I know I’m not the only person who has been gaming for many, many years. I’ve watched it stem from humble beginnings, which developed into this media that is in all honesty, a force to be reckoned with. It’s hard to even argue that it can’t be compared to film or television in the scope of extremely intimate and powerful media. Keeping that in mind, we didn’t get to this amazing present right away, it took time and effort, and certainly experimentation. This brings me to the most recent content of my concern, highlighted by the release of Darksiders II.
Yes, Darksiders. An action RPG that has been called a sizable variety of things, most prominently a rip-off. It doesn’t take anyone more than a few minutes to realize that they are playing a game that takes so many things from so many legendary games. It even has a Portal gun. A freaking Portal gun. I even joke around when discussions about The Legend of Zelda come up, when I lightheartedly outcry “Darksiders is the best Zelda game!” across the room. The question is, does this high quantity of ripping and tearing from the cores of games that work make Darksiders a bad game? It doesn’t at all. In fact, it comes together to make a noticeably good game.
Darksiders 2 ripped even more successful ideas out of recent games. The loot system of Borderlands, a fast travel menu system pulled straight out of Skyrim. Any opposition would exclaim that the game should be ashamed of so much copying.
In fact, both Darksiders are great games. Why? Because it takes all of those pieces and does some really good things with them, no matter how much of a Frankenstein they are. Taking old ideas that worked well and molding them into your own is what transformed Super Mario Bros. into Uncharted 3, and Tetris into Portal 2 – over time of course. I wouldn’t call copying a style of a game to become “like god of war”, is anything to be ashamed of. Taking someone else’s style and selling it as your own isn’t a bad idea either, in fact, it’s a kind of smart business move, if done correctly.
Keep in mind, I’m not calling God of War, The Legend of Zelda, or Devil May Cry, or any other game Darksiders has borrowed from for that matter bad, or worse than Darksiders. Rather, I’m praising Darksiders for proving to me that those mechanics could still be made to work rather well. In the same light that obvious God of War clone Castlevania: Lords of Shadows was praised, Darksiders should be as well. Even more so, the superior Darksiders 2.
While Darksiders shows that the taking and molding of working ideas works well to prove that certain conventions in games are still abundantly fresh, it can also identify the exact opposite. It’s hard to ignore the apparent homogenization of the industry when it comes to first person shooters. Repeated copying of those games have led to a total complacency in regards to the genre’s credibility. Games like Battlefield 3 and Medal of Honor, while enjoyable, offered little for someone who wasn’t already a deeply invested FPS fan.
Similarly to Darksiders, certain recent “copies” of Call of Duty, or adopters of standardized first person shooter mechanics prove that the genre is indeed still something to watch. Singularity, which can be considered a “military shooter”, added fantastic new mechanics that allowed it to be significantly more enjoyable than other clones. The Darkness 2, a underrated shooter from this year, gave you the power of darkness on top of very sound combat. Last year’s Homefront, a COD clone to it’s core, brought in vastly superior storytelling that really makes it a must play, even with its “inferior to COD” gameplay. These games show success, ironic originality, and an evolution within the genre. The person who benefits most from this is us, the gamers, who get fun and new exciting derivatives of our favorite genres.
The same goes for Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. I’m incredibly excited for this game. And I am a hardcore Smash Bros. fan, and have been ever since my youth. It takes what every ex-Nintendo fanboy, long time playstation fan wanted, a Smash games featuring all of Sony’s finest. However, when people saw how similar to the Smash series it was, they acted genuinely surprised, as if it wasn’t what they were secretly begging for to begin with. Many people will never even give it the time of day, due to a wafting omen about that states that it’s copying of the Smash series will overlook any chance of it being good. Unfortunately, it will probably be good.
Darksiders 2 explored new grounds in comparison to it’s predecessor, but was still pounced on, and often degraded for it’s well implemented mechanics, which happen to be in other games that I love. Is it a “hate on Darksiders 2″ bandwagon? This is something I’m starting to wonder, as, while critics were scorning Darksiders 2 for stolen mechanics, they were praising a game that came out on the same day that did the exact same thing.
Sleeping Dogs is an amalgamation of characteristics from other games, fused to create an experience that is not only unique, but is surprisingly good. The game takes the obsessively smooth combat from the Arkham franchise. It mixes in the gritty character development and open world of Grand Theft Auto IV, and more. While the game has no Portal gun, these mechanics are as blatently “ripped-off” as any aspect of either Darksiders game, yet Sleeping Dogs got no slack.
What was it that games like Darksiders 2, Homefront, and Dantes Inferno do that causes them to be attacked that Sleeping Dogs and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow didn’t do? A very difficult question indeed.
Any industry is fueled by the evolution of previous ideas. It’s rather silly to become enraged when you see a game that does what Darksiders did, and immediately dismiss it as bad. Especially when the mix of features turns into something rather extraordinary.
So I suppose there really isn’t much of an answer to the question either. What needs to be understood though is that in a world where most things have been tried, and already proven to be successful or not, the quantity of games that take from others, and do it well will remain on the rise. The slack that Darksiders 1 and 2 are getting are total undeserved. The game needs to be appreciated more for the sum of it’s parts, rather than ridiculed for where it got them in the first place. Copying is a really good thing, and if I’m continually supplied with both new and original ideas and great combinations of elements that I already know so well, and love so much, well, I see no place to complain. Just something I wanted to take a bite out of.Fresh Meat is a weekly column by GamingUnwrapped Features Editor Jake Thomas. In this column, he explores topics that interested him, and analyze them with sound mind and calm demeanor. Fresh Meat is always written impromptu. Follow Jake Thomas on twitter @Jake_Sharky_T, or send an email with suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.