Published on January 23rd, 2010 | by prime1
Darksiders – Review
Summary: A bit on the ugly side, but it does ooze charm and ambition
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Darksiders is going to be very popular among messers Link and Kratos. No beating around the bush, this is Zelda meets God of War in the most flagrant sense. But instead of trying to mask its influences, Darksiders just seems proud of them.
It tells the story of War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who has awoken to find the balance between Heaven and Hell has been disrupted, and giant demons are walking the earth, causing a lot of mischief. It’s a great premise, backed up brilliantly by the art design of visionary comic book artist Joe Madruiera.
War is charged by the unholy council with restoring balance to the world, and in true Metroidvania style, he’s stripped of all his powers, only to find them one by one as he progresses. Before that though, War has to meet with the imprisoned demon Samael, who tasks him with bringing back the hearts of four malevolent beasts, and hence you have the structure of the game. Lovely.
Initially, Darksiders feels like a clunky brawler and not a lot else. War can hack, he can slash, and he can even spin, but there’s none of the fluency of dynamism of a Bayonetta or even a God of War. It’s actually a pretty worrying start to the game, as the visuals are not up to scratch for a current gen effort either. Not by a long shot.
Despite the excellent design, Darksiders looks like a PS2 game at times, with really rough textures and bare-bones lighting. We also struggled with framerate problems throughout, although THQ assures us it’s specific issue with review code and won’t blight the final retail release. Let’s hope not.
So far, not so good, but before long Darksiders starts to sink its demonic claws in. combat becomes more satisfying as you add combos, dodges and parries to your arsenal, which see you dispatching the often enormous baddies in some style. And when you get to one of the game’s bespoke ‘dungeons’, it begins to feel like something altogether more sizeable and significant.
Before you can get your hands on one of Darksiders’ giant bosses, you’ll have to think your way through a puzzle-filled structure littered with traps and locked doors. Now, if you’ve ever played Zelda game, and chances are you have, there’s nothing in Darksiders that will prove particularly taxing. That’s not to say it’s without merit though. There’s a commitment to clever design, to puzzles that tease you at first by seeming impossible, only for their solutions to reveal themselves later on.
It’s one of those odd situations where it’s actually better to get stuck from time to time. Solving a real headscratcher is infinitely more satisfying than just burning your way through a dungeon. As if to cement its status as a Zelda clone, every one of these hulking structures houses a new gizmo for War to use, and they become more and more inventive as the story progresses. At first it’s just solving puzzles with a boomerang/glaive type throwing disc, but towards the back end of the game, you’ll find War’s horse, Ruin, to help solve puzzles, and there’s even a portal gun to get your hands on. Exciting stuff.
It’s a great premise, backed up brilliantly by the art design of visionary comic book artist Joe Madrueira
Darksiders is a game that rewards patience with not only gameplay, but story. The voice acting dialogues are solid and engaging throughout, and there’s a real sense that you’re existing within the confines of Joe Mad’s mind. This is his world you’re playing around in, and it’s a pleasure to be in it.
Of course, it can’t all be perfect, or we’d be exclaiming this as a Miyamoto beater. Unfortunately, Darksiders suffers with pacing issues. Too often it will grind to a halt when things just get interesting, forcing you into a series of laborious combat challenges or a ill-conceived set piece when all you want to do is get on with things.
Also, despite being an admirable effort, a lot of the game’s dungeon design really pales in comparison to its Japanese progenitor. They can become a procession as you battle from room to room, sometimes knowing the solution before you even find the puzzle. There’s none of the spark or wit of the Legend of Zelda. But maybe it’s unfair to expect it.
Still, the solidity of design and charm that exudes from Darksiders’ characters elevates it above your standard third-person actioner, and makes it something worth investing time and effort into. If nothing else, Vigil Games have succeeded in creating a universe that begs to be explored again and it’s not very often you can say that. War…perhaps it’s not all that bad after all.