Friday, May 18, 2012

Off Topic: Darksiders

Yeah yeah, I know. Not only is this post late, but it's also about an old game that no one cares about? Well, sit with me for the short post and see if you don't change your mind. Alternatively, sound off in the comments and let me know what you'd like to see Friday's dedicated to.

Yesterday I started to play Darksiders. I've owned the game for a long time, but it always had issues with running on my computer. Luckily, a recent bios update let me get the full power out of my processor and now the game - and many others - run like a dream. Now, even in an Off Topic post I wouldn't bring this up unless it had something to do with gaming, so let me get into it.

First, while I'm only a little ways into the game it does a very good job of setting the scale for things. You are War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and very clearly someone not to be trifled with. Yet, due to it being a game - let alone an action game - you know that there will be a great many things that try to trifle with you. The game handles this well more with the setup of just who the enemies are then with any of the story bits of trying to reclaim your lost power and resume the full matle of the Horseman War.

This is done with presentation as much as anything, and just a careful choice of who your enemies are. In the first level you have your full powers, and can fairly easily destroy a lot of the enemies but there are some special enemies, set piece enemies really, that give you a harder time. After the power strip a lot of the enemies are still just as easy to kill, but there are more enemies that give some problems and the special boss enemies become entertaining in their own way because of it. You still feel powerful, just not as massively over powered, and that keeps the scale set nicely.

Second and speaking of power, you feel ridiculously powerful in this game. This is something that some GMs, myself especially, could definitely learn from when it comes to presenting power. War can casually pick up cars and busses, then use them as melee weapons or hurl them great distances. He can also cut down swarms of enemies with relative ease. These two things are fairly basic, but it is the "casually" part of that first sentence I want to draw your attention too. You can also see this effect in the first X-Men movie when Magneto lifts up two cop cars. There is no shuddering, no resistance. There is no sense of weight to the cars (in both  X-Men and Darksiders) aside from what the audience knows has to be there due to it being a car. It just works.

I said I'd keep it short, and so I'll end it at two points for now. The game isn't without problems - especially on PC - but it works and has been fun so far. If I learn anything truly awesome from it, I'll be sure to let you know.


  1. While admittedly I've not played the game and only have your description to go on, I think a lot can be learned from such a presentation.

    Making rolls count only when the question (or result of failure) is interesting is only half of the equation.

    GMs set the scene of what the power scope of games based on what they require players to "roll for" and what they allow without contest.

    Almost all superhero movies are prime examples of this; by not showing possible failure in many of the hero's actions, we're presented with an up-scaled power scope that defines what should be a challenge and what shouldn't.

  2. Man, I don't know how you turned my rambling into such an elegant thought, but kudos, and very true.

    The two big ways I've seen a GM really control the feel of capability is with two things: presentation of events (even the epic can be made to feel less epic with bad presentation) and what you call for rolls for.

    Also, allowing things to go by without rolls just makes things move faster. It is something I've been trying to get myself to do, even if I do still call rolls where failure just means you do the thing slower.