Atrocious Art Design – Darksiders Series
Tea: Vanilla Black Pepper Tea (goes together a lot better than you’d think)
Remember last week when I mentioned the amazing minimalistic art design in 999? Well, it was all a clairvoyant taste of this week’s article made possible by the release of Darksiders 3’s footage. You don’t believe me now, do you? You have every right, but as a matter of fact it is a welcome opportunity to talk about art design in games and the absolute abomination that is the Darksiders series in this regard. And I might as well kill any hype for Darksiders 3 in the same breath as it looks to be the worst offender yet.
I could tear apart this entire series simply by stating that it is based on a comic, an immediate disqualifying fact, though I remember there actually being some not-immediately-damnable specimen of comics. I could just say that the central plot never moves anywhere with characters not evolving in the slightest, in fact, there not being a single rounded character in the entire series. Only big lumps of stones with witty or edgy quotes scribbled on top. I could just talk about the ridiculous bureaucratic premise which is only millimetres away from having form-filling gameplay between all the homoerotic ultra-masculine gameplay. I could talk about the second game basically being pointless in terms of story progression. But before I passive aggressively list more reasons, let me quickly go through both games and tell you why I hate them.
– This is about as close to a God of War Boxart you can get without getting sued. –
Darksiders 1 then, a game about a missing document for the apocalypse and the subsequent quest for bureaucratic redemption. There is precisely one interesting character and that is Samael and his entire plotline never moves anywhere. He literally disappears near the end in a dickish way that is akin to “see you in the sequel”. Mark Hamill voices your watcher and does a great job, too bad he is stuck with a character that is a Saturday morning cartoon villain. The main character War is not a character, but a juvenile masturbation fantasy. Kratos is nothing but anger and muscle but they were smart enough to strap a tragic past onto his back. War has nothing going for him. I cannot sympathise with the personification of conflict. He has no depth, no arc, no nothing. He is a rock you throw at other rocks and the others simply break. By the end nothing is accomplished and the sequel rides through the sky with a price tag almost trailing behind. Gameplay is a bland as it can get with one button getting you all the way through the game. There is a secondary weapon, but one which cannot be combined with the first, so it might as well not exist at all. All game mechanics are blatantly stolen from other games and thus this title cannot develop a voice of its own.
– Count the faces. Look at the armour. Look at the proportions. And that teeny-tiny head. –
Darksiders 2 follows Death in his least cool outing since time began as a blue skinned weakling that can actually die. Death. Can die. Death. They explain this by him not being the actual personification of death, but rather a supernatural hitman, great job ruining the character and not distinguishing him from War in any practical way. The story follows Death on his quest to redeem his brother which makes zero sense to begin with. At the end, there is a tragic self-sacrifice that gets revoked about 10 seconds later, draining any weight from the entire experience. Samael shows up in this for a brief bossfight being interesting but a dick none the less. He is fighting you in the past and then basically disappearing with a “maybe in a proper game, a fight with me might carry actual weight. Bye.”. Gameplay-wise the second instalment is a dungeon crawler type affair with random drops, making you look like a mismatched World of Warcraft character, so basically any World of Warcraft character. The gameplay is “faster” but feels even more aggravating primarily due to the dodge move which feels like pulling death with a leash away from the action. The game is basically one gigantic fetch quest that has a fetish-esque devotion to the number 3. Every single quest asks you to get three of something. Often you will find yourself looking for three things that you can exchange for one other thing which is part of a set of three things. This is one of the most aggravating design of a main quest I have ever seen. The main goal never changes, but every five steps somebody wants three holy sand grains strewn across the desert of nihilism until he will let you pass and one sand grain is in the possession of an old skeleton that will only give it to you after handing in three golden pelvic bones. And just as a brief add on: Darksiders 3 seemingly has one combo. Just one.
– Even a black haired, black coated, and black hearted school shooter would call this “a bit much”. –
But maybe the most annoying thing in this series is the art design (yes, finally talking about this). All the main characters receive a gross level of overdesign. War has so many belts, monster faces, different coloured cloths, and metal hinges strapped to his body he causes Final Fantasy characters to turn away in shame. He has no distinct movement, whenever he walks forward a mass of assets simply starts to wobble to the next place. And the same goes for the enemies and this is not even mentioning the fact that I cannot understand why all the demon wings are upside down (Why the fuck are they upside down????). It’s the Lords of the Fallen problem, when you try to strap as many “badass” things to every single enemy and character as possible, none of them are “badass”. You can barely tell them apart and the angels look like they are straight out of Diablo for some reason. Environments are mostly empty except for more emptiness filling all the emptiness. There is an aggravating side quest about shooting at tiny stones in the second game which I couldn’t care less about because it asks you to look for teeny-tiny stone tiles to shoot and simply looking at the level makes me fall asleep. When THQ filed bankruptcy, I basically thought this series dead and buried for good with glee. And here comes Darksiders 3…
– I don’t quite understand how a whip does that after pounding the ground, but you know… Apocalypse, magic, promotional art. –
The first initial trailer has no gameplay so it might as well not exist at all. The main character is Fury, because fuck Pestilence of Famine, they are not hardcore enough to carry a game. A redhead using a whip with what can only be described as standard female fantasy armour. Oh wait, there is an eyeball in the middle of her chest, what an intriguing design choice. And there is a trend that needs to stop right here and that is selling high-heels as practical combat gear. Stop, just stop. The only character that has a slight justification for those is Bayonetta and she straps guns to them, a symbol of female empowerment. Fury is what a soulless design team would come up with. A bland female character that uses a whip, because what else is a woman supposed to use. She is hanging bait for oversexualised art but with nothing appealing to her, especially not her face which looks like it was ripped from a different art style altogether. No distinct element buried under all the unnecessary spikes, eyeballs, monster faces, belt straps, runes, metal hinges, face paint, small capes, big capes, scarfs, hoods, horns, gauntlets, bigger gauntlets, high-heels, boots, boots with faces, boots with faces and belt straps, boots without faces but belt straps, you get the idea. And that is basically my closing point. Darksiders as a whole has so many design elements mixed together that there is nothing distinct about it. It is as if someone just kept piling up free Unity assets. This goes for the art-, game-, gameplay-, and plot design. Darksiders is soulless and probably only has empty husks as fans (so basically Warhammer 40000 fans), everything it has is taken from other games and was done better there. Also, the whip sound effect sound like snot slinging and has about as much impact.
Image sources in order of appearance:
http://darksidersdungeon.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Darksiders.jpeg (Last date of access: 06.05.2017)
https://www.videogamesartwork.com/sites/default/files/images/image/1372757746/darksiders_character_war_4_colored_zoomed_by_joe_madureira.jpg (Last date of access: 06.05.2017)
https://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/13/135592/3541683-5662409188-death_.jpeg (Last date of access: 06.05.2017)
http://cdn2us.denofgeek.com/sites/denofgeekus/files/styles/main_wide/public/2017/05/darksiders-3.jpg?itok=uhRG35Cf (Last date of access: 06.05.2017)