25th February 2010 - It took me a while to get hold of a copy of Darksiders, which meant I had read some critiques and feedback in other reviews. All the preview and gaming footage left me salivating and keen to have a bash, but I was a little worried. The most common comment I read was that it was well executed, but we've seen it all before. I tried to approach the game with an open mind and assess it on its merits. The question I needed to be answered was would the story and gameplay be done well enough to outweigh the lack of innovation, and be worth spending time and money on?
For the uninitiated you are War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. You have been called down to Earth as all hell is braking loose. Someone has triggered the apocalypse early and unfortunately you are getting the blame. War is pissed and is determined to find out who is responsible.
The story is interesting with a different take on the apocalypse and provides a good backdrop for the game. Post-apocalyptic Earth looks great with crumbling buildings and all manner of hell's legions running about. Angels are around to fight as well, but most of your time is spent hacking and shooting demons. And it's so much damn fun!
The control system is slightly complex but works really well once you get the hang of it. It doesn't take too long to get used to for regular gamers. After a couple of hours players will string together combos and use a variety of techniques including gliding, shooting and swinging. New abilities are unlocked as either part of the game, or bought in exchange for souls collected after kills. I found the steady rate you acquired abilities welcome as it kept the gameplay fresh. Whether it was a new way to dispatch enemies or the ability to solve a new puzzle, I found them all useful and not gimmicky.
The enemies themselves are varied and some of the regular henchmen are quite a challenge, especially with a few on the screen at once. The boss fights could have been more challenging - a little too recipe for my liking. This is a shame because all the bosses look awesome and could really have made for some epic fights.
On the subject of recipe - yes it’s true. Darksiders, almost blatantly, takes gameplay elements from several other franchises and mixes them together. An obvious strong influence has been taken from games like Devil May Cry, God of War and Zelda. So much so that if you changed the game title and replaced War with Dante it could be DMC5. The thing is it totally doesn't matter. Darksiders takes elements from other games and does a fantastic job of blending them together and delivering them in this new scenario. The story, controls, art style and sound work so well together that you keep coming back for more. Welcome additions are fancy kills that don't require quick time events. You simply press circle when enough damage has been done and watch as War dances around and dismembers his enemy. It's nice to see what's actually going on, rather than being focused on triangle, triangle, circle, and square and wandering what the hell you just did to the bad guy.
There were only a couple of minor gripes. The first was that the jump seemed to respond quite slowly to input and, for all his supernatural skills, it was frustratingly small. Even though the old double jump was present, the height and responsiveness just seemed at odds with the rest of his abilities. On more than one occasion I found myself unnecessarily replaying platform sections after I plummeted to my death. That brings up the second issue. For some unknown reason, the developers decided that if you die from a fall you lose some of your life and restart with that reduced life. But if you had hardly any life when you die from a fall you start with a full life bar. What the? This made no sense to me whatsoever, but hey that's the worst of the gameplay issues so can't really complain.
Unlike other games that have a war-torn/apocalyptic feel (I'm looking at you Kill zone) there are vibrant colours thrown into the environments and a fantastic art direction. The characters are modeled well with interesting and detailed design. One of the coolest things I've seen is when your horse Ruin emerges galloping from the earth on fire! There were no issues with frame rate during combat with everything running silky smooth when I was playing. Environments vary from cities, caves, deserts and lush jungles and are beautifully brought to life in the same artistic style as the characters.
The voice acting is solid with no poor performances, and War's voice sounds as if he has a suitably big pair. The soundtrack creates the appropriate sense of an end of the world adventure, and the grunts and screeches from demons as the weapons hack and slash away put a smile on your face.
Darksiders will see you come back for more than one serve and punters will certainly get their money's worth. Although not the length of an RPG, the in-depth weapon and ability development, collectibles, trophies and difficulty levels will keep you coming back for more War. It will take you more than a couple of hires to complete and personally I think it's worth throwing down the cash for if you're into some action adventure.
So Darksiders does no job of hiding its influences. It takes elements from some fantastic franchises and blends them into a beautifully created apocalyptic world. The gameplay is engaging and fun, the control system though complex works well, and the art style is brilliant with good use of colours in a usually drab setting. There is a couple of niggling gameplay issues, but they won't put anyone off playing. Darksiders is a great experience and I highly recommend you get hold of a copy and take it for a ride.
AAG SCORE: 8.0/10
- Great characters, art style and post apocalyptic world
- Solid gameplay with good upgrades to character
- Nothing new or innovative
- Some mildly annoying gameplay features
Reviewed & Written By Khye Davey