XBox 360 & PS3 – THQ – $59.99
Since we got to take a look at Darksiders for the first time at San Diego Comic-Con and get our hands on it this past fall at the Big Apple Con, the game has piqued our interest over here at the Flickcast. With a story that could have been ripped either from the silver screen, the chance to step in to the boots of War, one of the four horseman of the apocalypse, has been an opportunity we were looking forward to experiencing.
The brainchild of Battle Chasers creator Joe Madureira, it was interesting to see how someone so versed in the art of comic book storytelling would be able to translate to the epically different medium of interactive entertainment.
The concept behind Darksiders comes across like it would be a simple hack and slash adventure game. For those expecting a Ninety-Nine Nights or Dynasty Warriors style game where War runs through thousands of enemies, Darksiders makes sure to add a layer of depth one wouldn’t expect in the game.
While there are tons of enemies to rip in half, impale and crush the skull of, the real fun of Darksiders comes from its puzzles. Inevitably compared to The Legend of Zelda series, War is much more cunning than one would expect. Using items similar to Link’s Boomerang or Portal’s Portal Gun, War must uncover hidden passages and solve environmental quandaries to progress in his quest.
The combat of Darksiders is simple and intuitive in most cases. The fault of the combat however lies in its simplicity. Even with different weapons choices and upgradable special attack combinations, most of Darksiders’ combat does like in repetition. Slash, Slash, Dodge becomes one of the most popular and will be used throughout the game as timing of many of War’s enemies is very similar. Developers did try to change things up by adding in “special” battle sequences like riding on the back of a heavenly griffin in a Panzer Dragon style flight combat or horseback riding sequence but these are few and far between. Most of the game’s combat is accomplished with either War’s sword or his Crossblade followed by gory B button execution maneuvers.
A few changes could have been made to improve the overall combat like smarter AI or the addition of a health bar to boss fights. In the first major boss fight against Tiamat, players have no idea what, if any, actual damage they are inflicting as there are no visible signs of the boss weakening or being injured during the fight. Boss fights are fun regardless though as there is always a trick to exploiting certain weaknesses and strengths like infusing the Crossblade with fire against Tiamat or figuring out how to damage The Black Hammer who cannot be hurt by a mortal blade.
Darksiders tells the story of the fall of the three kingdoms, those of Heaven, Hell and Man. When the time comes, the Horseman of the Apocalypse would ride and bring judgment to those involved in the ongoing struggle and bring about the end of days. But something went wrong and War was tricked in to starting the apocalypse early. Now he must go back to earth a hundred years later to investigate what set the events in to motion.
The storytelling of Darksiders comes across in a pretty straightforward manner as War follows the path to the truth, forced to make deals with untrustworthy demons while under the gaze of his watcher. Because of the nature of demons and the way they insist on speaking in riddles, there are often some misleading elements and twists in what War must go through in his efforts to confront the Destroyer.
Graphics and Sound:
The art design of Darksiders is surprisingly bright and vibrant considering both the title of the game and the setting of the post-apocalyptic earth. Almost similar in art direction of World of Warcraft, War is an oversized powerhouse, far from human proportions, with massive weapons as he decimates the demonic hordes and army of angels set in front of him. The game also does a great job in giving an epic feel to the bosses who literally tower over War. Even the first boss encounter in the beginning of the game where War only sees him from the waist up sets a trend for the large scale of decimation the player must prepare for. The animations are fluid and even the transitions between combat to the canned executions are flawless. While some sites talked about graphical hiccups on the XBox 360 version, no slowdown or screen tearing happened on the Flickcast’s copy of the game.
The sound of the game feels almost retro, but in the good way. Very stereotypical noises surround the bubbling lava pits or the demons that stand in War’s way. The ambient music under the backgrounds and battles keeps itself subtle and noninvasive. The highlight of the sound work comes from the excellent voice acting. It is a shame War isn’t a more vocal character as he has one of the best new character voices working for him. Backing him up as the Watcher is Mark Hamill who has shown us just how amazing a voice he can be with his recent Batman: Arkham Asylum work.
Darksiders turns out to be much of what is expected of it with a few added surprises all wrapped up in a very fun to play package. Joe Mad’s creation definitely has some legs and with room to be improved upon can lead to an even better sequel in the next year or two. It’s hard not to see the influence Darksiders has from other games like the puzzles of Zelda and Portal but it is in the well done execution that keeps the game fun and exciting throughout. Seeing it come across as more than a simple hack and slash was a pleasant surprise and definitely has the Flickcast wanting more. Maybe a small DLC pack with War adventuring with some of his fellow horseman in a cooperative multiplayer mission or two THQ, what do you think?