Darksiders Black Tower wasn’t supposed to infuriate me

I hate Zelda because of Water temples. I almost hated Darksiders because of the Black Tower.

The other night I finished my plod to the main boss of the Black Tower, an ebony maze in Vigil Games’s Darksiders. Its convoluted multi-tiered design and Portal-like mechanics drove my pre-frontal cortex to exhaustion — the chariot driver was no longer controlling the wild horses.

“Samael can f–cking blow me,” I announced to the TV as I attempted to adjust neon blue beams inside the tower’s gothic innards. At this point my girlfriend felt the need to intervene, reminding me that I was talking to a digital character.

After I quit for the evening, I remembered how much I hated Water temples.

I asked Vigil Games GM David Adams what was up with the Black Tower, and if the studio purposefully tried to give us all a rougher time in the dungeon. His take? No, not so much. But the Black Tower was a product of a last-minute rush.

“No, we didn’t go into it wanting to make that,” Adams told me over the phone, laughing as I explain how easily I get angered at games. “It’s funny. A lot of level design for us grows organically. The first thing we do is come up with a high-level thing — what are the cool things we want you to do in that area? Then we brainstorm some puzzle ideas, boss fight ideas. We kind of put it together.”

“I wish there was some master plan behind what you do. You just kind of do it and then iterate. Try something else.

“It was the last dungeon we did. It was the one we were rushing to finish towards the end. It definitely didn’t get the time and care — but I’m proud of it. There’s a lot of cool puzzles in there and stuff.”

I equated my frustration with the Black Tower to Zelda Water temples in our conversation. Adams didn’t comment on that specifically because we covered Zelda earlier.

Minutes before I told Adams that a lot of people are saying Vigil delivered the kind of Zelda game they’ve always wanted. I let the statement hang in the air.

“I won’t deny it. Zelda is my favorite franchise of all time,” Adams said.

“It kind of came out, I think a lot of games come out of this, where you’re sitting around and ‘Man, it would be cool if you could do this in this one game. But you could also do this in that other game.’

Darksiders is its own game, but the Zelda influence is too overt not to talk about. It’s something I’m sure Adams is tired of doing at this point. But he pressed on, talking about the studio’s initial influences.

“When we started, there were four of us. We were working on MMOs at the time and we really, really wanted to get into console development. It started with us talking about all the cool awesome games we played in our youth — Castlevania, Metroid, Zelda, Kid Icarus, just a bunch of crazy games. “

“We got inspired and did the crazy thing and left and started Vigil.

Zelda was definitely a big influence. Mostly early on — we’d never made a console game so we were just looking at a lot of other games and how they structured it, how they did their pacing — but at least for us we felt like as we went through the process, the game did start to take its own identity.

“It’s something that will definitely grow, if we get to continue on in the franchise — yes.”

On a personal level, I love Zelda. Part of it was like, ‘Hey man, they don’t make these enough,’ he chuckled. “I have to go years without being able to play one!”

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Brad BradNicholson