2010 Reviews

Darksiders

  • Review Date: 2014-03
  • Release Date: 2010-01
  • Developer: Vigil Games
  • Rating: 8.0

I really enjoyed Darksiders for most of the game. It's long, I spent 20 hours on it, features some really inspiring artwork and as you'd expect for hack'n'slash, or at least hope, it has some frantic but fun gameplay. The characters and story are fantastic. But it does have some issues.

The most notable and fresh on my mind are the puzzles. The game is full of them, and while for most of the game they are bearable, then comes the penultimate chapter (or level) of 18, where you're inside a castle - The Black Throne. The castle looks great, but about three hours of long, tedious puzzles is not great. I fucking hated it and couldn't wait for the puzzles to be over. In fact this level would be reason enough for me to never play Darksiders again - the puzzles just ruin replay-ability. They consist of using certain powers you gain throughout the game - teleportation, a grapple, a throwing blade, gliding and you can drag things. So every puzzle is made up of using these tools somehow. I think the game would have overall been a more satisfying experience if, by that point in your progression it just did away with the puzzles and allowed the final two chapters to be combat only. Instead you hardly get any combat at all for the biggest chapter on the game.

Then the final chapter gets worse. This time you have to travel back through most of the previous locations of the game collecting several items, which were previously inaccessible. All the while new stronger enemies have re-spawned. This is the sort of cheap rubbish used by developers to prolong a game, and it's a really bad way to do it. Create another few levels if you have to, but forcing me to trudge back through everything all over again is not the way to end Darksiders. Of course after this you get the big boss battle, so it doesn't end in constant dejavu.

Another weakness are the controls. I don't really know how to suggest improving them, but sometimes it was pretty awkward to control, particularly going in to aim mode which you need for the blade, gun, grapple and other third tier weapons. So I ended up just avoiding aiming unless I had to for puzzles. The blade would be good charged up and thrown into something at close range, if it hits its a target - great, if it doesn't I can still use the Scythe or Sword at the same time.

The majority of gameplay will be melee with either of those two weapons, both of which have various power-ups and combos you can use. I didn't really use many complex combos - I never do in these games, but those that I did use didn't seem to resemble the instructions anyway. For instance hold jump and attack will give you a spinning attack, so why does he still do the spinning attack regardless of if I press jump at all? Nonetheless combat was a tonne of fun, as expected in a hack'n'slash. Very similar to Devil May Cry, but slightly more forgiving in that you don't HAVE to learn all the combos to survive. It's more of knowing when an enemy attacks and avoiding the attack in time, then heading back in for more. The boss fights, of which there are many, were the same.

I played on easy difficulty. It's the type of game that takes a while to master and would be very difficult to survive the hardest difficulty on your first play-through. While most of it was pretty good for easy, there were still some quite tough fights. Even on the medium difficulty for a first run through this would be a tough game. Not quite as tough as Devil May Cry, particularly the boss battles. But as I said above there are some tough bosses where you have to learn their attacks to beat them. Having said that, the final boss battle seemed to be one of the easier ones.

You also have Chaos mode, which temporarily turns you into a huge beast and other power attacks that can only be used for a short time before you need to recharge. The Chaos mode was a waste of time, I never seemed to have it available to me, so only used it a few times in the game. The other power-ups took forever to recharge and with so many other keys to manage, the way I had the keys set it just took too long to hit these attacks to make them worthwhile. But if I weren't on easy I think I would have to of used these more often, even though they did seem a bit useless.

The character and enemy models were also very good, featuring some fantastic designs. You'll really get a sense of power in this game with some of the enemies, as they look damn nasty and tough, without just being a huge gargantuan in size like a lot of games do. While the zombie humans, smaller spiders, and some of the earlier small fry might get less imposing by the end, there are many enemies in this game that give that "oh shit" feeling all the way through. The type that are big, take a long time to take down and can deal out high punishment.

The rest of the unique characters in Darksiders are also very memorable. War (whom you play as), the giant Satanic looking Samael, Ulthane the huge blacksmith, many of the bosses... they feel like true gods, great powerful beings. They've all been very well designed and voice-acted for that matter. All featuring enhanced deep voices that will send a shiver of fear down your spine when they speak. War was particularly impressive, with plenty of good dialogue and seeming like a true badass, despite not yet having the power he once had.

The actual levels of Darksiders I also cannot falter much. Less backtracking would have been nice. Sometimes you do feel a little small inside such huge areas. There's also a slightly lack of gritty detail - sometimes things feel a little too smoothed over. But the actual design is epic. I notice in the credits under Level Designers John Hughes, which I'm guessing must be none of than Yogi who used to design some great Quake 3 custom levels. No wonder these levels are so impressive. You play on earth, but it's been 100 years since current time after all humans are wiped out, and it became dominated by creatures of hell. So there's no modern civilisation left, and just remnants of old buildings, roads and cities. Much of the design continues that feeling of grandness, with massive cathedrals or threatening rocky formations dominating the view above you. It's also nice to play a game without the overused post-processing effects of UE3.

It is a rather linear game, always going in basically one direction. But I honestly don't mind too much when it feels like I've played too many sandbox games lately.

The best feature of Darksiders is actually the story. You play as War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, sent to reveal the truth and punish those behind bringing forth the Endwar, a great war between Heaven and Hell, with humans in between. I won't go into much detail, but I'd love to see this as a live action film. Although if it was I'm sure it would be ruined unless Vigil Games has a lot of involvement! Even the publisher's creative director said he'd love to see Bruce Willis cast as War. Sure I can see Bruce playing a down and out, little-bit-crazy NYC cop... but one of the Four Horsemen, the most powerful gods in the universe sent to judge all from Heaven to Hell? No fucking way.

I look forward to the Darksiders sequel, but I just hope some of the puzzles and backtracking is reduced. Without the poor final two chapters I would have given this game an easy 8.5/10.

Darksiders