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A couple weeks back I finally gave Darksiders a whirl and was immediately drawn into its ghoulish post-apocolyptic world. War's (the game's main character) story of redemption and revenge – while not terribly original – was enough of a hook to keep me fairly engaged, yet it was the many traits the title shares with my beloved Legend of Zelda series that ultimately made me go coo coo for Cocoa Puffs. Everything from the level design (theme-based temples anyone?) to the gameplay (z-targeting, silky-smooth and enjoyable combat, riding around on the equivalent of Epona's steriod-laden doppelganger, collecting ever-so handy items at just the right time, etc.) to the boss battles (hello handy item I recently found, now's your time to shine), Darksiders is imbued with Zelda character through and through. And as you might imagine, I couldn't be happier. That is, until I got a good taste of the save/checkpoint system developer Vigil Games decided to utilize for the title. Son of a...I got my first taste of the brilliance that is the Darksiders save/checkpoint system when I ran across a cute little foe named Trauma. While the encounter itself isn't all that significant, what should be noted is the fact that after I died I was ever so lovingly transported back to what was my supposed checkpoint. And as the game would have it, that certain checkpoint wasn't anywhere near the place I was when I bit the big one. Awesome. So not only did I have to travel all the way back to the location of my forthcoming battle with Trauma, but I also had to deal any annoying little minions along the way. All in all, it took a good couple of minutes of me wasting my life away before I was actually back in the thick of things with Trauma – talk about a buzz-kill. And, to make matters worse, upon reaching Trauma I had to sit through the same canned animation of that pile of crap appearing out of nowhere a half mile down some road and subsequently throwing a car at me. There was no way to skip this sequence. I had to watch it in its entirety again. Ok, so let's get this straight: You're going to punish me for dying (because dying in and of itself isn't punishment enough, obviously) by making me trek all the way back to the point in which I had just lost my life only to make me sit through a sequence I've already seen and have absolutely no interest in seeing again? What year is this, 1997? This type of game design should be dead and long gone by now. And yet here we are in the year 2010. What am I missing here? Is this some lame attempt to artificially increase the play time of the game or do the developers have a little sadism coursing through their veins? Not being able to skip certain cutscenes after having already viewed them – multiple times?! I thought such a narcissistic mentality regarding game design died long ago with the likes of other bloated titles such as Final Fantasy VIII. How is it that tactics that do nothing more than bog down and undermine a player's overall experience continue to persist in this day and age? It just boggles the mind. But that's only half of it. Unfortunately there's another facet of Darksiders that gets under my skin – the manner in which the game tracks your progress should you save then quit and come back to play at a later point in time. I assumed (silly me) that – like any other sane-minded game – should you save in a particular spot, the game (upon loading your saved data) would deliver you to the exact same spot with any and all progress achieved (items collected, levers pulled, etc.) the next time you booted the title up. I mean, that seems to be the general trend more and more games are embracing these days. Anyway, so here I am working my way through the Twilight Cathedral (simply sublime level design, by the way) and loving every minute of it when I come across a puzzle-based room that has me stumped. I figure out about half the puzzle – placing certain bombs here, pulling certain levers there – and collect some random power-up items before deciding to quit for the night. Thus I save my game with the full belief that, upon booting up the game the next time I play, I'll start out in the exact location with everything I've collected and done up to said save point intact. Wrong.
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Checkpoint systems do not increase a games challenge factor. It's not challenging to slog back to an area you already proved you could get to it's just infuriating!