Most Surprising Game 2010 – Ethos

Darksiders

Finally this gem gets to win one of these instead of just being the runner-up. Riddles mocks me for loving this title, which I find especially delicious because not only has he never played it, but he would love it.

Anyway, multiple people tried to draw my attention to this game before its release, but I shrugged it off. For whatever reason, the previews didn’t excite me. One might say I even had unbridled apathy for Darksiders.

To be honest, I don’t even know what possessed me to buy the game. Maybe it was some misguided attempt at spite. I’m capable of that. I mean, I bought and beat Bioshock secretly the moment Riddles gave up on trying to get me to play it. So perhaps it was the fact that I had told so many people that I wasn’t interested.

In any case, I’m very pleased with the end result. I was expecting a moderately fun title, and got an involved, epic, addicting, and attractive new IP. Perhaps the puzzles never got particularly difficult and the framerate could have been smoother after acquiring the horse, but the game as a whole surprised me greatly with its quality.

People who like to toss around “derivative” as an automatic negative mention the Zelda-style items and puzzles, the God of War combat and upgrades, and the portal gun to use as points against the game. But Darksiders uses these things so unabashedly, that it doesn’t make sense to me as an insult. Even forgetting the game is the “mature” Zelda that many of us have been waiting for since the Spaceworld 2000 demo turned into Wind Waker, it is still a game unlike any other regardless of its obvious influences.

Darksiders was the most pleasant gaming surprise for me in 2010, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

Also, here is a link to a relevant Penny Arcade comic I posted when the game first came out.

Runner up: Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light

This could have be in the running for number 1 if the second half of the game wasn’t just retreading your steps. But despite that massive disappointment, the game shocked me in its ability to be such a powerful throwback to the JRPGs that started the craze.

4 Heroes never holds your hand. If you don’t read the instruction booklet, you must explore the mechanics for yourself and rely on your critical thinking skill and the occasional tip from townsfolk to hone your strategy.

On that note, the game pleasantly emphasizes exploration as a necessity for progression. While there are scripted scenes, a full appreciation for the story and culture of each area only comes from talking to people.

The result is feeling engaged and challenged and responsible for how well you’re doing. As opposed to say, FFXIII, which just pushes you through a tunnel until after the game is complete when the thing finally becomes a game.

Anyway, this is rambling too long for a runner-up, but the game is good. Way better than I expected.

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6 Responses to “Most Surprising Game 2010 – Ethos”

  1. DarthGibblet says:

    I’ve been meaning to play Darksiders since it came out and finally got it on Steam for $10 last week (yay Holiday sales!). I’m really looking forward to playing it, especially since I’ve never really gotten into Zelda or God of War, so it won’t really be a rehashed experience for me at all :D

  2. 7thCircle says:

    I passed on Darksiders because everyone but Ethos had a “meh” reaction to the gameplay. It’s filed in my brain under “games I might buy someday” right along with Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Bayonetta. Once I knock out all the games I bought myself during holiday sales and tackle DA2 and The Witcher 2, I’ll look back on the games I passed over in 2010 and pick up some of them.

  3. Ethos says:

    It’s because people like to point out that it is comparable to something else and therefore is “meh”. Although when GoWIII comes out, few complain that the gameplay is incredibly similar to GoWII.

  4. SiliconNooB says:

    I really should get Darksiders, I’ve been meaning to.

  5. 7thCircle says:

    The clincher for my decision to postpone buying Darksiders was my brother renting it and disliking it. He loved the setting, but thought the gameplay was repetitive in a not-fun way. Course, he’s hated every Zelda game after Ocarina of Time, so that shouldn’t be surprising. I haven’t really enjoyed a Zelda game since Ocarina either, so saying “it’s just like Zelda” isn’t bad because because it’s a copycat; it’s bad because I got tired of Zelda’s gameplay a long time ago. The only reason why Darksiders is still on my radar is that the setting sounds too spectacular to dump the game in my mental trash can.

  6. Ethos says:

    @SN – If there’s a lull, go for it! Especially with the sequel (very slowly) approaching

    @7th – Fair enough. Although there’s enough action to break up the Zelda-ing and the God of War weapon upgrading and setting definitely make it feel different.

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