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The Influences of Darksiders

January 4, 2010

The Influences of Darksiders
By Andrew Groen

THQ's latest takes inspiration from some of the greatest games of all-time.

Perhaps more so than any game I've played in years, Darksiders is a product of its influences. During our extensive time with the game it became extremely evident that this game not only has lofty aspirations, but also has roots in almost every action-adventure game made in the last 10-15 years.

The developers mentioned that they believe that no artist's influences are conscious, but rather seep through their hand subconsciously during the creation process. If that's true then Vigil has a subconscious mind filled with N64 and PS2 memories, because Darksiders is overflowing with neo-retro homages.

The first inspiration on our list is a game which the developers aren't hiding from, but are rather trumpeting as a major design influence.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Notable aspects: Bomb Flowers; Climbing Vines; Meta-dungeons; Bosses; Boomerang

From the large list of connections above, it's not hard to see that Darksiders draws heavily from one of the greatest games ever created, and it's hard to blame them since so many elements of Nintendo’s classic are still, to this day, considered genius.

Within the first hour of playing Darksiders you'll begin to see the effect this game has had on Darksiders. (Once you get past the whole "whoa, I just threw a police car at an armored Warrior-Angel" wow-moments of course.) The dungeons are the most Zelda-infused, and once you're blowing up walls with bomb-flowers (aka bomb-growth) and scaling walls on vines (aka demonic growth) you'll feel like it's 1998 all over again.

The coolest aspect won’t be seen until much later though, when you fight the game's first major boss several hours into the experience. Though it's markedly more intricate than its late-90s counterpart, this boss is reminiscent of some of Link's grandest battles.

God of War
Notable Aspects: Combo-system; Orb-chests

Despite the impressive comparison, nothing can sink a game faster than the words "God of War clone" and that's not the point we're making. In a lot of ways, Darksiders is the anti-God of War clone. Rather than lifting the entire experience, Darksiders takes note from God of War's greatest successes (combat and mythological story) and leaves out the more mundane aspects.

Even War's legendary sword, Chaoseater, feels vaguely like the Blades of Chaos wielded by Kratos. In addition, there are also the quick-kills that feel similar to God of War. When an enemy is deeply wounded, War can get in close for a stylish, one-button ultra-kill. Kratos may have done it first, but it's just as sweet the second time around.

Vigil has also adopted much of God of War's health and experience system. When you finish off an enemy, orbs fly out for War to collect. These can also be retrieved from chests strewn throughout the level.

Legacy of Kain
Notable Aspects: Pacing; Balance of gameplay

This one is a lot more pervasive and difficult to notice, but if you look closely enough at the design ... it's there. It's not just gameplay aspects either, though. Environments also have a tendancy to lean towards the dark and gothic such as the castles from Legacy of Kain.

One of the biggest strengths of Darksiders is its pitch-perfect balance of combat, environment exploration, and puzzle-solving. This comes right out of Kain's playbook, and there couldn't be a better facet for Darksiders to take inspiration from.

Though Kain has of late fallen off many gamers' radar, the LoK series was one of the very best at combining story, and gameplay. Vigil would have been remiss if they were not taking notes on the successes of Kain and Azrael.

Minor Influences:

Panzer Dragoon Orta - One particularly amazing scene sees War hijacking an angel's giant flying eagle mount and his staff, then proceeds to fly through the level in an on-rails shooting segment hurling bolts of energy at enemies.

Ninja Gaiden - During many combat encounters, doorways will be sealed off with giant glowing emblems, similar to those used in Ninja Gaiden.

Gears of War - Believe it or not, but there are actually a few sparse moments where Darksiders turns into an over-the-shoulder third-person shooter.

Check out the rest of our full coverage of Darksiders:

Darksiders Review

Hands-on Video

Audio Interview: Bruce Willis starring as War in a feature film?

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Darksiders releases Tuesday, January 5 on the PS3 and 360 platforms.

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