A (Mostly) Derivative Game Mechanic

There was a good bit of discussion about the lack of originality in Darksiders. The “Portal Gun” appears to be the most egregious bit of theft. When they try to use it in constrained puzzles (i.e. portions of the Black Tower) it frustrates while failing to create the illusion of free will that is an integral part of the Portal games’ success.  It is in combat, which Portal notably lacks, where innovation creeps in to Darksiders.

There are only two situations in the Portal games where there’s an actual time crunch or any sort of external pressure.  Both times, Portal’s gameplay falters and has to fall back on the writing. Darksiders makes two ingenious changes to the Portal Gun to allow it to succeed in dynamic situations:

  1. The ability to charge Portals to give additional exit velocity
  2. Defining explicit and restricted locations for portal summoning.

While these changes would distort or completely break Portal, it’s transition from topological hole punch to a matter slingshot in Darksiders actually expands the combat in a meaningful fashion.  An argument could be made for eliminating the “portal” component, and just allowing the character to charge and set a “launcher” but this would make combat increasingly arduous and boring with a heavy focus on “kiting”, which a portal mechanic natively includes.  The third change, the ability to shoot a portal through another portal, is actually more intuitive and more similar to Narbacular Drop the grands-père to all portal based gaming.  But without further restrictions on valid landing sites or placing this mechanical limitation on portal creation, it’s basically a line-of-sight based teleporter, which wouldn’t make for a fun puzzle game.

Darksiders spent 90% of its Portal Gun in a poorly executed 3rd person puzzler and 10% of it using it in interesting combat situations.  While that 90% was generally unpleasant with a few flashes of solid puzzle design, the entire 10% of combat portal is fantastic. So now that they’ve stumbled across something awesome, they can iterate on it for the next game? Right?  Ah shit.

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Posted in Games, Mechanics

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