Hell Hath No Fury …
Darksiders is quite a unique breed of monster. While it adopts many game play mechanics from multiple series, such as The Legend of Zelda and God of War, the game offers up an entirely unique experience when it mashes these styles together. Combining that with a new vision of Earth’s end, along with some great environments and combat, and Darksiders becomes a highly entertaining and grisly vision of Earth’s bleak future.
Darksiders follows the brutal adventure of War, one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. After being unceremoniously summoned to earth, War accidently brings about the extinction of mankind and allows the armies of hell, lead by one only known as the Destroyer, to rule over Earth for over one hundred years. Brought in front of the Charred Council, a group of mythic entities that maintain the balance between Heaven and Hell, to pay for his crimes, War’s duty becomes a simple task- return to Earth and kill everything that is so unfortunate to be dwelling there. Although the setup is grandiose in nature, it does not surmount to anything extravagant. The many factions of Heaven and Hell become nothing but cannon fodder for War to decimate, and the characters introduced are so one dimensional that you really cannot appreciate them. This goes the same for War, for it seems that being the ultimate weapon comes at the cost of being a cliché action hero, who merely whips out angry one-liners when questioned.
Fortunately, where the story lacks, the game play make up for it immensely. Running about a charred and ruined earth is alot of fun. One minute you could be in a downtown business district, sprawled with ruined buildings and rusting cars, and the next you can be travelling in a desert on horseback. The map is quite extensive and akin to any Legend of Zelda game. You have your water areas, your dessert sections, and your forest local, which are really the remnants of the old world taken over by nature. These areas are vast and intriguing, offering a great deal of exploration and reward for those willing.
Fortunately, each area also comes with its own play style. To traverse through the dessert you must enlist the help of War’s horse, Ruin, while to travel through the drowned city you must get be willing to get your toes wet. Each area provides enough unique opportunities for playstyle that it does not get boring. The only issue that arises is travelling back and forth. While this is remedied to a degree through a fast travel system, to get all the unlockables you must be willing to slowly make your way through each area, examining every nook and cranny. This would not be an issue if it were not for some level design issues. Some areas where you think you can explore cannot be, while some long winding areas lead to absolutely nothing. Overall however, the level design is very rewarding and forces you to continuously be on your toes.
While the environments are quite extensive and unique, the real joy comes from the combat. Being a Horseman of the Apocalypse, War is well equipped for battle. While War begins with his handy sword, the Chaoseater, which can slice apart and toss around basic foes easily, you quickly come to need a more extensive arsenal. Items such as the scythe or the boomerang-like cross blade add a fluidity to combat that simply cannot be accomplished with only sword-as awesome as the Chaoseater is. As foes become more complex you need to send them flying into the air with your scythe, hit them mid-air with your cross blade and then finish them off with a powerful baseball bat blow from your sword. Different enemies make you change your play style, and while the creature variants are limited, the manner in which they attack and who they are partnered with continuously forces you to strategize. While you can take the offensive, and attack at will, this will not always work to your benefit. You may need to strategically take out particular enemies, before working up to larger ones.
Attacking and working around your enemies has its benefits and can be quite rewarding. After dishing out massive amounts of damage, War can devastatingly bloodily rip apart enemies in a quick time event. These brutal little scenes are complimented quite nicely by the colour palate of the game, as well as the comic book-like visuals. Like a comic book panel, you see War tear into enemies and watch them explode as limbs fly in every direction. This makes the combat continuously rewarding and engrossing, despite the re-occurring enemy design.
Another rewarding aspect of the game is the extravagant dungeons. Reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda, War is continuously pushed towards a new dungeon and a new foe he must encounter. Throughout these dungeons you find chest that rewards you with spirits, the currency of the game that allows you to purchase upgrades, as well as new items and weapons to use. Each dungeon has unique puzzles and allows you to test out the new weapon you receive. Furthermore, the boss battles come to be epic confrontations, forcing you to test your skills and show your mastery of the weapon you received. From tossing explosive using your boomerang, to using tremor gauntlets (a.k.a. silver gauntlets from The Legend of Zelda) to send rail cars hurdling, each boss fight comes to be a unique confrontation.
While the game offers many rewarding aspects, it is not without some faults. The creature design is often limited, as previously suggested, and there are some frame-rate issues that appear throughout. However, the main issue comes from the controls. Playing the PC, version, the controls can become cumbersome. Attacks and combos do not always respond, and switching in-between weapons does not always register. Furthermore, it is absolutely unnecessary to force players to have to go into a separate screen and continuously change the weapon layout. Why could they not just have a hotkey for each weapon, instead of only limiting players to three weapons slots? This becomes an issue in the final segments of the game, when you are forced to switch between items on the fly, and become continuously forced to pause the game, go into your load out screen and change the weapons. While this does not ruin the game overall, it certainly takes away from it when you must pause mid battle to get that crucial item you want. However, overall the game is well designed and a rewarding experience.
Darksiders may un-bashfully take gameplay mechanics and designs from multiple areas. However, it provides a unique blend and enough new ideas to keep you playing until you have splintered the bones of every enemy. It may not be the most unique action game to ever hit the market, nor the most polished; however, it is a satisfying experience. Darksiders is a fun and entertaining game that offers great combat, fun puzzles and a Horseman who may not be the most heart-warming, but is certainly always ready to fight a bloody war.
Overall 8 out of 10