Game Review: Darksiders

Darksiders

In 2009 I began working with Mrs B on her website FemaleGamers reviewing the latest console games. Sadly, our other commitments meant the website couldn’t continue and we brought it to an end early in 2010. I’ll be using this blog to review all the games, recent and not so recent, that I encounter. With Mrs B’s kind permission, I’ll also be posting some of the reviews I previously worked on, so don’t panic if they refer to previous years and months.

Darksiders (2010) (PS3)

DarksidersWith the Xmas festivities now behind us and the traditional January gloom setting in, it’s a welcome relief to be handed a gaming gem to lift the spirits and begin the New Year in style. With Darksiders, Vigil Games have turned to the story of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and from those archaic origins have crafted a terrific title.

Darksiders is grounded in the traditional battle between good and evil in the form of angels and demons. With both sides constantly at war the Charred Council, acting as a brave mediator, somehow forces both sides to agree to peace, a truce cemented by Seven Seals and the forming of the Kingdom of Men. It is foretold that when the Seven Seals are broken a war between men, angels and demons will be fought. The game opens with War, one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, arriving on Earth in response to the call of the Seals being broken. War finds the world devastated with men on the brink of extinction while demons and angels engage in spectacular battles throughout the city. In the midst of the fighting, War meets Abaddon, head of the angel army, and learns the Seals have not been broken after all, the other Horsemen haven’t been summoned and therefore War has broken the laws of the Charred Council. Moments later Abaddon is killed and War defeated by Straga, one of the Destroyer’s Chosen demons. War faces the Charred Council and is condemned to death for bringing the Apocalypse to the world early. However, War manages to persuade the Council to return him to Earth so that he can discover who was responsible for beginning the battle he has been blamed for. The Council agrees on the condition that War be tied to a spectral being known as the Watcher who retains a hold over the horseman and ensures he sticks to his task. War returns to Earth a century later to find mankind have been wiped out, demons are the dominant force and the dwindling angels seek retribution against War for the death of their leader.

Darksiders is an action/adventure reminiscent in look to previous games of this genre, a notable one being Soul Reaver. At the start you are limited in energy, weapons and skills, a hallmark of the Charred Council’s punishment for War’s transgression. As you work your way through the game War will obtain a multitude of weapons that must all be applied to progress and ensures at the same time that no item you obtain can be ignored or dismissed as useless. Such acquisitions are essential in unlocking areas previously sealed off from War. Your first task on reaching the city is to seek out the demon, Vulgrim, who, with a rather unnerving voice, becomes a mainstay of your adventure providing useful items and enhancements in exchange for the souls you obtain in combat or from treasure chests. There are three types of soul to be gathered with blue souls being your currency to trade with Vulgrim, yellow souls increase War’s Wrath level helping launch devastating attacks while green souls augment your energy levels.

After the meeting with Vulgrim, War encounters another demon, Samael, who gives him the task of seeking out and defeating four of the Destroyer’s unique demons known as the Chosen. This task begins the first major section of the game as War negotiates some stunning locations including a cathedral, a desert infested with giant and deadly worms and a ruined subway where derelict trains can be utilised to solve puzzles. Throughout your adventure there will be a lot of fighting and thankfully Darksiders excels in this department. Not content with having War simply hack and slash at foes with his sword, he is able to pick up objects such as cars and hurl them at enemies from a safe distance. The carnage and destruction you can create in the many environments is reminiscent of the latest Hollywood action movie. As War becomes stronger, his battle options increase with weapons such as a handgun, grappling hook, gauntlet and much later his trusted steed, Ruin, all being acquired to push War one step closer to being the powerful being he once was. If that’s not enough War has access to the Chaos Form where he turns into a fiery giant and is seemingly unstoppable; that is until your limited time in this manifestation runs out.

Puzzles play a large part of Darksiders, in fact if you glance at your list of statistics documenting such notable facts as how many foes you have killed and how many gallons of blood you have spilled, you will also find how long you have spent fighting. Personally, after passing more than 20 hours of gameplay I found that only 3 hours had been spent in combat. The rest of the time is exploration and puzzles but such a large difference is never noticeable when you play. Being honest, I thought I’d spent more time fighting than anything else. The puzzles themselves range from straightforward to difficult. They can be anything from flicking switches, moving large objects or blowing up walls with bombs. Though some of the puzzles I faced had me scratching my head for a while, I would always find a solution in the end. The puzzles filter over into your boss battles and it is in these exchanges that Darksiders is at its best. Your opening battle and inevitable defeat against Straga requires you to hurl cars at him while the giant demon grabs hold of the road you’re standing on and proceeds to shake it and you. Other notable battles were at the top of a cathedral and riding Ruin into battle out in the desert. Each boss requires more than simply hacking at them with a sword; there is always another cunning method to be unearthed and if successful you are eventually treated to some terrific conclusions as War takes sole control of killing each boss in a bloodthirsty but memorable manner.

There is little wrong with Darksiders. It is a violent game but never to the extent that it would alienate gamers. It is certified as 15 and is unsuitable for younger gamers. Darksiders can be challenging at times, particularly some of the boss battles but the best advice as always is to persevere and you will find the solution. If you can overcome those minor issues then Darksiders has much to offer with a good storyline, many hours of gameplay, and some of the best action sequences you are likely to see.

Darksiders is the perfect start to 2010. Though influences from other games are clear to see, Darksiders still manages to excel on its own merits. If you’re looking for an action/adventure that will keep you busy for hours then there is no need to look further. It’s only January but it’s hard to see Darksiders not being in the Top Ten Games of 2010.

Final Score: 92%

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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