- Gaming Resources
- About Us
Darksiders is a game that I wish I had played a lot sooner than I did. It was just one of those things that got away from me at release, and then something I somehow managed to continually miss long after. It wasn’t until the game went on sale during Steam’s blowout holiday deal that I finally was able to bring myself past the point of laziness and drag my mouse pointer to the “Purchase” button and click with purpose. To add even more stupidity and laziness into the equation, it was probably another few months before I actually played through the damn thing. And do you know what I felt when I finally did? Shame.
I felt ashamed that I hadn’t played the game sooner, and also that I had missed out on anything involving Mark Hammil (another detail of the game that had somehow managed to escape me.). Darksiders is essentially the greatest video game incarnation of a mix tape, or DJ album (if you’re too old to know what a mix tape is.. I don’t know what to do for you.) that you have ever envisioned, it borrows and pieces together ideas from other games and media, and packages them all together to make something unique in it’s own right. So your perception of Darksiders could probably greatly depend on whether or not you even like the idea of a mix tape. I know it may sound odd to be comparing a game to a mix tape, but the comparison is apt when you break it down. A traditional DJ mix tape takes a selection of songs and cuts them together in such a way that they sound like completely new versions of those songs. It’s also called remixing, or if you’re insanely cool… cutting a beat, scratchin the vines, or burnin a needle. There are even those who take it a step further and manage to create entire original compositions from little snips and segments of songs. That’s where artists like DJ Shadow, DJ Krush etc have been able to craft a niche for themselves.
Now I have friends that can’t stand DJ music. They try and try and try, but they just can’t get their mind to a place where it sounds like anything other than a bunch of sounds being thrown at a wall. In that same way I can see where Darksiders might polarize you immediately. The more you play through it, the more you will feel a looming sense of familiarity that you can’t put behind yourself and for good reason. Darksiders borrows almost everything that makes it what it is. It’s at an odd juxtaposition with itself in that way too, because it borrows to the point where you would think the game didn’t have an original bone in it’s body, but the extent to which it borrows and mashes things up has created originality where it may not have existed before. Darksiders gives you a setup that is strikingly familiar if you’ve ever read a Spawn comic, or if you’ve seen the horrible movie with the same name, it gives you the exploration of games that feature Bellmonts, Triforces, and armor clad girls that can morph into balls. Then it ties it all back together with some truly visceral combat yanked straight out of Kratos’ twitchy hands.
Fortunately for Darksiders it does all of this in a way that makes it truly enjoyable, and makes each of those individual elements stand out on it’s own. In the story you play the role of War, one of the horsemen of the apocalypse who has inadvertently been tricked into starting the End of Days for all of mankind. In order to set things to rights, you are sent back to Earth a century after the fact, only to find that both Heaven and Hell have a steep price on your head. In order to accomplish your mission you will find yourself having to barter and trade with the denizens of the underworld, and the hosts of the heavens alike. What this means for the game is that you will spend much of your time running through a post apocalyptic New York City backtracking between environments to run one very long errand for a demon called Samael. For the most part the game does a great job of keeping your interest in set pieces that it conjures up, with it’s only possible shortcoming coming in the form of some not immediately obvious solutions to grabbing out of reach items or power ups. But such is the nature of the Metroidvania inspired game mechanics.
But for all the backtracking that the game eventually makes you do, it does so in a way that doesn’t feel artificial or contrived. Like I said, the game gives you a pretty clear indication from the beginning that every environment is layered with secrets that are just waiting to be unearthed, and it manages to find a balance for exploration that works here and never feels painstaking. The one biggest surprise, and treat for me in terms of exploration, came in the form of the Voidwalker upgrade. Once you acquire the Voidwalker the game gets dashed with a hefty pinch of Portal, but the huge difference here is that unlike Portal, in Darksiders you can shoot portals through your own portals. This absolutely tiny difference actually makes the portal based puzzles in Darksiders a little bit more enjoyable, and sensible than they were in the game they borrowed the mechanic from in the first place. That genuinely surprised me. The other glee moment, is the moment you get your horse. You don’t use Ruin as often as I would have liked, but there is one boss battle that completely relies on your ability to shoot on horseback and it’s absolute brilliance.
What is potentially the biggest standout for this game however is the combat. One of the things that has greatly frustrated me about the Legend of Zelda games as I got older was that for a limber blonde kid with a sword Link moves like a piece of cheesecake. War does not have that same problem, for he has clearly gone to the Kratos academy for asskickers. It really is a fluid and flowing combat experience that Vigil has managed to create for this game with War’s sword and amazing array of upgrade options. And much like God of War, for every kill you are rewarded with a certain of enemy soul energy that can be spent on upgrades for your abilities and weapons of which there are many. In addition to his otherworldly sword War will acquire other truly intimidating hardware like a nasty set of demonic boxing gloves, and a rapid fire pistol forged by an immortal. It’s all very cool and ends up being a lot deeper and more rewarding than the combat in any of the games that it draws inspiration from. Darksiders even manages to make quicktime events palatable, something that I absolutely loath in every other game, but in this game the sudden “X” flashing on screen makes more contextual sense here than it ever has in anything else.
My only, and largest complaint about the entire game is the huge letdown that is the final boss. When I finally got to the end of the game I had completed War’s armor, found 3 of the 4 legendary upgrades, and left a bevy of health, wrath, and weapon upgrades behind. It turned out I was completely overpowered for the final boss encounter… with almost no effort on my part I beat the final boss in a flash, and for my trouble I think I lost a single health bar. And the biggest flaw in my opinion was that I used none of the items I had acquired in my travels to do so, it just came down to some horseback riding, and combo work.
Darksiders isn’t going to win any points for originality any time soon, and it definitely owes much of it’s pedigree to some hard working alumni that have come before it, but it’s a good game of it’s own right. Everything that is presented here is done so with very hard work, and a true attention to detail that make it hard to find enough room to say anything negative. It also makes it hard for me to have any deeper discussion of the game because it apes so many things… where you might expect subtext, there is no subtext, no hidden layers. In this case what’s there is simply there. Fortunately what’s there is pretty damn good.
Darksiders is available now for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
It was developed by Vigil Games, and published by THQ
The PC version of this game is very poorly optimized, even at the time of writing this Review which is a little insane. Even with a machine well above spec I couldn’t get this game to stop stuttering, crashing, and just basically being a giant pain in the neck. What’s more frustrating is that the cutscenes have a tendency to suffer the same fate, causing audio to go out of sync for no discernible reason. The console versions are better for their ability to maintain consistent performance, but the PC version definitely looks much better. If visuals are everything, and you have a significant amount of patience, then snag the PC build, but if you just want a smoother play experience, and don’t want to hassle with tweaking, snatch it up on console. But at the same time, they should really consider patching the title again, as there are a huge number of pissed off people in the THQ, Vigil, and Steam forums wondering why they won’t do that very thing.
You must be logged in to post a comment.