Game Review: Darksiders (Darksiders: Wrath of War)
Release: January 5, 2010
Genre: Third-Person Action Adventure
Developer: Vigil Games
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating: M
With 2012 looming ever closer, the Apocalypse theme is becoming more prevalent over time. The entertainment industry has produced countless variations of Earth’s last days for the fascinated consumer base. In fact, there are plenty of video games, movies and books that paint a bleak future; it’s almost a wonder that we’re not all paranoid, hunkering down in bomb shelters. Well, Darksiders is the newest addition to this wonderful tradition of showing the human race that the end is nigh.
This is Vigil Games’ debut, and with little fanfare, save for Joe Madureira (of Uncanny X-Men fame), Darksiders has managed to pleasantly surprise the gaming community. War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and loyal servant of The Charred Council, is called upon Earth to maintain balance between Heaven and Hell. Of course, suspicions are raised when his brethren, Pestilence, Famine and Death, are not summoned. War is cast as a scapegoat when it is discovered that he prematurely wreaks divine havoc on Earth; the seventh seal, as it turns out, remains unbroken. In his quest for justice, he makes a pact with The Charred Council and agrees to right all wrongdoings in exchange for reestablishing his honor. The gauntlet is thrown and War is on course to take down the Destroyer himself – the heavyweight fight is on!
Before proceeding any further with this review, understand that I have never played Portal or any Zelda title. And no, I will not apologize for that, you can’t revoke my geek card and stop pelting me with broken shards of glass! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s continue. If you’ve played any hack ‘n slash title, the controls will instantly feel familiar. There are two primary buttons to press in order to strike down opponents. You also have grapple options to aim objects at enemy AI. Progress further into the game and War obtains more weapons and abilities to use at his disposal. Darksiders offers a tried and true currency system as well, leaving players to collect souls to either increase their health, purchase abilities and objects or increase their rage meter. Besides the usual fare of taking down enemies, Darksiders contains multiple puzzles to solve before moving on to the next level. Here’s a quick tip: If you don’t like puzzles, Darksiders may not be for you since it’s ripe with so many.
However, if you do like solving puzzles and kicking ass, Darksiders might be the game to get. The puzzles are riddled throughout the various levels. Some involve time limits while others require the player to seek out objects to open rooms. Some were quite easy to solve while others required considerable investment in time. In addition to using your noggin, there was some serious ass kicking involved. Think about it. You’re playing as War, one of the Four FREAKIN’ Horsemen of the Apocalypse! It’s pretty satisfying to strike down Chaoseater, War’s blade of doom, or swing Death’s scythe, the Harvester, through some demons. If basic combat isn’t enough, collect enough souls and purchase upgraded abilities from Vulgrum to string together some vicious attacks. Nifty puzzles and solid game play mechanics are not the only things Darksiders excels at. As an avid fan of comics, Joe Madureira’s influence in the art direction was very welcome. The destroyed Earth looked desolate and the characters offered some visual treats, from downright ugly to viciously beautiful. It was eye candy worthy of a graphic novel.
Mind you, there are definitely certain elements in the game that could be viewed as bothersome. Toggling through different weapons and items felt tiresome instead of fluid. There was a limit to how many items War could switch through, so if a level required the use of the Abyssal Chain and the Mask of Shadows, you’d have to equip War with one before quickly pressing “SELECT” to equip another. Not a deal breaker, but it might pose a minor inconvenience to some folks. If gamers are looking for a real challenge and decide to play Darksiders on Apocalyptic difficulty, the game does prove to be sadistic during the first half. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, this challenges players to time dodges, blocks and counters to become more efficient. Of course, once progressing through the steep learning curve, Darksiders seems to plateau. Get past Tiamat and suddenly everything seems easy. Progress further into the world and you’re bound to find chests containing Life or Wrath shards to increase War’s powers. So not only does War have a longer life span, his Wrath ability effectively makes him invincible for however many shards have been collected. By the time you finally get to the Destroyer for the final showdown, War has enough upgrades to make the fight become nothing more than a pittance in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, this is all assuming that the gamer in question has a compulsive disorder for finding and collecting everything. If not, the game will certainly provide a challenge, especially on Apocalyptic difficulty. A straight play through of the game will still offer at least 20 hours of play, especially if you hate puzzles and use guides to aid your quest. The story is simple enough to follow with fairly epic sequences; the ending, alone, was enough to keep my interest in the franchise going.
Jinkwell’s final say: Naysayers may claim that Darksiders is a mish-mash of various titles, but Vigil Games has done a fantastic job of melding them together. The game offers fluid combat, challenging puzzles and epic story sequences. Definitely a sleeper hit.
NOTE: There were reports for the Xbox 360 version that screen tearing and game freezes were prominent issues. However, recent patches have noticeably decreased screen tearing without compromising frame rate and game freezes have seemed to stop altogether.