War isn’t having a good day. He’s been betrayed, stripped of all of his powers, he’s being hunted by demons and angels and he has to prove that he didn’t cause the apocalypse. He probably misses his horse, too. Still, it’s not the end of the world! Oh, right. Well at least he’s not dead. For the moment. The player, as War (one of the fabled Horsemen of the Apocalypse) starts the game by finding out that someone has betrayed him and started the Apocalypse long before it was due. What do you do? You stab things with a massive sword, that’s what, and Darksiders definitely isn’t short of thing-stabbing, nor is it short of things to stab – you’re always going to find something to introduce to your sword (called Chaoseater), which is generally a good thing in a hack ‘n’ slash game. Thankfully, enemies respawn after you exit and reload the game, which is a blessing, especially if you want to go back and revisit areas when you have more powers and, as such, can access more rooms. It’d be quite dull if you were wandering around empty environments, after all.
Except that this isn’t just a hack ‘n’ slash game. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll be hacking and slashing like your life depends on it (because it does) but you’ll also be levelling up your weapons, and adding enhancements to them for various perks, such as more damage, faster weapon levelling and collecting more souls. Souls are the currency of the game, enabling you to buy goodies, weapon upgrades, more moves and sometimes even weapons. Your main weapon is definitely Chaoseater, your sword, which is almost as tall as you are, but you can buy Death’s scythe, which is one of the first things you should buy, and you will find the Crossblade, which is remarkably similar to the glaive in Dark Sector. You’ll also discover a metal gauntlet, which is remarkably similar to the gauntlets in God of War 3, amongst other things to cut and bludgeon with, including a gun.
Herein lies a tiny problem with the game – it’s got a lot of ideas, but they aren’t always its own ideas. Like most games, it borrows from everywhere, but it’s considerably more obvious in Darksiders than in others. Luckily it’s similar to Modern Warfare in that, whilst we know that Modern Warfare does borrow considerably from other places, it still manages to feel like its own game whilst doing so. Darksiders does the same thing, it’s clear that things have been taken from other places, but the game itself blends everything together with just enough freshness. For example, Kratos’ own attitude and verve is omnipresent throughout the game, with pretty much every character being thoroughly fleshed out and over the top. Ideas from Zelda appear in the way areas open up as you unlock abilities, and pretty much every vaguely similar hack ‘n’ slasher appears in that the main character is endlessly badass and accomplishes the previously-believed impossible.
The story, as you’ve probably gathered, is full of heaven and hell, with angels being considerably more awesome than you might expect and demons being, well, demons as you pretty much know and love them, and you’ll dabble with both sides of the pearly gates, fighting both angels and demons. Entry-level enemies consist of the tear-through-them-relatively-quickly zombies that are like flies landing on your hand that you idly swat away but these are swiftly replaced by things that have swords, which are generally reinforced by things that have fangs. The proper demons are all actually quite interesting: they’re normal enemies, but they all work in different ways. For example, one of them is almost cat-like in the way it pounces and moves back again, whilst there’s a large silvery armoured knight that just continues to come at you whilst you hit it as much as possible. The former is dispatched quite simply whilst the latter is considerably more difficult because hitting it doesn’t seem to bother it too much, and you’ve got to break all of its silvery armour before you can actually kill it. You can’t just charge in and stab randomly because it will kill you, so you have to dodge and actually be quite tactical.
That is exactly what I enjoy the most about Darksiders’ combat. Because there are so many different types of enemy, and they’ve all got to be fought in different ways, you have to change how you fight depending on what’s just popped out of the ground in front of you (enemies often climb out of the ground in what I assume are circles of power). Further down the changing-how-you-fight path, the game does a lot to keep you on your toes, whether it’s the enemy you’re fighting or a specific type of target. Right at the beginning of the game, after what I like to consider the prologue in which you are super-powerful and serves as a quick intro to the controls and exposition, you’re given a ‘horn’ that is used to move massive, living gates. After you use it once or twice, however, the gates are cursed (because they’ve been helping War) and can’t move, so you have to break that curse to move on.
The only way to do this is for that particular Tortured Gate to give War the ability to see into the shadow realm so he can find various challenges and complete them. Doing this will lift the curse so it can get out of your way and you can move on. The challenges involve fighting, things like kill a certain amount of enemies in a time limit, or in a certain way, or even keep some allies alive, and their brilliance is twofold – first, they make you fight in a particular way, so it not only keeps the fighting fresh but helps you keep the game fresh elsewhere by using moves you’ve grown used to in the challenges. Second, they serve as mini-tutorials for things you might have overlooked, or not really bothered with.
The combinations of enemies, the gates and even the storyline are all used to provide freshness in what would otherwise be a very repetitive hack ‘n’ slash affair, and it’s these scenarios and changes that keep you from getting bored in the fighting. That’s not all that’s here, though. The game is also full of puzzles, some of which are, when you get over the slight oddity of a Horseman of the Apocalypse solving puzzles, quite intelligent and will require you to stop and think for a second. A hint: observation is the strongest weapon you have against these brainteasers. I missed a few simple things because I was too busy trying to figure out the puzzle, which I couldn’t solve because I’d missed a simple thing.
Another segment of the game is exploration. You can play through the game without exploring everything, but not only will you miss out on a big segment of the gameplay, you’ll probably make the game more difficult for yourself, too. If you find everything you can find (which isn’t likely) along your way, you’ll be quite a bit more powerful than you would be otherwise, whether it’s because you’ve got more Wrath (essentially mana, for wrath abilities, which is essentially magic) by collecting Wrath Shards, more souls to buy equipment and moves or more enhancements to add to your weapons. So exploring is well worth the time it takes if you’re looking to beef yourself up. Which you are, of course.
You’ll definitely need to be all beefed up if you want to stand any chance against the bosses, all of which are massive, as you would expect. Whether batlike or wormlike, they’re all huge and should be stabbed as such. They’re normal boss battles – remember the pattern and hit it at the right time, so they’re nothing special, really, but can still be quite difficult. The bosses don’t look particularly unique either, so each of them will remind you of something you’ve seen elsewhere.
In fact, the whole game isn’t going to look too unique to most players. You’ll go through several locations, from inner city, to sewers, deserts, and none of them look like somewhere you haven’t seen in another game – and sewers may well be the most overused environment in gaming. Granted, there isn’t really much that could be done with such places, as they’re expected to look like sewers, and cities, and deserts, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy seeing them all the time. The plus side to the many environments in the game is that you’re not stuck looking at the same dull colours through the whole game, like in so many other games. The graphics aren’t always set to make a passer-by’s jaw drop, but there are times when the game looks great. It’s not rivalling God of War 3 by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly not a bad looking game either.
Overall, though, Darksiders is a stunning fusion of RPG and Hack ‘n’ Slash that pays off brilliantly. A large chunk of the game may have been borrowed from elsewhere, but it all comes together in a distinctly unique package that is well worth your money. It is definitely different enough from the other hack ‘n’ slash games to be worth the outlay, and from the virtue of its RPG-type features it’s well worth buying in its own right. If you don’t want a game that plays exactly like God of War (such as Dante’s Inferno) and isn’t completely out of its tree in everything it does (Bayonetta), Darksiders is the game for you. With a storyline that can only be described as awesome and gameplay that is brilliant fun and plenty varied throughout, it’s hard to recommend Darksiders much more.
- Combines ideas from all over the place into its very own game.
- Combination of RPG and Hack ‘n’ Slash works brilliantly.
- Storyline is excellent.
- Combat stays fresh throughout thanks to enemies and scenarios forcing innovation in your own fighting style.
- Rife with badassery.
- Not the prettiest.
- Animations sometimes look a little stiff.
- Art style has been seen before.
- Bosses are relatively dull.
Verdict: You may have seen a lot of what Darksiders brings to the table elsewhere, but it’s all combined in such a way with sprinkles of new ideas that keeps the game fresh and innovative.