OK, let’s get down to business. In Darksiders by Vigil Games, you play the role of War, one of the biblical “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. You have been mistakenly summoned to Earth where an almighty battle between Heaven and Hell is taking place. Having interfered with something you shouldn’t have, you are summoned to the “headmaster’s office”, given a severe talking to, and stripped of your awesome powers. As a last chance at redemption, you request to be sent back to Earth to find out who was responsible for bringing on the apocalypse prematurely. Darksiders chronicles your journey through god forsaken, scorched lands, ravaged citadels, subterranean lairs, and dusty plains in a quest for answers.
Let’s go through the mechanics that make up the soul of this a “whodunit” hack and slash extravaganza. Hit the jump to read the rest of the review.
Say hello to my little friend
War’s quest for the truth has him dealing with several “unsavoury” characters along the way. Luckily he has a sword, a very BIG one at that. With the Chaoseater, War can carve his way through enemies and harvest the souls that escape the tortured bodies. Souls not only serve to heal War when he takes damage, but can increase his wrath, and function as currency in the game. With these souls collected, War can visit the local merchant to purchase various upgrades for his weapons, and other items that can be used in the heat of battle.
Even though the Chaoseater is War’s primary weapon, it is by no means the only one in his arsenal. He can carry a secondary weapon which can be used to supplement his sword attacks, and various secondary weapons become available as you progress.
Most of the monsters that War goes up against were inspired by mythological creatures. There is a fair selection of enemies ranging from the puny to the grotesque undead. They are all pretty mean-spirited and eager to nom on a War sandwich. There is a great sense of satisfaction when you successfully (and violently) clear a dungeon of enemies, so much so you’re eager to find the next encounter.
A puzzling situation
Puzzles are a quintessential part of many action-adventure games and are found in abundance in the dungeons of Darksiders. They start off simply enough, such as finding a key to open a locked door, and then ramp up to some head-scratching, lengthy tasks that may leave you a little frustrated.
In some situations I welcomed the puzzles as a break from the frantic, intense fights; at other times I really longed to get back to the violence as the puzzles were heady and tedious. I think the balance between the fight sequences and the puzzle elements could have been a little better.
Seek and you shall find
Another part of Darksiders that I particularly love is the exploration. The post-apocalyptic landscape contains various soul chests, artefacts, fragments, and special items that can prove helpful to War during this quest. Whilst some of these collectibles are in plain sight, some are craftily hidden, and others require special gear to be obtained before they can be reached.
Finding these treasures may not necessarily be the easiest thing but it will certainly pay off for the gamer patient enough to explore the lands.
What lies beneath
Combat, puzzles, and exploration make up the core of Darksiders, and those elements are brought to life fantastically by the devs at Vigil Games and its creative director, Joe Mad. His unique graphic novel art style is clearly visible in the design – the detail in the levels and its characters is awe-inspiring, and from the ruined Earth surface to the fire and brimstone of the underworld, Vigil Games has built a thoroughly immersive gameworld.
The musical accompaniment is well suited to the material, from eerie sounds during your normal exploration to a foreboding tune before a tense moment, and an epic piece to go along with a boss battle. The voice acting is top-notch, with the likes of Liam O’Brien and Mark Hamill providing the voices for the main protagonist and his vile watcher.
Another great thing about Darksiders is the length – I’d say it’s around 15-20 hours of solid gaming, depending on how much exploring/collecting you are eager to do.
Same same but different
If you are a member of any gaming forum or have read other reviews on the Internet, you will have come across discussions about how Darksiders may have ripped its game-play from titles like God of War, Legend of Zelda, and Portal. You might consider this as a big flaw and justification for skipping this title, but answer this question before you do – if Vigil Games managed to marry a compelling story to the best mechanics from some of your favourite games, to craft a beautiful and thrilling experience, would you not want to play it?
All in all, it’s an outstanding effort for a new IP, and whilst it may lack innovation, it more than makes up for it in other areas. It’s captivating and thoroughly enjoyable, well worth the money I’d say.