Looking back to all the great games that came out last year, I think everyone will agree with me when I say that 2009 was the best year to be a video gamer. A lot of AAA titles came out throughout the entire year. Darksiders was not one of those games, and I am glad that it didn’t for it probably would have been overlooked which would have been bad for a lot of people. So THQ wisely held the release of its title until January seeing that this was the best opportunity for its game to be played by all action-adventure fans. And boy did they deliver. If this is the way 2010 starts, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.
You are War, the first of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. You have been accused of inciting a war between Heaven and Hell and it is your job to clear your name and restore the balance. Like any fallen “hero”, you have been stripped of your powers but that’s ok because you still have your trusty sword, ChaosEater, to help in your quest.
As the game starts, you get to see the start of the war between the two sides and the chaos that it brought. With helpless humans running and screaming, you chase down and kill all in your way. Both sides are your enemy. So not only do you have to kill the demons of Hell, but you also have to dice up the warrior angels from Heaven. As I made my way through this intro level, I hacked up quite a few enemies each being completely different from one another. You have the typical “scrubs” that take one hit to kill and then you have the true demons that require a little bit more hacking in order to rid Earth of their presence. At the end of this level, you finally get to see the first boss which kind of lets you get a feel and the size of the rest of the bosses of the game. And boy, are the big.
But don’t let the size of the bosses intimidate you. Each boss has a certain strategy that you need to figure out in order to send it back to Hell, for example, this first boss. Sure he picks up the street you are standing on and shakes it and throws cars at you. All you have to do to send him packing is dodge the cars and throw them back at the big guy. When you connect with two car shots, the monster is temporarily knocked out. This is your cue to go and hack away. Do this a few more times, and you have defeated your first boss.
But, the catch here is that you had all your powers. After that level, you lose said powers so how are you to defeat the other bosses and the other forces of Heaven and Hell? Well, the simple answer is a ton of gear, a few more weapons, and upgradable moves. Throughout the game, you will be able to purchase a couple of other weapons, upgrade and purchase moves, and buy some gear that will help you in your quest to clear your name. You do all this by going to see Vulgrim. He has locations in each level of the game.
In order to buy your weaponry from him, you need to collect souls. This is done by destroying things in the environment and killing enemies or by finding “chests.” There are three different types of souls: Blue which is used for currency, yellow which fills up you wrath meter (which allows you to execute various Wrath abilities) and green which refills your health. This kind of “bard” system reminded me of the one in Ninja Gaiden.
While you have to buy move upgrades, your weapons are upgraded by just using them. When you kill enough enemies, your weapon will be automatically upgraded. For everything else, you need to buy. So buy wisely for it can get relatively expensive. In order to make yourself stronger, the gear and weapon enhancements you buy need to be equipped which is done in the Weapon Forge menu which is accessible by hitting the start button. The amount of things you can buy and do with your gear and weapons, at first glance, can seem overwhelming, but once you get used to it, it will become a snap.
What might not be a snap is getting used to the controls. Darksiders uses every single button on the controller. There are even abilities that are mapped to the face buttons (access these by holding the left trigger) and the direction pad. For the casual (and hardcore) gamer, this probably won’t be a problem as they are used to this kind of thing. But for the “less than casual” gamer, you will be overwhelmed and you will find yourself not caring about all the different attacks you can do with the different weapons and just mash the primary attack button. This might work for the first hour or so of the game, but in order to get the full experience and enjoy everything it has to offer, you must use every attack. So, if you start the game and find yourself getting demolished, try playing it on easy just to get comfortable with the controls. The thing with this game is, is that it looks more intimidating than it actually is.
Yes, you will die but not a lot. The boss fights really aren’t that difficult. As I said before, they all have their own strategy to defeat them. And that does mean, sometimes, to take a full on offense and run up to them and start pounding on the attack button. What I absolutely love about this game is that, while you face the same enemies very often in every level, they each are their “own” type of demon. Meaning that, by the time you beat the game, you will encounter at least a dozen different enemies unlike some other games that just have a few different ones but still feel the same.
While Darksiders does a lot of things well, I have a couple complaints. While these by no means break the game, at least one of these could have been avoided. The biggest issue I have is the screen tearing. You notice this from get go. One of my friends said that “it’s so bad that it almost takes me out of the game.” I agree with this statement, at first. As I played through the game, the action got so tense that I totally didn’t see it unless I was really looking for it. So, while annoying, it doesn’t hinder the game that much. Still, that problem should have been taken care of before shipping the game. But that is the only complaint I have with the look of the game. Everything else is pretty, well as much as it can for being the apocalypse anyways. By no means is it the best looking game, but it is far from the worst.
The gameplay of Darksiders is a mesh of a few different genres. The concept of each level being constructed as a dungeon focusing on the items found within the dungeon, are very much like Nintendo’s classic Zelda franchise. The idea that you must implement the latest item you obtain to not only traverse the dungeon, but also to defeat the boss, really pays homage to the classic series. I feel as though the presentation is very similar to God of War with hack and slash elements from the likes of the highly under-looked Conan and Viking: Battle for Asgard. The action is smooth and chaotic and isn’t bloody for the sake of being bloody.
One of the biggest highlights is the voice acting. With a slew of games having a great voice-acting cast, Darksiders is up there with the best. And it doesn’t even have Nolan North lending his voice to the game. This might be the only game he hasn’t done! But that’s ok because THQ got someone better: listen closely to the voice of The Watcher-you might just recognize it.
Darksiders is what I call a “hybrid” game. It has taken elements from other games and made them its own. Not only does it have action-adventure, hack-n-slash, but just wait until you get to test drive War’s horse, Ruin. And with smooth gameplay, awesome story and voice work, THQ has kicked off 2010 with a bang.
Review copy provided by publisher.