11th January 2010 - Darksiders is one of 2010s first releases, and the first game developed by Vigil games; a company founded by one of today’s leading comic book artists. The game feels like and shows extreme similarities to Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series in almost every aspect, and to sum it up; its great, for Zelda fans that is. A unique art style and some classic gameplay make this fun, but whether those attributes alone can save it from being called nothing but a shameless Zelda rip-off is another story. One thing is for sure; Darksiders is a comic book fans dream and one of the most enjoyable adventure RPG’s we’ve played in a while.
It’s the end of the world as we know it; our world that is - our kingdom; the kingdom of man. But the other two kingdoms, the kingdoms of light and dark - good and bad, nice and mean, pure and evil, you get the drift here - are still going at it, just as they have been for a century now. Now that’s all fine and dandy, but when you’re accused of starting this war and breaking the truce, things get personal. As WAR, one of the feared horsemen of the apocalypse, its up to you to return to Earth and punish those who really are responsible for starting this War and dirtying your good name. But things are going to be a little tougher this time around, as you’ve been stripped of all your powers and must earn them all back before you stand a chance at overcoming the evil than has tainted this world for far too long. The road to retribution isn’t an easy one, no siree, its full of danger and death and a heck-load of demonic beings and uptight angels that you must really show a thing or two from the pointy end of your oversized sword; Chaoseater.
The game is very simple to start and play, yet difficult if you want to completely master and conquer on the Apocalyptic difficulty. Playing on Normal or Easy provides a thought provoking experience, but it is the Apocalyptic difficulty you have to play on if you want a real challenge. There is a lot of double-up commands on buttons, but yet the controls are simple and very easy to get a hang of. Most enemies have a certain weakness which you must exploit rather than button mash your way to victory with the biggest combos, which is a welcome change in this sort of game.
As I mentioned back at the start, Darksiders is quite similar to the Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time in particular. To start with, WAR must complete a series of dungeons each with their own ‘element’; fire, water, sand etc. And over his journey, he acquires a range of different weapons and tools to help overcome challenges and puzzles. Like the boomerang-esque Crossblade, which has the power to take fire from a flame and light a bomb, like the ones found from the bomb-plant-like bomb growths that can be found in the most appropriate of places, say when you need to blow up a large rock that blocks a door. So that’s one example, but continue on and you will see that you can even collect 4 life shards to make one life stone, which adds a bar to your health, and beat a dungeon boss to be rewarded a whole life stone, then take yourself a blue portal back the front of the temple- sound familiar anyone? But don’t worry about dying as you can just fill one of your ’Empty Vessels’ with a spirit that will refill all your health bars when you die instantly. An empty glass bottle filled with a fairy or spirit of some sort would also do the trick don’t you think? And when you get lost in the beauty of the apocalypse while riding around on Ruin, your demonic horse, worry not, because a simple hold of the Back button and your little spirit, your ‘Watcher’, will pop out and tell you what you should be doing. As long as he doesn’t start with the “Hey, listen!”s, then I’m happy.
My point is, Darksiders is essentially the worlds answer to Zelda, and its great! Its not a shameless rip-off; Vigil wanted to make this a game that would feel like Zelda and appeal to all us Zelda fans that are out there, and they have done just that. But because the game seems to be set on replicating almost every aspect of the famed franchise, it has left out one of the most important bits of being a new IP in the gaming world; taking things further. Darksiders really doesn’t go anywhere new in terms of gameplay, or even graphics for that matter, and although leaves us satisfied with playing what could be the next installation in one of our favourite series, doesn’t completely wow us into loving the game for more than it is; a mature and dark take on a classic game and classic gameplay elements. Darksiders would have benefited with a bit more originality at the core.
Back to the dungeons. These are one of the highlights of the game, as each has a unique series of challenges and puzzles, new enemies, and usually a new weapon throughout, not to mention a slew of hidden chests and goodies ripe for the finding. The set pieces in these are all wonderfully designed and make the puzzles all the more fun. Best these puzzles and dungeons and you will be faced with a boss, who are all very original, and who provide very epic fights and differentiated ways to bring defeat to their cold black hearts.
Aside from a decent length in the campaign mode, Darksiders offers nothing else. No multilayer, no leaderboards, nothing. Although the campaign is very replayable if you actually enjoyed the game, you will probably still get bored after a while. A multiplayer mode of some sort would have been very nice and could have worked wonders to help the game be more recognized, be it competitive or cooperative. The latter of which I personally would love to experience with this games completely enjoyable gameplay.
For one of the only games with an actual ‘post-apocalyptic’ world, Darksiders does a great job at imagining what the world would look like had it been a war ground between Heaven and Hell for a hundred years. With no humans left alive and hellish structures spawned up at every corner, the world is a frightening place. There are demonic spikes raising through the world and its once proud human structures, and it all just goes on to create a truly amazing environment which suit’s the games mature story perfectly. The whole design of the place even allows for some more environmental puzzles, which helps add to the overall enjoyment of dungeon crawling, puzzle solving and exploration.
WAR in particular is a wonderful looking specimen. He is a modernized take on the classic idea of the horsemen of the apocalypse, and Ruin beside him is even more stunning. All the characters look great, from the armoured angel enforcers to Samael, one of the more evil demons who you converse with. And all of the characters movements and lip-synching is animated to within perfection, making the games cut scenes very intriguing and top this with overproportioned models and demonic features and you have yourself some of the best cut scenes and characters in a video game.
But apart from a wonderfully designed world and characters, Darksiders does fall short in actual looks. The textures are all a bit too colourful to suit the game itself, and although detailed there is just something about the environment models that make them seem not-so-great, be it the fact they are all overly chuncky and under worked or just that they don’t match the games characters in detail which makes them seem even worse, which brings the experience down from completely immersing you. And the interaction within the gaming world is also a little under the weather it seems, as when you are running about your business chopping heads off and slaughtering the deserving, it looks as if you’re on completely different plains than the world itself. Your limbs go through walls and you even can stand feet off the edge of a cliff until you wander off the underlining wire frame of development.
Near the start of the game you will be appointed a watcher, a puppet of the Charred Council who must make sure you stay loyal to your cause. What some of you may pick up is that this Watcher sounds awful familiar. That’s because he is voiced by the mighty Mark Hamill, the man behind Joker in the recent Batman: Arkham Asylum. Mark isn’t the only other known voice in the game though. Darksiders is riddled with known actors, famed from all manners of cartoons and games, like Phil LaMarr, who has voiced in Metal Gear Solid, Family Guy and the Clone Wars series, and even film actors, like Moon Bloodgood, who was recently in Terminator: Salvation.
But voice acting aside, the game also has a great musical score, which fit’s the dark and apocalyptic theme well. To add to the feel of the game further is the amount of distinct and sometimes horrifying sounds each and every demon will make as you hack and slash through the countless numbers of them. Hook it up to a decent sound system and you will be taken off guard by its detail and ferocity.
As I mentioned before, Darksiders has nothing but a single player campaign, which itself isn’t even that long, and would vary from person to person depending how much you like to explore and backtrack to collect all the goodies you missed. If you enjoy the games unique art style and classic gameplay, you will have untold amounts of fun replaying the game a few times, but if not, this may not be worth your cash. Think about how much you like a good single player adventure before you go jumping on this one.
Lets put it simply; Darksiders is just like Zelda. In regards to the gameplay, pacing and pretty much every other aspect of the game, its much more mature. The gameplay is very old-school, and fuses RPG, puzzle, platforming and adventure into one excellent game.
However, what Darksiders has in gameplay seems to have taken away from its graphics, which apart from the few main character models and animation, are a bit of a let down.
With a stellar cast, a highly enjoyable campaign, great art direction and a solid story, Darksiders is a game that could only be made better with some type of multiplayer mode and some more polish.
AAG SCORE: 9/10
- Just like Zelda, only darker
- Great Story and pacing
- Fun and replayable campaign
- Wonderful art direction and design
- Nothing but a single player campaign
- Graphics aren’t as stand-out as the gameplay
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott