Caught between heaven and hell
Darksiders is one of those games that gets a lot of flak for being too similar to what’s been offered to the table. It’s often compared to Zelda because there are dungeons with puzzles to do, as well as collecting an item and using it to solve the other puzzles as well as using it to kill off the boss, and it’s compared to God of War because the actual killing is ever so visceral and satisfying, with roadblocks to keep you in a room, killing off all of the enemies. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, especially when the end result is satisfyingly gratuitous violence that could easily stand well on its own.
It’s not too often that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are in video games, though you only really see one throughout the course of the game – War. The aim of the horsemen is to settle the disputes between Heaven and Hell to restore order to the balance. It’s been eons since the big war, and it looks like Heaven and Hell are having some issues with each other again. War is summoned to deal with this, but noticing that it’s just him who is summoned, he figures that the seventh seal hasn’t been broken. After the death of Heaven’s army general, Abaddon, by the hand of a powerful demon known as Straga, War dies in a similar fashion, but is revived by the Charred Council, though they accuse him of starting the apocalypse prematurely. Watched by them through the eyes of the Watcher, War has to figure out what really started the apocalypse and why he was summoned. It makes for a nice setup. The characters manage to bring some light to the situation through well written dialogue and excellent voice acting, managing to make the predictable plot twists well done regardless.
In each dungeon, you have to solve a bunch of puzzles. From pushing blocks around, turning cranks to activate set pieces and hitting pillars with a bladed boomerang, there is always something to attempt to tease your brain. The difficulty and overall complexity of each puzzle ramps up as you progress throughout the game, but never to the point of overkill.
Let’s get real, though - Most of the game revolves around swinging your big sword around, cutting enemies to bits while staying alive. In conjunction with the dash button, you can dodge enemy blows and then get back to killing them all, and if you press the dash button while standing still, you can block most moves, which is beneficial, unless the enemy delivers giant blows that will destroy you. On top of this, you can pull off an execution move when the enemy is about to die, executing them with style – and for a big, hulky looking guy, War’s pretty agile with some of these kills, jumping about and such, especially against the bosses.
The controls are responsive enough. It’s hard to see what’s so complicated about the item controls. On-screen tutorials will tell you how to use them, and after a few uses, they’re about as simple to pull off as swinging a giant sword around. So really, the controls are easy to get the hang of and, maybe aside from some delayed jumping controls here and there, are well done.
Boss battles definitely have a familiar vibe. They mostly require the usage of the item you got in the dungeon, as well as anything you can find on the ground – for instance, the first boss requires you throw a sticky bomb onto it, and then aim your bladed boomerang for the flames and the bomb to blow it up, significantly damaging the boss. Sounds like Zelda again, but... you guessed it – the boys and girls at Vigil Games added some of the God of War flair to make the battles feel different and violent, especially the finishing blows you deliver upon them.
The only thing that really brings this game down has to be the challenges you often have to do when you meet with the cursed golems guarding the way to the next dungeon. When you find points all across a sector near the golem, you have to accomplish certain challenges, such as kill X amounts of enemies with a certain technique, and let’s just say that it feels like padding. It’s nice to play around with different techniques you might not have thought of doing, but it’s not like you’ll be doing most of these techniques often. It’s usually the techniques you buy from Vulgrim with the souls you collect from downed enemies that you’ll be using, so it all feels pointless in the end.
Darksiders has excellent quality visuals. From the post-apocalyptic settings to the larger than life monsters and even War himself, the graphics are some of the best looking so far into the generation. For an apocalyptic setting, the colors and environments are lush, vibrant and varied, going through desolate streets, cathedrals and forests. The only downside here is that there are some hiccups in the frame rate. It may last a second at a time and it doesn’t happen too often, but when it happens, it’s just a little annoying.
As far as the sound department goes, the soundtrack is barely there. There are moments of epic tracks, such as the boss battle and cutscene tracks, but other than that, you mostly hear War’s footsteps, and the sound of his big sword colliding with enemies with a bit of ambience in the background for some atmosphere... if that’s a problem, just turn on some Slayer, and you’ll be fine here. The voice acting, on the other hand, is plentiful and excellently done. Each of the actors really know what they’re doing behind the microphone, especially one Mr Mark Hamill, who does the voice acting for the sadistic Watcher, and pulls off quite a performance. He certainly stands out, though that’s not to say that all of the others are background characters, seeing as all of the characters manage to stand out in their own way.
Brutal and to the point combat with some tricky puzzles here and there. Don't care for the trials, though.
Although the jump command is a bit on the delayed side, everything else works well. Easy to learn, too.
Predictable after the scene where War gets revived, but hey, the way it's written will make you not really care.
Looks amazing, with some very well utilized colors and whatnot, and excellent texture usage. Some hiccups in the frame rate are present, though.
Carries with it some atmosphere, though when it's got the orchestra behind it, man, does it rock or what!?
There's always the opportunity to do it on a higher difficulty if you didn't already, and some achievements/trophies to go and get if you missed them. Other than that, well, hope you don't have heaps of games to go through.
Seriously, how can you not have fun slicing enemies to bits? Well, in the trials, it's pretty lame, but in the rest of the game, it's damn cool!
Okay, so Darksiders isn’t the most innovative game out there. Does that mean it’s a terrible game? Not at all! It’s actually a very well made game that is to be tried out. It’s fun, exciting and, above all else, a perfect distraction from real life.
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