develop his powers. This is achieved primarily through wandering around and killing things. With each kill, an assortment of souls are dropped: regular souls (for currency), Life, and Wrath (mana). War will gain passive and active powers by completing quests and dungeons or by purchasing them from Vulgrim, the demonic vendor that always seems to be in the right place at the right time. This should all sound very, very familiar.

With the arrangement and distribution of War’s catalogue of abilities, Darksiders also makes a point of ensuring that increases in power are granted to the player in controlled bursts. There is also an excellent tedious-repetition-to-reward ratio. With this constantly in the mind of the player, there is never a time where total mastery over the game’s challenge structure is felt. The player must still work for their rewards.

Chaos Form, which is an ability introduced about half way through the game, allows War to change into a fiery demon, providing a brief period of invincibility and higher damage output. The only way to recharge this power is to build up Rage through attacking more enemies. The game provides no ability to increase the size of the Rage meter, and the slower recharge rate ensures that the ability is used sparingly. There are also areas where heavy weapons are available on a per-encounter basis: a high-powered plasma rifle dropped by heavily armoured Angels, or an exploding spear gun dropped by Demons. These weapons are meant to deal with large crowds quickly with their fast rate of fire and damage output. However, both weapons severely limit mobility, and are further examples of power being suppressed in this game. This cautious release of offensive weapons and abilities provides a great contrast with Prototype (2009), which gives away too much, too fast to the player so that the system of challenges beings to break down almost immediately5.

The Mask of Shadows is an item given to War during the buildup to the final battle with The Destroyer. Its function is to show objects in the Shadow world that would otherwise be invisible in the Real world. Its sole purpose is to find pieces of the Armageddon Blade, the only weapon that can be used against the Destroyer.The Mask of Shadows could have been the equivalent of the Magic Mirror in A Link to the Past. Had this item been given to War earlier, it could have effectively doubled the size of the game world in Darksiders: opportunities for more puzzles, more treasure hunting, more mobs to fight. However, this becomes a question of balance with the main story. How would this expanded world have been worked into War’s quest? Instead of a game world that could unravel into repetitive quests and unnecessary backtracking, the exploration is kept restrained and manageable. The final goal always remains visible so that the player remains focused.

As enjoyable as the weapons available in the game are, there are two key weak points in War’s arsenal: the Tremor Gauntlet and Ruin, War’s horse. The Tremor Gauntlet is actually an upgrade of War’s existing gauntlet, which already allows War to run along ledges as in Prince of Persia (2008)6. The gauntlet alone was fine, as eventually no jumping puzzle in Darksiders felt complete without a few sections of cliff or ledges to scale. The mistake lies in making the Tremor Gauntlet a weapon – it was one weapon too many. Chaoseater is undeniably the best weapon in the game, and perfectly suited for the primary attack. The Scythe can be purchased as an alternate attack, though its use is mainly for crowd control and fast distance attacks. The Tremor Gauntlet is completely ineffective in combat; the other two weapons completely outclass it for every combat situation. The Tremor Gauntlet is granted because it is the only item that can break passages blocked by ice, and in that regard is no more useful than the Crossblade or Abyssal Chain in combat. Instead of making the Tremor Gauntlet a levelable weapon alongside Chaoseater and the Scythe, why not spend the effort developing more attacks for Chaoseater? A resourceful player is able to max out the Chaoseater’s abilities fairly easily. In this case, it would have been more beneficial to add more powers to War’s two main weapons, instead of trying to come up with completely new ones for the Tremor Gauntlet that will go unused.

Not surprisingly, the biggest mistake made was relegating Ruin to a “power” that is obtained about half way through the game. The numerous Zelda comparisons in the video game press weren’t without their references to Epona, but the relationship between War and Ruin is one established purely on functionality. And it’s a frustrating one, because Ruin is on the fucking box. Starting Darksiders you’d almost expect to be reunited with such a beast early on in the game – it’s preposterous that a Horseman of the Apocalypse has to earn his horse. This is explained through the story, however, as Ruin was captured and broken by the Demon hordes in your hundred-year absence. When the reunion finally does happen, it is glorious: On horseback, War’s attacks are much more devastating as large, gory swaths are through demon mobs. For a brief moment you feel like the Apocalypse ride again. But these moments are painfully fleeting. Instead, there are just a few select areas where Ruin can be used as transportation, or as a solution to an invisible bridge puzzle.

While most of War’s weapons and powers have obvious analogues in the Zelda series, they nevertheless feel like they belong in the world of Darksiders. Yes, there are puzzle contrivances, but what kind of Zelda imitator would this be without them? Following through with this line of thinking will result in some very disturbing questions: just what is a Horseman of the Apocalypse doing all this stuff for, anyway? Jumping around and pushing blocks? Hunting for Keys? Swimming? Reasoning with angels and demons? There is but one task for the Horsemen of the Apocalypse: to act as harbingers of the Final Judgement. Except that this is a video game. Asking serious questions about such a manufactured fantasy setting makes about as much sense as trying to reconstruct Todd McFarlane’s backstory for Spawn. There comes a time where you have to let go and allow this outlandish video game to run its course. And in Darksiders this is during the encounter with the Jailer, a sub-boss of the first dungeon. A bulbous, throbbing monster with glowing pustules that would make fine targets for the recently obtained Crossblade. It is exactly here that the player sees the limits of this video game’s ambitions. With a game this honest and forthcoming about its intentions, it is hard to fault Darksiders for reinforcing the limits that have been set for it. The best part of familiarity is how it can be so inviting.

I wish there were more areas in Darksiders where you could do this.

To call the world of Darksiders “open” would be grossly inaccurate, but still an unfortunate byproduct of modern video game marketing. Any game released in recent years must proclaim its openness and freedom for serious consideration by the masses, because that’s what video games should aspire to be. In truth, Darksiders is open like the Zelda games are open. That is, there is a hub world with fixed limits that contains a mix of open areas and dungeons interspersed in the Apocalyptic wastage, and with the acquisition of equipment or powers access is gained to previously blocked and hidden areas. Darksiders encourages exploration once War starts to gain back his equipment and abilities, but this exploration is far from being formless. The player was placed on a path at the beginning of the game and they must follow it in that order if they hope to accomplish anything.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a modern video game without some form of fast travel, despite the world being set within obvious limits. Instead of providing Ruin from the start, the game introduces Serpent Holes to travel between areas. These aren’t simply waypoints, though, as control of War is still maintained as he travels through an ethereal realm to get to the opposite end, representing the destination in the physical world.

The problem with the Serpent Holes is that they are necessary. In Diablo II, where waypoints are almost like progress save points, they are there as a safety net should the player die and want to retrieve their corpse in a reasonable amount of time. If the player chose to, they could fight their way from the base camp out to the corpse and collect experience points on the way – it was entirely up to the player. In Darksiders, because the monsters and wandering enemies are sparse it’s simply not that rewarding to run between the game’s main areas like that. Yes, the monsters all respawn randomly – and there are certainly some areas that provide excellent “grinding” locations to harvest souls – but because these are relatively isolated, just wandering around to try and have fun with the combat system tends to be harder than it should.

Indeed, Darksiders genuinely creates a feeling of wanderlust. In that sense, Darksiders is more like the recent portable Castlevania titles in the way its effortless blend of combat and exploration always yields some trivial reward: experience to upgrade weapon damage, money (souls), Life shards or Wrath shards to upgrade the associated gauges. Exploration will also reveal artifacts that can be traded to Vulgrim for souls. There just isn’t enough of this meandering. In Metroid or Castlevania, once a new ability is gained there is an immediate desire to try it out and to see what is newly accessible. The game’s designers have done their best to establish that careful balance between the linear progression of the main quest, and modest exploration. As much as the Darksiders world demands to be expanded, the limits only serve to maintain perspective for the ultimate objective. Any openness perceived inside the game world is never overwhelming; this is an adventure where the end was always intended to be in sight.

The game’s difficulty begins to increase when you are first presented with “challenge rooms”, which are areas that are blocked off until you defeat everything in them. This should be familiar to players of the Zelda series, Devil May Cry, God of War and the recent Bayonetta. These challenges start on the approach to the Twilight Cathedral, the first dungeon. The previously lazy and loose combat suddenly becomes important to think about, though the only skill required is an attention span. The monster patterns are recognizable. Attacks are blockable. There is War’s growing repertoire of powers that only get stronger. These are areas that have been constructed to provide legitimate challenge and encourage active participation in combat. It is Zelda if Shigeru Miyamoto was a mean-spirited bastard. The difficulty is not punishing, but it is nonetheless present in the tasks it lays in front of the player. It is a warning that this will be no light-hearted affair.

Nevertheless, criticism has been directed at the unassuming level of difficulty in Darksiders, but these assertions are hastily made. Part of the reason the difficulty of Darksiders is dismissed is that it can be inconsistent. The Twilight Cathedral7 is the most enjoyable dungeon in the game for its carefully distributed challenges, monster encounters, and final fight with Tiamat, the end boss. It is also the hardest, as the final encounter with Tiamat sets the bar so high the remaining bosses – even the Destroyer himself – are pushovers by comparison because of the special abilities and weapons that have been collected to that point. Even though the guiding hand of the designers is present through the game’s proceedings, constantly establishing limits, the balance of difficulty is not transparent. These easily perceptible missteps cast doubt on the entire affair for any player that’s looking for a reason to dislike the game.

Entering the first dungeon clearly illustrates the intentions for the rest of the game, even though it doesn’t always follow through on this promise. The Twilight Cathedral is where most of my deaths in the entire game occurred. The use of the Crossblade in the first part of the fight with Tiamat assures many frustrating false starts before the pattern is learned and controls are mastered. The second part of the fight requires use of dodge and timing War’s stronger attacks with Chaoseater while he is weakened. And since it is early on in the game, War’s health bar is no buffer against the onslaught. Victory in this battle is one of those rare feelings you get with a video game; it doesn’t make you want to put down the controller, even with the ridiculous punishment that was just experienced. It makes you want to take on the rest of this post-Apocalyptic wasteland, and the armies of Heaven and Hell that struggle for control of it. Even though the remaining dungeons don’t match up to this first encounter, they still feel substantial and satisfying. They are exactly as long as they need to be, and are a fair balance between puzzles and combat.

Every boss fight seems to end with a video showing some exaggerated killing blow from War, like ripping the wings off of a dragon or gutting a sandworm like a fish. These theatrics should be familiar to players of Devil May Cry and God of War. While satisfying to watch (typical complaints about lack of interactivity at these points aside, of course), this disconnect is even more pronounced in Darksiders, because the combat is already streamlined in comparison to these two games. Despite their dramatic nature, the actions shown in these cutscenes always had nothing to do with the activities War had to perform moments earlier to weaken the boss. To require a player to execute some relatively menial task when an especially extravagant move lies in wait just to be shown in a closing video is a little insulting. Darksiders should have a little more faith in the Player. A game like Devil May Cry 4 gets away with this because the attack patterns are not prescribed based on the weapons that happen to be featured in a particular dungeon. The rest of Devil May Cry 4 is mostly a movie anyway – placed back-to-back, the cutscenes would make one of the greatest action films of all time. Darksiders allows uninterrupted control during its boss fights, and then suddenly rips it away at the end, leaving a massive void between the player and their investment in the game’s action during these pivotal moments. After Tiamat, bosses are mere puzzles to be solved – just like Zelda.

Any goodwill generated for the game up until the last dungeon is almost completely lost, however, as the player is subjected to the self-awareness of the designers. The Black Throne is what happens when a development team thinks their game is too short. It is a dungeon divided into three parts, representing three bonds that imprison Azrael, an Angel that has decided to help War find the true cause of the Apocalypse. This dungeon is a crippling change of pace, as it includes an overabundance of puzzles involving the Voidwalker. The Voidwalker is a portal gun obtained in this dungeon that can only be used on designated portal tiles. The locations of these tiles are found throughout the dungeon, but the accompanying puzzles are nowhere near the complexity of the game that obviously influenced this mechanic. And while the puzzles are not hard to solve, limitations on camera movement and viewing angle make these sequences unnecessarily challenging. These puzzles are broken up by fighting the same boss three times, and a particularly tough challenge room where the player is suddenly faced with managing health versus ridiculous escalations in enemy toughness. It is painful design trope used to stall out the end of the game, and disrupts the balance in encounters that had been carefully maintained until then.

War sets up for his big league swing.

After conquering the Black Throne and obtaining the Mask of Shadows, War must search out the hidden shards of the Armageddon Blade. Like Zelda and Metroid, the player is required to backtrack through the entire game world looking for things that were always there, just inaccessible. And while this sequence could easily have bordered on tedious backtracking8 and brought more attention to a world that has been carefully constructed to limit excessive exploration, instead it gets right to the point. The locations of these shards are obvious, and if the player has paid attention during the brief bouts of exploration prior to this mission, they should already know where they are. This part of the game is also an opportunity to collect the remainder of the Abyssal Armour set with War’s full compliment of abilities. It is the montage before the final battle; these were preparations for the climactic confrontation with the Destroyer. And the fight is on horseback, as it should be.

Upon victory, Darksiders is fully primed for a sequel in an expected, but nonetheless exciting reveal. It does not feel cheap or gratuitous. Instead, it instills a feeling of hopefulness. Darksiders is not a perfect game – as it has been mentioned here the shortcomings are obvious to anyone who is looking for them. Nevertheless, Darksiders succeeds in adapting a venerated formula to introduce a new world to anyone who is willing to take the time to play inside of it. It ensures the Player is invested in its lore, as adolescent as it may be, so that they are committed to playing a sequel. The ending is Joe Madureira and Vigil Games saying: “See you next month.”

Examining Darksiders strictly from a mechanical perspective would reveal a design that is copying a familiar formula while referencing recent successes in the third-person action genre to make itself relevant for modern audiences. It is uncanny in its implementation of The Legend of Zelda formula, and yet it is incredibly satisfying to be able to play what amounts to a missing Zelda game without the actual Zelda aesthetic, characters, and well-worn concepts. Darksiders does not pander to an aging audience like Ghostbusters: The Video Game9. Darksiders is preserving old designs, not copying them. Novels and film borrow liberally from each other all the time. If done right, no one argues the lack of inventiveness in these media or its modernization of archetypal themes and stories to reach new audiences. So why must video games be held to an impossible standard of originality, just because they are relatively new to these forms of creative expression? And with video game enthusiasts clumsily trying to compare video games to these cultural mainstays for indications of their worth, one would think that Darksiders is easily forgiven its brazen plagiarism. Equating quality with originality is a dangerous assertion to make about video games.

With Darksiders, Vigil Games has taken something familiar from the collective consciousness of video games and created more than an homage: they have made a video game that is entirely captivating on its own to play. It is easy to submit to the unique aesthetic and cohesive presentation of the game world, its vibrant characters, the satisfying swordplay, and modest exploration. It ensures the player remains inside the game, while keeping the occasionally awkward storytelling out of the way. Darksiders is not always easy, but the game is never antagonistic. The guiding hand of the designers is always present, ensuring the player is rewarded suitably for the adversities they encounter. It is an adventure that has been carefully manufactured, its restraint in scope allowing players to fully experience the setting with mechanics that are already comfortable. Darksiders is a video game that understands its place, and does not attempt to rise above its station as genuine imitator. Darksiders lays out its aspirations in full view at the beginning of the game, so that disappointment only comes from assigning attributes the game was never meant to have. Darksiders is a celebration of its uniquely realized setting, and it is up to the player to put aside any pretenses saved for obvious exploitations of video game history. And when they do, they will not play an homage. They will play a video game.

  1. In a Q&A with Eurogamer, Joe Madureira identifies the Zelda series as the primary influence for Darksiders, with references to A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. He mentioned this in numerous preview articles as well, dating back to the game’s first reveal at E3 2007.
  2. Darksiders has an 82% average on Metacritic for the XBox 360 and PS3 versions. Based on this score, it’s obvious some reviewers gave the game a chance. However, very little analysis has been done as to how and why it succeeds without saying “it’s just plain good.” My favorite quote was from the now defunct Play Magazine’s 100% review which was so banally summarized as: “If there ever there was a pure gamer’s game, Darksiders is it.” Even though it was positive, the review did nothing to convince me of how the game succeeded. Obviously my aim was to correct that with this essay.
  3. One only needs to remember the fan reaction when Nintendo announced that Retro Studios was turning Metroid into a first person shooter. And now it’s the Citizen Kane of video games!
  4. Spawn is the obvious influence that comes to mind, and later Madureira’s own Battle Chasers.
  5. Prototype: With Great Power, Comes No Responsibility, my review from November 2009.
  6. No game was safe from the design team at Vigil. Teasing aside, the Gauntlet works well in this environment. As I mention in the essay, it’s clear the design team molded very familiar instruments into items that would make sense for War the character to use.
  7. It’s worth noting that The Twilight Cathedral is the basis for the playable demo that was released on XBox Live and the Playstation Network February 25, 2010. Vigil never planned on releasing a demo, but I think the combination of inconsistent critical reception and low initial sales forced their hand.
  8. The last part of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes comes to mind.
  9. Ghostbusters The Video Game: Nostalgia is a Dangerous Weapon. My review from March 2010 reflects on why nostalgia alone should not carry the video game experience.

1 Comment

  1. There were alot of people that thought this game was basically a melding pot of Zelda and God of War… which is exactly why I liked it so much.

    I believe that alot of gamers have there hopes up so much for each individual game that comes out. I feel that they have to remember that the developers grew up with the same games that all of us did. All of the puzzles by zelda, the over the top action of Street Fighter and Ninja Gaiden, and the platforming expertise of Mario and Sonic are all reinvented with this generations graphics and art design.

    FF13 made me go and play FF7 again. And Darksiders made me go play Ocarina of Time again.

    Great article.

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