Developer: Vigil Games / Publisher: THQ / ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Suggestive Themes) / Played on: PS3 / Price: $19.99
Engaging combat, demonic enemies, and puzzle solving is what you’ll find in Darksiders, the first game from developer Vigil Games. Taking place shortly after the apocalypse, Darksiders places you in the role of War, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse on his quest for revenge against demons and angels. Borrowing elements from other adventure games like God of War and Devil May Cry while adding a charm all its own Darksiders doesn’t bring anything especially innovative to the genre but is still a blast to play.
Darksiders does a fantastic job of showing the player the desecration and carnage left after the End war in which all mankind was slaughtered. The landscapes and backgrounds are all different depending on where in the world you are, ranging from a lush forest grotto to a spider-infested dungeon. A lot of detail was added to ensure the locations look as convincing as possible, with cracked walls and doors scattered about, broken glass and blazing fires emitting from buildings, and walls and ceilings dripping with water.
The level of detail continues to flourish in the characters themselves, which feature the same amount of attention given to the levels. War, the main character, looks downright badass with his red-hooded cloak covering his massive armor and sword. When War is moving you can actually see his weapons and armor shifting around. While it’s not anything game changing, it shows a finer attention to detail that adds to the overall experience. Enemies in Darksiders tend to get a little repetitive but regardless look very convincing for demons from Hell, with some enemies sporting horns and spiked bodies or even bodies made from fire and stone. The real highlight of the enemies War faces are the bosses in the game. A huge cage-wielding creature, an absolutely gigantic sandworm, and a demonic spider are just a few, and they all feature vibrant colors and look beautiful in motion. And that’s really where the game shines graphically: watching War stab his sword into the hand of a beast to hold it down while he uses his fists to pummel the creature’s face to a pulp just looks amazing.
Taking place after the apocalypse and in the midst of a war between the angels in Heaven and the demons in Hell, you play as War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. After having mistakenly been summoned to end the lives of all mankind, you later find out that you have been set up, and you are on a revenge-filled quest to find out the real culprit and restore your power and prestige. You will eventually come into contact with a demon known as Samael who tasks you with obtaining the four hearts of the chosen, truly vile and powerful creatures. Boss encounters and story progression are well balanced and the action flows smoothly.
While the game has an engaging story, it borrows heavily from other adventure games from a gameplay perspective. Anyone that has played any Legend of Zelda or Devil May Cry will see a lot of similarities. You start off your journey with little more than a sword to slay your enemies, but through exploration of dungeons you’ll come across new ways to decimate your foes. A boomerang like blade, a long grappling hook, and a juiced up revolver that doesn’t run out of ammo are just a few of the items you’ll come across in your exploring, all of which will be used as both weapons to slay enemies and tools to aid in dungeon exploration. War can also call upon his own built up fury and transform into a very powerful demon form, which grants limited invulnerability and a massive strength boost. After you’ve laid the smack down on your opponents, you’ll sometimes get a cue to press the circle button to perform a cinematic and brutal death sequence. These kill sequences are rather satisfying, and really demonstrate War’s strength as one of the Horsemen.
On top of this you also collect souls by killing enemies or finding them in chests. These blue skull-shaped orbs act as currency that can be turned in at certain locations to Vulgrim, the game’s weapons dealer. Spending souls grants War new combo moves, new spells like stone armor, which increases War’s defense, and blade geyser, which allows War to summon powerful blades to burst from the ground around him Aside from new weapons and attacks you can also purchase extra health and spell power from Vulgrim to increase how much damage War can take and how many spells he can cast before having to refill their respective gauges.
Darksiders features a multitude of different gameplay mechanics. You won’t spend the entire game running from place to place, as eventually you’ll come across areas that cannot be accessed simply by walking. For example, towards the middle of the game you’ll have to traverse an expansive desert which has a gigantic worm living under it that is just dying to devour you. Only when you have freed your horse Ruin are you able to safely journey across this area. Other levels feature areas that are entirely sunken underwater, while some areas require you to glide from platform to platform. There is even one point in the game where you get to create two-way portals to solve a rather tedious puzzle. Action isn’t the only thing Darksiders has going for it, as many of the game’s areas require you to solve puzzles and obtain keys hidden deep in the depths of the dungeon in order to progress forward. While the highlight of the game is more so the action and fight sequences, the puzzle aspects and dungeon crawling is very well done and makes each successful completion of a level that much more rewarding.
There are a lot of abilities and special actions that War can utilize throughout the game which can cause some confusion when first playing. Basic attacks are assigned to the square and triangle buttons, with jumping and guarding assigned to X and R1 respectively. After you start to acquire new items and combos, however, things can get a bit more confusing as some items like the boomerang-like cross blade or the revolver require you to hold down other buttons in order to properly function. While not a bad layout for buttons by any means, it just takes some time to remember what button causes which action, and what you need to hold down in order to lock on to a target. That being said, the game handles very well and after an initial learning curve for the controls, it becomes almost second nature to pull off multi-weapon combinations. Sending an enemy flying high into the air only to yank them right back down with your grappling hook for further beating makes it all worthwhile. The game handles swimming and horse riding sections extremely well, with both parts feeling very intuitive and responsive. For a game featuring many items and moves to use, Darksiders does a fine job of making it all come together.
For as well as Darksiders looks, it sounds just as good. The voice actors of the characters really add a lot to the story and feel of the game, with talents such as Mark Hamill lending their voices. Characters and enemies alike will talk during battles, and will cry out in pain when you’ve driven your sword through their hearts. The background music fits the scenes well, with creepy, disturbing melodies filling the halls of dungeons and terrifying tunes accompanying the depths of Hell. It can sometimes be hard to distinguish the music from all of the sounds coming from the environment and the enemies, but the tracks still fit the levels well. Sound effects range all the way from the slight dripping of water from pipes to the whoosh of a dragon’s wings as it flies by. The sound effects make the world seem a lot more real as spiders squish when you step on them and metal grating clanks when you run over them. Already a stellar presentation, the sound in Darksiders makes the game that much more appealing.
Being the first game released by Vigil Games, Darksiders is a fantastic adventure game, even if it borrows gameplay elements heavily from other established titles. Despite that, Darksiders executes everything together in such a way that you won’t mind if it’s not doing anything too mind-blowingly different. The game looks and plays amazing, with great animation and graphics, even when the screen is littered with enemies and spell effects. Fans of the adventure genre or fans of games like The Legend of Zelda or God of War should definitely pick this one up and give it a try.