Developer: Vigil Games
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Darksiders is a third-person action/adventure title that sees players step into the role of War; one of the four horseman of the apocalypse. The game begins in the midst of the apocalypse, as Heaven and Hell fight one another for dominion over Earth. There’s just one problem however, the apocalypse has been instigated too early. Accused of starting the calamity himself, War ventures through the scourged Earth to prove his innocence to the Charred Council, the mediators between Heaven and Hell under which War and his brothers serve.
War discovers that one called The Destroyer is at the helm of the apocalypse and he must strike a deal with both Angels and Demons in order to learn more about his enemies, defeat Hell’s chosen warriors, and ultimately prove that he is not to blame for the destruction of mankind. The first thing that players may notice when playing Darksiders is its similarity to many titles, the game appearing to take aspects of titles such as God of War and The Legend of Zelda.
The structure of the game is reminiscent of Zelda titles, featuring a familiar ‘complete a dungeon’, ‘gain a new item’, ‘access new areas with said weapon’ and ‘defeat the dungeon boss’ formula. Combat is very similar to both Zelda and the God of War titles, featuring a lock-on system, dashing and multiple combos. Despite the similarities to other titles, the combat feels great with the dense, heavily-armoured War taking huge swings of his epic sword Chaoseater, which grants the player a sense of unfathomable strength and power that one should expect when controlling a horseman of the apocalypse.
One of the most striking aspects of the game is the unique visual style. Born from the mind of comic book artist Joe Madureira, the graphical flair of both the characters and the environments feels distinctly unique. From the cyber-armoured Angels to the inverted wings and burning eyes of more significant characters such as Samael, the individuality and attention to detail of the creatures that populate the Darksiders world is dazzling. The shining gem in the crown however, is War, whose intricate armour design and animations are absolutely top notch.
Each environment feels distinctive too. For example, players can journey to the Howling Fjord, an area with crumbling architecture and shimmering waters. The Fjord is a stark contrast to the barren wastelands of the Ashlands; consisting of demonic towers and ash-deserts. Credit has to be given to Joe Mad and the team behind him who have successfully created something visually stunning amongst the browny-grey ‘gritty’ shooters of today.
In conjunction with the fantastic-looking environments and characters, Vigil have done a great job in taking existing biblical characters and concepts and creating their own lore. Throughout the journey, players will come across multiple characters that are familiar to those who always have their bibles at their side, completely revamped by the team. The story will have you gripped, with characters that, despite being completely fictional, evoke empathy and connect with the player. Voice-acting is also excellent, with Mark Hamill in particular does a fantastic job as The Watcher. Those who have played Arkham Asylum will undoubtedly know that his reputation as a voice actor is stellar, and it remains intact here. Furthermore, the general plot is as interesting as it is exciting, featuring plot twists, character development and a fantastic ending that will leave you wanting so much more. The sound also effectively draws the player in. The score perfectly complements the sense of scale in the story and locations. Coupled with the fantastic visuals, I found myself truly immersed in the world lovingly crafted by Vigil.
There is also a great sense of scale within the game. I found myself playing with awe at the beautifully constructed environments in which I was adventuring. Despite being heavy and powerful, manoeuvring around the world is well thought out. War has limited platforming abilities, including climbable walls and the odd jumping section. These quickly increase in variety as the player obtains the various items, including a grappling hook and eventually a Portal-esque weapon called the ‘Voidwalker’. Also, what would a horseman be without a horse? War is eventually reunited with his horse Ruin (as the game begins with the classic Metroid formula of losing all of your abilities right at the beginning of the game). Horse movement and combat is also fluid, and if the player gets tired of running/riding around, there is always the ability to fast travel between certain points, which avoids the potential monotony of having to run through one zone to reach another.
Boss fights are also gripping, each boss forces the player to utilise certain tactics in order to defeat them and ultimately rip out their still beating heart. It is refreshing to see a game like this that does not have a focus on QTEs, but allows players to press a button when they have reduced the health of a boss or enemy to zero in order to activate a fantastically animated finishing sequence. One potential gripe is that whilst some bosses are an exhilarating experience (particularly the boss at the end of the spider dungeon), they are all relatively easy, even on the hardest difficulty.
Also, whilst we’re on the subject of gripes, I would probably say that the combat is not quite as varied as I would like. Players have access to two main weapons; War’s sword and a scythe. There’s a gun and some other minor weapons, but they do such minimal damage that they’re almost irrelevant. I would have liked to have seen some more weapons implemented, although that is no doubt something that can be implemented in the inevitable sequel.
Despite these minor complaints, I never found myself frustrated with any aspect of the game. On the contrary, I found myself eager to play ‘just until I’ve finished this dungeon’ or ‘just so I find out what happens next’. Vigil have quite obviously put a lot of work into the game, and it shows. As you can probably tell, I am rather enamoured with Darksiders. It is refreshing to see a development team that are creating new and unique IPs that might not necessarily appeal to the mass market. Sure, it will be compared to this game and that game, but if a formula isn’t broken, then why try to fix it? What Darksiders may lack in originality in some aspects, it more than makes up for in its unique visual style, fully realised characters, and a story that will grip you from the very beginning.
“No… Not alone”.