Darksiders Review

By Figboy

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Vigil Games
Price: $59.99 (USD)

Darksiders was a game that snuck up on me. Being a big fan of comic artist Joe Maduerira, I was surprised that the title managed to go by me unnoticed. My initial impressions were that it just didn’t seem that interesting. I thought the concept was solid, but the very few game play snippets I saw of it didn’t sell me on it.

I have to say, I am very glad that I decided to throw caution to the wind and pick up the game. Darksiders is the definition of sleeper hit, and after my 24+ hour game play session with the title, I can’t help but recommend it to fans of polished games with creative game play, a fairly interesting story, and crisp, clean visuals.

The game revolves around War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who finds himself pursued by both Heaven and Hell when he is blamed for breaking the rules and bringing about the destruction of mankind prematurely. As War, players are trying to find out the truth, and clear War’s name. It’s a basic setup for a game premise, but it is executed with both fantastic visuals, and excellent voice acting, featuring the likes of Mark Hamil and Phil LaMarr, to name only two of the many actors who put in fine performances.

On the game play side of things, the trailers of the game can be misleading. On the surface, it seems like your average hack n slash, but the title is a sprawling adventure title more in the vein of The Legend of Zelda than God of War. Even the layout of the basic game play design harkens to the Zelda series.

War traverses a vast and ruined world, slaying enemies with a variety of weapons, most of which acquired by defeating bosses and unearthing hidden secrets, and exploring cleverly designed dungeons. You will find many people claiming that the game takes elements from a bunch of other games and doesn’t utilize them well enough. A Jack of All Trades, Master of None. I disagree. Whether it be using the Portal Gun to solve puzzles, or the grappling hook to get to previously inaccessible areas, I think Darksiders is a wonderful mixture of the traditional and the clever. A game doesn’t have to master every single element of its design to be fun and enjoyable. I particularly found the last few dungeons of the game to be some of the most cleverly designed levels I’ve played all generation.

Another plus to the game play is that, because it’s very highly modeled after the Zelda template, you are always acquiring a new something or other to further spur you on. Whether it be hidden upgrades to your already acquired weapons, or a brand new game play mechanic like War’s warhorse, Ruin, or the aforementioned Portal Gun,  you are constantly compelled to play just a little bit more to see what you will discover next.

Combat in the game initially starts off rather bland and shallow. After I cleared the intial tutorial hump, and began acquiring experience points and upgrading my combos (you spend orbs you collect from fallen enemies at Vulgrim’s shop in order to unlock newer, and more powerful combos), as well as mixing and matching attacks, switching between my various weapons on the fly, the combat becomes more full of depth and complexity. It was extremely satisfying to knock and enemy backwards and into the air with my sword, then use my grappling hook to pull him back in, switching to my Scythe to deliver a few more blows, then finish with a flurry of punches with my powerful Tremor Gauntlet or simply finish off a foe with the button prompt that appears when you are able to flashily execute your enemy.

Sure, you can easily just stick to War’s sword, and make it through just fine, but where would the fun be in that? I believe a game’s combat system, when it’s as heavily combo based as the one in Darksiders, is only as fun as you make it. The enjoyment I had with the combat was trying to find new and more creative ways to dispatch my enemies.

On the graphical side of things, the game is impressive. It uses a stylized, almost World of Warcraft-esque design ethic, meaning that the visuals are sharp and crisp, but with a minimum of gratuitous bells and whistles like HDR and bump-mapping. I’m sure those elements are in the game, just not to an extreme extent. Having Joe Maduerira in charge of art design is certainly not a bad way to go either, and fans of his work will see his unique style in the many excellent creature and character designs. Unlike a lot of games this generation, Darksiders has it’s own identity, and it doesn’t look like every other game out there. The various locations and transition places you visit are wonderfully unique and fantastical, in particular when using the Serpent Holes to quick travel between locations. The game is also surprisingly colorful, given it’s tone and subject matter, but it completely fits with the style of the art design. It’s not a stretch to say that Darksider’s art design is very inspired. It’s a rarity this generation, that’s for sure.

Overall, Darksiders is a suprisingly engaging, solid action/adventure game that rewards you as you delve further into it’s world and story. I don’t know if it’s vital to have a sequel, but the game leaves itself open to such an idea, with an ending that closes off the threads of this game. It’s nice to know that a sequel could happen, without the narrative of the first game treating it as if it’s a foregone conclusion. Although it’s been revealed that a sequel is in the works, if there wasn’t, Darksiders stands on it’s own.

VERDICT – BUY: Darksiders is a fun, clever game with an excellently realized world, great game play mechanics borrowed from some of your favorite games (Zelda, God of War, Portal, etc), and marries them in what is ultimately a highly polished, enjoyable game. The story and characters, while not oozing incredible depth, are engaging and fun, in part thanks to some fantastic voice work by the principal cast. A true sleeper hit, and worth a purchase.


One Response to “Darksiders Review”

  1. I was really excited about Darksiders, with me being a Joe Mad fan as well playing no small part. After reading a few reviews, I have to admit that my enthusiasm had cooled a little. But I’ll be giving it another look again!

    I’m not particularly good at combo-based combat games so I tend to stick to delivering combos primarily with one weapon. Will definitely give combo exploration/weapon switch-up a try.

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