Notable Design: Darksiders

Darksiders is a fairly by-the-numbers 3rd person action game in the style of God of War / Devil May Cry.  However, as I play it, I’m seeing some nice subtle design tweaks that make it stand out against the games from which it obviously drew inspiration.

Particularly, the way the instant kills work.  To pull off an instant kill, you simply need to press B when in range of a stunned or vulnerable enemy.  Somewhat like God of War or Assassin’s Creed 2, but unlike God of War, there’s no quick time events involved. Where it differentiates itself is that you can interrupt a combo in progress to start an instant kill, and you can chain instant kills together as part of the combo system.  This leads to some great moments, like when you get mobbed by winged enemies who are easily killed.  You can actually jump once, and just keep aiming and hitting B to kill one after the other without ever touching the ground.

However, the cleverness doesn’t end there.  Your instant kill animations can actually damage or hurt nearby enemies if they get close to a swinging fist or weapon.  So instead of being locked in to an animation that only affects a particular enemy (as is the case in Assassin’s Creed 2), you can strategically choose particular enemies to kill so that you do damage to other nearby enemies as well.

But it gets better!  The game doesn’t control your motion for the entire length of the kill.  If your instant kill ends in the air, you can immediately chain it in to any downward or in-air attack that you have available to you.  A lot of other games of this type controls your motion from start to finish, limiting your ability to provide input before your character returns to the idle state.

These sets of rules all work together to great an instant kill system which is seamless with the rest of combat, useful for more than simply killing individual enemies, and allows for far more skill than some of the other games allow.