Darksiders Review

Posted on January 23, 2010 by


Hi-Ho Ruin, Awaaaaay!

Legend of Zelda. God of War. Devil May Cry. Portal. See a pattern? They’re all excellent games. And they all came together to form something, if not new, then at least solid. It has been said that talent borrows, and genius steals. Darksiders is a game that takes that mantra to heart. Darksiders doesn’t do new. New if for people with gimmicks who don’t know what they really want. What Darksiders does do, is take the best bits from a number of great games, melts them all together, and adds an interesting story and the sublime artistic style of Joe Madureira, and makes it work. More or less.

In Darksiders, you play War, first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, summoned to Earth prematurely, kicking off the end of the world and the final battle between heaven and hell. Hell Wins. War gets bought to book for this, and is returned to Earth a century later to find out why he was summoned early, and what has happened to the other three horsemen, what ensues is an epic quest for epic fiery vengeance and an attempt to restore the balance. I think he may also want some ice-cream.

He goes about this by beating the ever-loving crap out of pretty much anything and everything that gets in his way, and occasionally solving a few puzzles and doing a few fetch quests. It’s not a strictly linear game, but it’s not exactly open-world, either. It’s like Legend of Zelda in that respect, a lot of large areas with dungeons, places that can only be visited after collecting certain items and completing certain objectives. Other things it takes from Legend of Zelda include the boomerang, the hookshot and the master sword, all cunningly re-named in the hopes that no one will notice.

The characterisation varies spectacularly. War himself isn’t even 2-dimensional. He there to hit stuff until it stops trying to hit him, and to do the job he was meant to do in the first place. The Watcher, a demon grafted onto his arm by the powers that be and voiced by Mark Hamill (using his joker voice for some reason) is somewhat more interesting, but is also deeply annoying. He feels like he could have been dealt with better, perhaps coming to understand or like War over the course of the game, perhaps becoming a wacky sidekick instead of being a vicious angry douche you don’t even get to fight. A lot of the characters just exist to fill spaces and could have done with some fleshing-out. It says a lot that the character I liked the most was a Scottish ogre who called angels ‘pigeons’ and wielded an enormous hammer that I really wished War could have gotten his hands on.

Combat is… dreary, unimaginative. It’s solid, but unimaginative. All of the combos consists of pressing one button in varying patterns, and unless you grind enemies for about 30 hours, there is no way in heaven or hell that you will be able to buy all of the upgrades, level all of the weapons and collect all the pieces of the badass armour, not that there’s much point in doing that, because the game wont let you carry acquired skills, levelled weapons or even the amount of money (souls) you’ve collected over to a new (harder) game. You can take the badass armour to new games, which makes them easier, but the replay value is seriously crippled by taking away your hard earned skills.

The difficulty curve is whacked-out, too. The hardest battles are early in the game, although the game starts spamming you with Minibosses who can be seriously annoying towards the end, but for the most part things get a lot easier as War regains his power and his vast array of tools, which range from a gun, to… a horse. There are a lot of points in the game where I found myself stuck and frustrated because it just wasn’t clear what I was supposed to do or where I was supposed to go. Most games contain subtle visual clues, some will give you outright hints if you’re hanging around in one spot for too long. Not Darksiders. Darksiders wants you to do it yourself. Otherwise you clearly don’t deserve to keep playing. It’s like being in an abusive relationship with someone who expects you to achieve the impossible and then rubs your face in broken glass when you fail.

Graphically speaking it’s okay. It’s not going to blow your mind, but it looks good most of the time. If anything, the characters are a bit over-detailed, although the Joe Mad art means they can get away with it for the most part. The enemies all look like Palette-swaps of about 10 different basic models, and Ruin, your mighty steed is ridiculously muscular for a horse. I think he’s been on steroids. Oh, and War has a ‘Chaos-mode’ that turns him into a massive flaming demon. Or it would, if you could see anything when you use it, but for some reason the Chaos form takes up the entire screen and so you just attack blindly hoping that the awesomely powerful attacks are hitting home.

There isn’t a huge amount of Story, either. It moves on nicely for about an hour and a half at the start as you get introduced to things, and then it abruptly stops for the next 8 hours while you go dungeon crawling for a Demon called Samael. It does pick up again towards the end, when you get pummelled with twists and the eventual, obvious sequel-hook (the game is subtitle ‘the wrath of War’ so I’m expecting at least three more games based on the other horsemen).

It’s not a bad game. It’s a hurricane of competent average adequacy that does a good job of filling in the gap in the market until the next Zelda and the the next God of War, and I’d recommend you buy it (or at least rent it) if you’re looking for something to play that’ll take up your time in an enjoyable way for about 20 hours.

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