The early runaway gaming hit of the year is here in Darksiders. Jeffrey Harris checks in with his full review of the game.
Title: Darksiders Publisher: THQ Developer: Vigil Genre: Action-adventure/Hack and Slash Players: Single player Rated: M For Mature
I've been excited about Darksiders since I first checked the game out way back at San Diego Comic-Con 2008. Then 411mania got to play and preview it at E3 and check out even more at SDCC 09. Now we've finally got our hands on the game and Darksiders has quickly become a runaway best seller early in 2010. This review is for the final PS3 version of the game which was also released on the Xbox 360 last month.
Darksiders puts you smack dab into the Armageddon of the Earth itself. You are War, literally the War horseman of the Apocalypse. War and the other Horsemen are servants of the Charred Council, a mysterious group of entities that seeks to bring balance to the war of Heaven and Hell. This balance is upset when War answers to the call of the Apocalypse as Heaven and Hell have started the end war on present day Earth. Unfortunately this war was not supposed to start until Humankind was ready and the Seventh Seal was broken. War is promptly blamed for starting the Apocalypse and War requests to go back to Earth to find evidence to clear his name. The Charred Council allows this, stripping War of many of his powers and bonds War to a powerful phantom called The Watcher ("Hey! Listen! Over here!"). With the forces of Heaven and Hell out to get him, War searches a ravaged planet to try and clear his name and uncovers a greater and more sinister conspiracy.
One of the cooler elements to the story of this game is at the start you actually take part in the Apocalypse of Earth, definitely something different for a videogame which will constantly allow you to see a ravaging or the destruction of Earth, but not actually be a part of it. Over the course of the game you make some tenuous alliances and also FRENEMIES! War also gets back his mount, Ruin, one of the coolest moments of the game and finds out why the other Horsemen did not show up for the End of Days.
The graphics are smooth and sharp and the game has a wide, lush use of colors. I've been a huge fan of Joe Mad's artwork for years, and it's awesome seeing his work finally come to life in this format considering he pretty much left the comics world to focus on videogames over the past several years. The Xbox 360 version of the game has reportedly had issues with screen tearing and glitches which Vigil released a patch to fix. I've noticed no such problems with the PS3 version. The frame rates and resolution are fine.
One problem I did experience was during the worm and Stygian battles that the screen would start skipping and having slow down. This didn't crash the game but did cause some minor problems and glitching. However, this is the only graphically visible problem I experienced while playing the game. Pretty much all of the in-game cut scenes save for the opening are done in FMV and the same style as the game. This helps cutting back on load time as the game is virtually seamless and you aren't stuck waiting through a million different load screens.
Some critics have called this game a God of War clone, but the visual style is anything but. The creature and character designs are amazing, and props to Mad for actually being a little more conservative with the female characters. I mean, I like Red Monika as much as the next guy, but . . . c'mon. The bosses are huge and ridiculous looking as they should, since they are the harbingers of the end of the world. I'd always enjoy the mini-boss fights almost more than the actual boss fights since you would see some of the more interestingly designed characters like the Jailer. Samael's design is pretty awesome since it's reminiscent of Lord Darkness from the underrated Ridley Scott movie, Legend. Seriously, rent it sometime, it's really good. Tim Curry as Lord Darkness is a trip.
The environments and levels are very nicely designed and well done. The Ashlands area was my personal favorite because with the Stygian and worms it almost felt like I was playing a good version of a Dune videogame. My one little issue is that I wish some of the environments of the levels and demolished cities looked more clearly identifiable. I mean clearly at the very start of the game you are in NYC. And I assume in part of the rest of game you are in NYC, but I think it would have been cooler and more devastating assuming War's mission takes him around the world if you could see some more clearly identifiable world cities that have been ravaged by Hell's forces.
"What are you buying? What are you selling?"
Alright, here we go. Once again, this game has been derided and criticized by some as being a God of War clone. This has become a popular and almost overused, cliché amongst the gaming media these days. But honestly, going back for decades, you can find games that play exactly like other games, same style, look and everything. And the games could still be awesome. Similarity between games does not make games bad. Now, there are certainly elements in this game that are like GOW. The action and combat is similar. The on screen button commands leading to enemy kills are similar. But even GOW did not originate that gimmick, so itís really an invalid complaint. More than anything, I loved and enjoyed the combat and action in this game. Ever since I played the game at E3, I enjoyed the smooth and responsive controls. The game is very easy to pick up and play. Not to mention, the game really lets you feel powerful, and as you progress you get even stronger and more powerful so you can slice and dice your enemies with ease. I enjoy badass combat gameplay.
Camera control is fairly well done in the game. My only problems with the camera were in certain climbing parts. One of my favorite camera features is when you get an onscreen button command to kill an enemy and once the in-game combat cut scene starts, you can still continue to move your camera around so you can see what bunch of enemies are right behind you ready to strike. I don't recall the GOW games being able to do that with the camera while you slice your enemies to ribbons.
War starts with his giant sword, the Chaos Eater at the beginning of the game. Over the course of the game, he can pick up more weapons like the Harvester scythe and Tremor Gauntlet as other melee weapons. As you progress, you gain more long-range weapons like the Crossblades and the Mercy handgun. Besides the weapons War eventually possesses, the environments of the levels are very interactive and you can pick up and grab "environment" weapons like cars, cages, street light poles, parking meters, and even road signs to go to town on the bad guys... When you also fight and kill the Hellguard Angels, you can gain their holy bazookas that fire potent Jesus Juice. Also, destroying environmental items is a good way to farm for extra souls. Getting extra souls lets you buy new combos, attacks, power-ups, and enhancements from Vulgrim.
Over the course of the game, War can also attain enhancements and powers that you can use to customize and improve your weapons or attacks. There are enhancements that increase the power and damage of your sword and give you higher Chaos energy. At the start of the game, War has the power to turn into a giant, demonic like "Chaos" form, which War loses early in the game. Later in the game, War gets the power back, and the enhancements let you get Chaos energy more quickly, as well as increasing the length and time of your limited Chaos form. Using the L1 button and D-pad you can start using your wrath attacks which are special moves limited to the yellow wrath power gauge on your screen. Pushing on your D-pad without holding L1 lets you switch your long range and melee weapons. So these are the kind of RPG elements that are worked into the game, and it's very easy to get a hang of them.
One of Darksiders biggest strengths is the amazing melding together of the elements of RPG and action-adventure games. I've never been that big on RPG's, but I quickly got addicted to how I could enhance my weapons and attacks in this game. A good portion of your play through in the game also has you in "dungeon" type levels where you have to solve puzzles and tricks to advance to your next big fights. These puzzle solving levels and rooms are mixed in with a lot of combat and action as well, so the game never gets too boring.
The boss fights are great and a ton of fun. I would often have problems getting into the strategy of beating the boss. Tiamat, the first major boss in the game was the toughest since she flies around most of the time, and you have to precisely throw a bomb at her without getting burned or slashed to death. And then you have to throw your crossblade while the bomb is sticking to her. This was a little tricky. Other bosses require some clever maneuvering in order to start beating them.
The battles with the Stygian and the demon worms were awesome. These are the boss battles you get to fight on War's horse mount, Ruin. I was getting mauled constantly until I figured out that once you keep holding R2 (lock on button) while on Rui, the camera will continuously stay on your quarry and you can easily ride away from the worms and stay ahead of them while you unload your badass Mercy handgun on them. There is a part in the Stygian boss fight where the Stygian unleashes some helper worms on you. The gameplay has some absolutely amazing shots of these demon worms jumping out on the sand trying to land down on you while you shoot them back to Hell. Awesome sauce.
Samael is talking about War wanting to land Uriel the Angel.
The voice acting and script for this game is top notch. No one does dark, brooding, and yet noble and heroic quite like the powerhouse voice acting veteran, Liam O'Brien, who plays War. You might also remember O'Brien as Angel/Archangel in Wolverine And The X-men and Gaara in Naruto. Alongside War through most of the game is The Watcher played by the legendary Jedi, Mark Hammill. Movie and TV star, Moon Bloodgood, was inoffensive as the commanding Hellguard angel, Uriel. More than anything, despite the somewhat outlandish nature of the characters and story, all the dialogue was actually pretty cool and appropriate. I really dug the hell out of all these characters and their voices, especially Samael.
The game has an excellent score composed by Mike Reagan and Cris Velasco, who also did the GOW series. The game has a very good, distinct sound with the music that really reflects the ravaged world hell has become and danger and demons lurking around every corner. Sound FX and monster noises all sound really loud and ominous as well.
Freaking Joe Mad and his freaking drawing me with these freaking big hands. How the hell am I supposed to drink a beer with these things?!
The game has great combat and action, some innovative boss fights, great designs, and a great story and script. The game has virtually no load time and runs almost seamlessly. Game saves and leaving and going back to play are easy to do. The game does an excellent job of merging elements of other gaming genres and styles to make something that is unlike anything you have ever played before.
"Evil, meet my Sword! SWORD! MEET EVIL!"
Here's where the game has some of its drawbacks. Aside from the single player mode, there's not really anything else to do in the game. Now, the single player mode is great -- no question. Once you are done with the game, you can challenge yourself in playing through the other difficulties of the game, this time with your powerful Abyssal Armor. Rumor has it that Vigil wanted to originally incorporate other ideas like a multiplayer mode and also the other Horsemen characters (I believe some of the weapons you pick up were originally designed for the other Horsemen if you find Joe Mad's character designs online). This game also could have used a battle arena or challenge type modes where you can fight an onslaught of enemies to get more achievements. Actually, there are these types of levels within the games when you need to break the Cursed Wall's curse to progress in the game. But you cannot play these types of levels once the game is beaten. There are additional and more difficult achievements you can attain to go platinum as well. Some challenge levels or multiplayer would have definitely pushed the game over the top.
I eat demon bats for breakfast!
Darksiders, for what it did, turned out great. With the stage that's set at the end, a sequel looks even more ambitious and awesome, provided Vigil can do more of what was originally planned for the first game but was unable to get to and incorporate. Looks like War's going to be busy bringing a lot of his namesake for the years to come. Now if only Joe Mad would do some more Battle Chasers comics. Hell, I'd take a Battle Chasers videogame at this point.
Creative director, Joe Mad, brings a great, unique design style to the game.
I'm going to throw my crossblade at you and let it spin and slice you in half vertically while I cut you in half with my sword horizontally. You can't do that in GOW.
Great voice acting, awesome music score, and great, layered sound quality.
The game could have used some additional content besides the one player story mode, but it still works very well.
The game runs great with little wait or load time and excellently mixes up RPG and action-adventure styles.