Developer: Vigil Games
Release date: January 5th 2010
Age rating: M (ESRB)
Darksiders is a hack and slash action game from new developer Vigil Games. It could be best described as a cross between the combat of God of War and the exploration and puzzle aspects of the Legend of Zelda.
StoryDarksiders begins where the world ends, with the apocalypse in full swing. The player controls War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who soon discovers that he has been tricked into triggering the end of days a few hundred years too early. After quick chat with his bosses (and a handler being fused with his arm), he travels back to the devastated Earth to clear his name. Although, I'm sure you've heard this premise countless times before, what sets this game apart is it's execution. War may be a bit one note in his motivations but his interaction and relationships with other characters from having to serve the Watcher to passing judgement on Azrael gives us a glimpse into the depth of his character. One bad point about the storyline though is it can be slightly confusing due to the different aliases some characters go by and certain biblical refernces will probably go straight over most people's heads.
GameplayAs you'd expect from a hack and slash game, the main bulk Darksiders is the combat. Unfortunately, there isn't much depth to this beyond random button mashing. You do obtain extra weapons throughout the story which you can switch to mid-combo but this usually leads to the combo ending instead of extending it like it is supposed to. The game also includes quick time events to take down bosses and weakened enemies. The animations are nice to look at in the early stages but you will soon get bored of the as most enemies only have one animation. Some of the most enjoyable combat sequences are actually the ones where you don't use your melee weapons. There are two or three sections where you're encouraged to use ranged weapons (such as a demonic shrapnel gun) and these parts require a good amount of skill in contrast to the otherwise mindless combat.
As for the boss fights, they are some of the most inventive parts of the game. Instead of them just being exercises in button mashing they play out as larger scale puzzles which usually require you to use the item you picked up during that level. These items are also used during the various puzzles, although there are some simplistic ones (such as targeting various objects in a specific order) most of them are real brain benders (one puzzle involves using a portal gun to lower and then raise three platforms). The levels themselves are very well paced with a good mix of puzzles and combat. The only time I found myself bored was during one of the later levels where you spend around an hour activating three beams in pretty much the exact same way.
PresentationUnlike most post-apocalyptic games, Darksiders does away with the standard grey/brown colour palette and creates a very colourful and diverse world. Each area has it's own personal colour scheme and mood (from the eerie-blue Iron Canopy to the lush green Anvil's Ford) which makes each location unique to look at and provides some stunning panoramic views. The in-game effects are also visually pleasing from a distance but when they are showed up close during cutscenes they are revealed to be very choppy.
As for the audio, Darksiders soundtrack nails the feeling of wandering around a shattered Earth. The operatic score combined with the random roars heard throughout the game gives you a sense that although you are one of the Four Horsemen, you're still very vulnerable. As for the voice acting, it's quality varies from character to character. War's voice is very bland and matter-of-fact, something that doesn't seem to fit character of his status, while others, like Mark Hamill's portrayal of the Watcher are awe-inspiring.
LifespanGoing through Darksiders main story mode will give you at least fifteen hours of gameplay on your first playthrough. There are some collectibles such as health and combat upgrades, armour pieces and objects you can trade for money to be used to buy items which will ad a few more hours to it's lifespan but these are pretty much useless if you've already completed the game. There isn't much incentive to replay it either as there aren't any alternative paths to take or different ways to approach the gameplay.
Closing CommentsDarksiders is a very enjoyable hybrid game that, although it's combat isn't revolutionary, has it's exploration and puzzle elements perfect. It's a shame there isn't that much of a replayability factor though.