Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Things That Are Metal (But Aren't)--Darksiders

Today I wanted to do something different.  I've been listening to so much new stuff lately that I don't feel like writing a review for anything, so I wanted to try out writing about other stuff that exudes the attitude, imagery, and sensibilities of METAL.  So welcome to my new segment, where I'll attempt to expose you to Things That Are Metal (But Aren't).

For those of you who know me-and if you're reading this it's highly likely that you do-you probably know that my life revolves around two major hobbies: Metal and Video Games.  I have seemingly always dabbled in metal, but took a detour through being a devout punk rocker for half of junior high and high school in it's entirety; this was in the late 90's and early 00's, when metal was in a universally agreed-upon Dark Age, swarming with DJ's, white people trying to rap and bad Metallica albums.  I should have known that it took some digging to get to the really good stuff, and I have a couple of friends to thank for reminding me how cool guitar solos actually are (Ed and Nick), but that's a whole different story.

When I was a lad, however, I discovered the joys of video games.  My family got a Nintendo when I was just a small child, and that damn thing took over my life.  I ate and slept for Mario and Link; I breathed for the feeling of bonking walking mushrooms with frowny-faces on the head and focused most of my early life on perfecting speed runs through The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.  There's nothing quite like killing a giant evil pig-man using arrows made of silver and a sword that shoots shit out of the front when your health is full.  The sad part of all of this is that my obsession with these things continues to this day, and I fear that I will die a humiliating Elvis-style death, except I will likely be found with a half-consumed bottle of whiskey next to my naked body, Xbox controller in hand, having suffered a coronary in the midst of my 20th playthrough of Bioshock.

So what does any of this have to do with anything?  Well, I'll tell you what.  Game developers have been pushing the envelope of environmental design and exciting animations depicting people/monsters/babies being decapitated and torn in half and shit.  It totally rules, and sometimes makes for some games that can be classified as "metal as fuck," which is why I'm writing about the 2010 dungeon-crawler from Vigil Games.  

The premise is this:

The world has been brought into a premature apocalypse by a renegade group of angels and demons.  You are War, one of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse, and they've decided that, through a surprisingly involved web of intrigue, you are the one who will take the fall for calling Armageddon down on the earth before the divinely-appointed time.  Your reaction?  TO KILL ALL THE ANGELS AND DEMONS THAT MADE YOU THE FALL GUY AND DISGRACED YOUR BADASS NAME (holy shit!).

The game plays a lot like most of the Zelda games mixed with a 3-D action/platforming brawler.  You basically have to go through a bunch of dungeons for some reason and obtain sharp stuff that explodes to help you dismember and mutilate angels and demons alike.  Do you want to chop off the wings of angels with a GIANT FUCKING SWORD?  How about killing the flying demon Tiamat by throwing exploding shit at it until it falls down and you CHOP THAT ASSHOLE UP?  How about riding your FLAMING STEED THROUGH THE DESTROYED WASTELANDS OF EARTH?  Or maybe you just want to go KILL ANGELS IN PARADISE!  It's all there, and it's so very metal.

As for the gameplay, it's pretty good, but the combat system felt lacking in depth and some of the animations against normal enemies got pretty old.  The dungeons were at turns great, scenic, and horribly frustrating.  Puzzles have a way of being difficult to figure out because of unclear objectives, with some solutions being spread out by a room or more.  Backtracking was also a little bit of a problem, but it's not so bad as a game like Grand Theft Auto or most selections from the Metroid series, where revisiting areas ad nauseum is an expected and celebrated part of the experience.

Darksiders is ridiculously, ludicrously metal, and I would encourage any metal d00d to give it a try.  The animations are impeccable and the set pieces are breathtaking, and I would dare say it's one of the most metal things I've ever experienced.  Obviously, it's a fantasy game, so the dialogue will sometimes meander into the territory of "gay," but it doesn't stay there for very long, and if you've ever listened to fantastical metal, you're likely impervious to the inherent gayness associated with fancy-speech about demons and stuff.  If the game were music, it would sound like the epic, grinding death metal of Bolt Thrower or Lair of the Minotaur.  And get ready for the ending, because the last scene of the game will get you super pumped for more angel killing.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I'll discover the magic behind Early Graves' Goner, and I'll probably take another foray into op-ed writing about stuff that I think sucks (or doesn't).

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