This review also contains a video of the first 10 minutes of gameplay in Darksiders.
It is easy to see why so many people would compare this game to God of War or Dante’s Inferno up front without even knowing much about the game. The themes do seem kind of similar, in the sense that they are all related to religious and godly views. However, Darksiders is a very different kind of game to what you might be expecting. Sure it’s full of demon slaying action, but that is far from the meat of the gameplay. Do not put this game down as another action adventure experience similar to the likes of God of War and Dante’s Inferno, because Darksiders has a strong balance between action and platforming styles of gameplay.
The game’s plot focuses on a premature apocalypse occurring, leaving War (one of the four horsemen) with the task of figuring out what happened, and where the rest of the horsemen are. Whilst heaven and hell are at war, your objective as one of the four horsemen is to try and bring some kind of truce between them. Sound interesting? Well although it is an interesting theme; the set up is poor, as the opening stages of the game are very confusing. One reason for this may be that Vigil wanted to ease the gamer into the combat aspects of the game, thus the first few levels focus mostly on the fighting aspects of the game.
At first, the fighting system will seem way too simple; with one button allowing you to slaughter the enemy with War’s sword, and one button allowing you to jump, then another button performs a finisher once the enemy is stunned. Eventually, you unlock more abilities, which give you more ways to deal with enemies, making the combat feel as though it evolves as you progress through the game. Though you still can’t put the fact aside that the game genuinely does feel like a button masher, however playing on the higher difficulties will help with this, as you will then have to pace and plan out your attacks in a more strategic way. Dealing with the bigger enemies is where you generally have more difficulty, but once you figure out the right pattern of striking him a few times and jumping out of the way of his offense, it all becomes simple. Interacting with the environmental damage can also work to your favor, as you are able to pick up and throw around cars, lampposts, and various other environmental elements you may find laying around.
The fact that Vigil paced this game out so perfectly, is actually what halts the game from feeling like a complete button masher, which I must say was a very brilliant thing to do. If Darksiders had too much combat it would indeed become very tiresome. Which is why you will actually feel happy that the game gives you a break from slaying demons, and moves onto some elements of platforming and puzzle solving. The transition from one style of play to the other does wonders for your brain stimulation. In truth, the game is well paced, however during the transitioning stages the game may begin to feel very slow moving, which is why perhaps the game will take you up to 20 hours or so to complete.
Though the puzzle elements are not too difficult to deal with in the first few hours of the game, they can take a while to deal with. This can make the game slightly off-putting at times, but Vigil does it’s best to throw a couple demons in there from time to time, which makes you happy to be able to slay something again.
There are many different toys that you receive throughout the game to play with, the problem is that you only really need to use them in the following moments of when you first discovered them. Sure you can use them whenever you may feel like, but it only actually feels necessary to use them when the game has presented you with a puzzle requiring that item. A saving grace is that eradicating your enemies doesn’t just ease your stress, but it also grants you souls in the game, which can be used to unlock new weapon abilities.
Darksiders has excellent sound, which caught me completely off guard. The game sounded amazing when hooked up to my budget sound system, and even whilst playing through just my TV speakers, I could hear the sound of each aggressive thud of War’s feet slamming to the ground. Darksiders will definitely satisfy those who play close attention to sounds in every game.
Although the visual presentation of Darksiders is very impressive, it is far from what you may imagine after seeing all the CG. When you first get to play the game after seeing the opening CG scene, you may be a little underwhelmed. After a couple hours of playing, however, you begin to fall for the scenery. You will begin to adapt to the game’s style, making it look stunning in its own right. Sadly though, the Xbox 360 version of the game suffered from a lot of screen tear, but the good news is that I hear there is a patch coming to fix the issue. Exploration is also something that can be rewarding in Darksiders, whether you receive a couple more souls, a health boost, or some nice weapon enhancements. The environments are very small in scale at times when you have a set puzzle, but there is still plenty of room to backtrack and find hidden chests and such.
Overall Darksiders is an experience that deserves your attention. It may be underwhelming during the first few hours of gameplay, but this is mainly because Vigil is getting you used to the various aspects of the gameplay that make up what Darksiders is. Many of the greater gems that make the game exciting are introduced hours into the story, which keeps the game fresh. It is unfair to compare Darksiders to any other game, as it stands on it’s own. Even if you were to compare Darksiders to other games, Dante’s Inferno and God Of War are far from appropriate comparisons. I would say Legacy of Kain or even Zelda is more worthy comparisons. If it’s a simple hack and slash or an action adventure that you are seeking, then Darksiders is not that. Instead, it suits those seeking a fulfilling adventure, full of refreshing gameplay elements that have been missing from many games this generation. With January being so crowded Darksiders does not deserve to be dismissed so early.
For your enjoyment we have also decided to include the opening 10 minutes of the game, so you can read the review and then watch the game in action.
Shout outs to James G for recording the footage.