Released in 2010 and with a sequel in the works, Darksiders is an action-adventure game that mixes up elements from beat ‘em ups à la Devil May Cry and more complex adventure games like Prince of Persia and The Legend of Zelda. Though having a general play style that definitely suits Devil May Cry (Or the much newer Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine) better, there are extra components to Darksiders that move it away from being just an action game and turn it into a nice, interesting mixture between action, adventure and beat-em-up.
The storyline is pretty simple at first: You’re War, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse who’s sent to Earth after the apocalypse begins before time and the armies of heaven and hell start trying to annihilate one another. However, there’s a small problem with War’s appearance: Not only is he the only horsemen to go down to earth, but also it happens to be that he went down ahead of his time, for the seventh seal, which was meant to herald the coming of the four horsemen, was yet to be broken. After it is determined by the council that War’s appearance affected the battle and turned the tide in favor of Hell, he’s condemned to death but finds a way out of his sentence by offering himself to help restore order in a now devastated, post-apocalyptic world. In order to do this, he’s expected to destroy Abaddon, the general of Hell’s armies on earth. Along the way, however, War gets insight on what exactly went on during the supposed final battle between heaven and hell, eventually finding out that his supposed mistake was no mistake at all in the end.
It’s with this premise – A very good one I must add – That Darksiders advances through its over twenty hours of playtime (For a single game, normal mode, without 100% – This can easily give you over twice that if you replay in hard or apocalyptic and aim for full completion). Though at first seeming like a Devil May Cry clone down to the system of buying upgrades out of recollected souls, as the game advances past its introductory chapter and further into its core several different mechanics enter the stage that turn it into the odd yet great mix it is. By adding many adventure elements, mainly puzzles and some light platforming, the game manages to keep the player away from just killing everything that moves in a mindless way, instead varying the challenges presented between different sets of them, most of them actually pretty well developed I must add. Darksiders boast a fast-paced combat system that’s nothing but fun, giving War an arsenal of weapons he can choose to use or not against each foe and also a rather big list of moves that can come in as useful or not depending on the encounter and the player – There isn’t a single way to play Darksiders (Though there might be an easier one), for the player is never forced to use any of the weapons or powers War can use: It is actually up to the player to choose what to do in most of the occasions.
Other than the combat system, the platforming present in Darksiders is in general light and simple enough not to become an issue: There are a few jumps or halls that can be hard to travel trough, but for most of the game it isn’t really a problem at all, with the difficulty of said segments being generally simple and being there more to give some extra flavor to the game than to attempt and sell off the game as a platformer. The same can be said about the puzzles in general: Most of the puzzles in Darksiders are simple to solve, a few can take a few minutes to actually get to but they don’t tend to get in the way, though there are a couple of rooms in the game that are indeed proper guide-dang-it moments, but thankfully there aren’t many of those.
In fact, the overall difficulty of the game isn’t hard – Though at first it looks like it’ll get pretty though, partly because of how much it resembles the Devil May Cry series, the game never really gets too though – Sure, monsters get harder, but as they do War unlocks tons of abilities to deal with them that only manage to make combat more and more enjoyable the more you advance. It is also interesting that several of these improvements can only be found by exploration, thus making Darksiders the kind of game where you don’t really want to miss a thing and generally go around looking for chests or artifacts that you know might have a big effect on the overall game difficulty. More than just doing that, though, it creates a sub-game of sorts where you get rewarded simply for being attentive to your surroundings and, on occasions, having a good memory to remember exactly where before you had found different kind of obstacles that you just learned how to overcome.
On a more technical aspect, Darksiders is a nearly bug-free game that only packs up a couple annoyances like getting stuck on walls (Happened twice for me in the roughly twenty-five hours it took me to finish my first run through it, so it isn’t really something that happens a lot), falling off cliffs while fighting (Sadly rather common when fighting in high places, so it’s generally a good idea to stay away from the borders since War is a bit hard to control when he starts attacking over and over) or, perhaps the most annoying one, jumps that don’t quite work as they should (Read: You press jump, nothing happens, you fall to your death). However, most of these issues are mainly pet peeves and, though annoying, they don’t happen too often or really get too in the way of gameplay. The only one issue I ran into a lot was crashes to desktop – Sometimes the game would run perfectly for five hours on end, some other times it’d crash every ten minutes. I eventually traced this back to an issue with the processor and running the game in only one core seemed to fix it – A fix that seems awfully common for games of the same year as Darksiders, sadly, and something that says lots about how well they adapted the code to run on a PC.
The control scheme is something else that should be mentioned – I played Darksiders with my Xbox 360 controller and didn’t quite find any control issues, though a few of the orders are a bit complicated to easily memorize (I went through the first half of the game without ever using a single special/wrath abilities because I could never remember they were there, let alone what two keys to press to activate each) and at times it seemed like the controller was lacking buttons for the amount of things Darksiders wanted to do with it. Nevertheless, after forcing myself to finally learn how to activate Stoneskin I managed to use it often enough and quite well, so I can’t really bash the control scheme much; I just think there’s a bit of a learning curve to it and the player might need to actually set off to learn it properly or otherwise he might lose the opportunity to use quite a few of the abilities he’s given.
As for the two final things to consider – the graphics and sound, Darksiders boasts simply beautiful graphics and an artistic direction that’s nothing short of impressive, making most of the environments in the game eye candy, something that’s also greatly helped by the huge variety in the looks of the different places you’ll travel through in the game. The sound itself has a pretty good 5.1 surround sound mix that helps bring the world to life in front of the gamer and, though perhaps not the best or most lifelike sound mix, it falls in very well with the game, adding to the experience rather than taking from it.
All in all, Darksiders is an amazing action game that mixes up several gameplay styles along with an interesting story; an almost perfect formula for an addictive game. Though not without its flaws, Darksiders is much of what I wanted Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine to be back when I played it last year, and I’m glad that at least I got what I wanted in some way, though later on and in a different game. For all its flaws, Darksiders is a great game that shouldn’t go unnoticed by most – Specially considering it’ll have a sequel out later this year, and it should be easy enough to get it at an affordable price due to its age.
Final review rating: 4/5
Availability: Currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
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