Developer: Vigil Games
North American Release Date: 1/5/2010
European Release Date: 1/8/2010
On the surface Darksiders is a game about War, the first of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the Darksiders universe the ruling body in the Universe is the Council, a group of ancient beings who balance the conflict between heaven, hell, and the human world by employing four horsemen to protect the balance and using seven seals as a pact to prevent war between the three kingdoms. When the seventh seal is broken, the Apocalypse starts and all 3 kingdoms will be judged.
Darksiders begins with War being summoned and the Apocalypse beginning, but it is very clear as you prowl the streets of New York killing Angel and Demon alike that something is wrong, this is further confirmed after the first boss fight, when you find out that the seven seals are all still intact and War was the only horseman summoned. The council blames you for the carnage and as a part of your punishment you have to bring those really responsible to justice or die trying. You are also given a ‘Watcher,’ who acts as your handler in this game, ensuring you are actually doing what you were instructed.
When you are let loose on the world you find out the ‘Destroyer’ (read: Devil) is holed up in a great tower and Earth is now a wasteland plagued by war, a war which it seems the demons are winning. The tower is protected by 4 ‘Chosen’ demons and your quest quickly becomes their destruction, on your ultimate quest for revenge and justice.
This story is fairly straightforward and is not without its unexpected twists and turns, not to mention loose ends for an eventual Darksiders 2. Not to worry though, Darksider’s story is self-contained, it closes nicely. This part is actually one reason why I really like this story and single player experience. It is a great example of a group being able to make a game open to having a sequel, without leaving the entire story hanging off a cliff at the end of the game.
The singleplayer experience, storywise, is very well done. It’s not phenomenal and some of the character development (particularly with the ‘Chosen’) leaves something to be desired, but it is without a doubt interesting, and the plot twists will definitely take you by surprise. It’s a great example of old-school video-game story telling. The villain is a mysterious entity you have no real idea about (other than his name) until the end of the game, you know from the very start exactly where you are going and what you are doing… but the final villain is not revealed until the game’s final act. The story leading up to that point is all about War and his preparations for the battle, the Watcher, and the small supporting cast. It’s a great albeit simple way to build suspense and interest, while still keeping you feeling like the story is going somewhere.
The combat is focused on 3 buttons: you have your sword attacks, your alternate weapon attacks, and finally your special item. Each is assigned one button, and all combos dealing with that specific weapon are controlled with that button in conjunction with the joystick or shoulder buttons. It’s a simple combo system, you may only have 3 or 4, and instead when you level up your weapon it increases their damage or hits.
The other end of the gameplay focuses on platforming/puzzle solving. As you could have guessed each of the 4 ‘Chosen’ is in a different dungeon, and that dungeon contains an item which helps War in someway get through its puzzles, on your way to eventually killing the big boss at the end of the dungeon.
Many of you, at this point are probably saying “Oh, sounds like Zelda!” or if you aren’t a Nintendo-fanboy you might be saying “Oh, sounds like Soul Reaver!” or one of the other dozen games that have used this gameplay style before. While this has been a topic that has caused beratement by other reviewers before, I am going to be honest: Yes, the general style is like LoZ, but it is far from a rip-off.
This game is a great example of gameplay innovation by combining ideas that haven’t been combined before. It takes that general skeleton of the Puzzle-dungeon/open-world/simple-combat action game and expands by adding a God of War style upgrade/exp system whereby your weapon skill is increased by using your weapons and downing enemies. Your inventory of items is expanded as well to allow for slotting bonus items on your weapons which add additional effects.
The end result is a game that is eerily familiar, yet surprisingly refreshing/original. It gives us a style many of us love with enough original ideas, and ideas from other genres that end in a result that is something truly great. If I may be so bold as well, it does something LoZ hasn’t been able to do: evolve the gameplay style.
Darksiders is the weird type of game in terms of graphics. It reminds me a lot of Dead Space. The game is not a feat in graphical achievement and you won’t be rubbing your eyes thinking “Can a game really look this real?” What the game did do is construct an environment that comes to life, the artistic direction and how the environment was constructed just makes the whole game pop.
The end result is, despite having absolutely no basis of reference is a great environment that feels very real. Much like how EA Redwood was able to bring us the Ishimura, Darksider’s vision of their world will leave you wanting to explore and experience the world in which the game takes place.
Aside from the brilliant construction of the world, the technical side of the game is good. It’s what you would expect from a next gen game and what you would want from an action game. The textures are very well done as are the character models. The framerate doesn’t dip or shift, there aren’t any glitches. It’s a well put-together game. The graphics aren’t ‘Uncharted 2’ level, but they also don’t break immersion.
- The Gameplay is like God of War with a higher emphasis on exploration and a little “Adventure” thrown in the mix, or a Legend of Zelda with a deeper character upgrade system and a little more “Action” thrown in the mix.
- The story is a great example of old-school video-game story telling. You spend the game preparing for a final battle against a villian that is only truly revealed in the final act.
- The environment is wonderfully constructed in terms of art and style. The graphical/technical performance is good, but this is no Uncharted 2.
Overall: 8.5/10 - Superb