By Drew D. / December 22nd, 2016
|Release Date||Original – Sept 22, 2010
Warmastered edition – Nov 29, 2016
|Platform||PC, PS4, Xone, WiiU (TBA)|
|Age Rating||M for Mature|
Darksiders is an action-adventure RPG set in a post-apocalyptic earth, in which players take control of War, one of the Four Horsemen, in an attempt to stop the raging battle between Heaven and Hell. Drawing heavily from similar genre games like the Zelda series, Darksiders is a quest-filled, hack-and-slash, platformer, RPG adventure which has players exploring the dilapidated world while collecting equipment and powering up War as he faces off against the mightiest foes Creation has to offer. Originally released in 2010, Darksiders recently received a rework called the Warmastered edition with improved graphics, resolution, and rendering.
Although very loosely based on New Testament scripture, Darksiders is an original story that develops its own version of existence and the realms and entities within it. In Darksiders, Heaven and Hell have forever been at war, but never overcoming one another. To maintain this balance in power and draw a sense of order from that balance, a conciliator group called the Charred Council formed and established the Four Horsemen, enforcers who maintain order and prevent a sway in the balance. With order came mankind and the Kingdom of Men was formed. The Charred Council recognized the part man would play in the war and mediated a truce between Heaven and Hell until mankind was ready to participate. Seven seals were forged to symbolize the truce and when all were broken, the war would begin again, as well as summon the Four Horsemen.
Gameplay begins with an apocalypse, as the armies of Heaven and Hell converge on Earth for one massive, final, yet premature showdown. War the Horseman arrives to find the battle raging, but notices the lack of his fellow Horsemen and the unpreparedness of man. War also learns that not all seven seals were broken. So why had he been summoned? War is quickly drained of his power (by who…?) and killed. Fast forward one-hundred years and War is resurrected, only to find out that mankind is destroyed, the earth is in ruins, and he is to blame. Our adventure properly begins as War asks the Charred Council to investigate and identify who is truly responsible for restarting the war and ending mankind.
Since the main character’s name is War, combat is obviously going to be an essential part of the game. Fortunately, combat is easy to master so players can focus on dispatching enemies and not fumble with the controls. War’s main attacks are structured around swordplay; simply tapping a button starts a combo. War can acquire a scythe or gauntlets as a major secondary weapon, allowing War to vary his melee attacks between his sword and secondaries for different combos and effects. Certain collectables can be directly equipped to the sword and secondary weapons, augmenting their damage output or providing abilities, such as increased defense or health regeneration. Different skills are learned throughout the game, which may add an attack or status effect (fire, poison) and are activated with Wrath, the game’s magic system. Sub weapons can also be used to add range and additional damage during combat, however they have more significant use during the game’s platforming and exploration sequences.
Outside of combat Darksiders has players traversing the ruins of the world, and that requires a great deal of platforming. Similar to the Prince of Persia games, players will be climbing over terrain, running along walls, gripping ledges, swimming, jumping, and much more to get from one objective to the next. In classic Zelda fashion, more of the world opens up as players collect and utilize sub weapons, like the Abyssal Chain to grapple and swing from point to point, or the Voidwalker to open portals and connect two distant points instantly. Platforming and sub weapons are closely tied to the many puzzles that need solving to progress through the game. Getting from one end of a room to another may require the use of several sub weapons, careful timing, and quick platforming to reach a destination. Fortunately, it is all challenging enough without becoming irritating and never to a point where the action comes to a screeching halt. Players may have to attempt a puzzle more than once, but rarely more than twice, which is satisfying to complete without sacrificing game flow.
As for the field of play, Darksiders borrows from other games in the genre, but also tries a few new concepts. The most noticeable deviation from tradition is that instead of dungeons, larger, more open environments play that role, taking you in and out of dilapidated cities or sprawling landscapes within that major area. Not only is it a welcome change from the constrictions of a traditional dungeon crawl, but it would feel out of place since the whole world is meant to be game’s playfield. In traditional fashion, boss fights and the acquisition of a major power up indicate conclusion of that area. Despite the grandness of these locations and the tone and style they add to the overall experience, the paths you take through them are painfully linear, with some areas only having a single way through them. Even after players have obtained new sub weapons, they may only be used once, if ever, during a revisit, only to reach a small alcove hiding an item, rather than continuing to open up areas for exploration. In too many cases, once the boss is defeated or the items are procured, there is nothing else but to move on without looking back. The unimpressive main hub, which lacks any exploratory value and only serves as an intersection to these locations, only adds to the linear feel of the game and all together dissuade the want or need for any real exploration.
Now, for the game’s resources and overall feel, Darksiders provides an immersive experience during play, but lacks anything significantly memorable. The graphics are impressive to the point of expectation for a game of its time. The Warmastered edition improves on these visuals with native 1080p resolutions, doubled texture resolutions, improved rendering, and allowing for 60fps frame rate. Whether you are playing the original version or the remaster, the graphics are solid. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much to look at. The visuals of the game are dull and repetitive. While some locations are highly detailed and contribute to the tone of the game, too many locations are lackluster. Broken cityscapes do not have to be oceans of monotone. I would have appreciated more detail to the ruins around me. In the desert area, I would have appreciated more visual cues to indicate there is still a demonic military presence outside of the random groups of enemies. The environments are boring and the linearity of them does not help any.
With lackluster locales comes lackluster audio. While many locations in the game call for silence due to lifelessness (and there is a ton of silence), it gets old fast and feels incredibly lazy. The few tracks available, while fitting for the environments or situations they are used for, are quickly forgotten. And while I understand the developers’ efforts to produce works (or silence) that would fit the ruined, lifeless tones of the game, the sweeping effect is that of mediocrity instead. The sound effects are solid, from the smashing of objects to the dispatch of enemies; they are what you would expect from the genre. They fit and nothing is out of place.
The only real standout in terms of audio is the dialogue. Cutscenes with conversations between War and the few, yet colorful characters of the game really get you into the story. The condescension from the Watcher (voiced by Mark Hamill) is an excellent contrast to War’s no-nonsense speech. Other characters, such as Uriel or Samael, all have their own personalities and their dialogue fits them nicely. Each major character plays well off of War since they all force respect and caution out of one another. The dialogue helps color a game in need of coloring and it strongly adds to the story. Despite the pros gained from the dialogue, cutscenes, and the beautiful graphics, the lacking soundtrack and the plain visuals are still enough of a con to hurt the overall experience.
Darksiders is still a great game which, despite its flaws, delivers a fun campaign and captivating storyline. The combat defines the game and many of the battles are remarkable to the point of epic. War is a badass character and most players will be enticed enough to play through his story and find out what happens to him. It is absolutely worth a playthrough or two and if you can look past its flaws, you’ll easily get into the action.