davebefree's Darksiders (PlayStation 3) review

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DaveBeFree's Darksiders Review

Do you like video games?  Namely Zelda and Devil May Cry?  Do you like comic books?  These are the questions you need to ask yourself when considering Darksiders.  It may seem unfair to precede a new IP with such grandiose comparisons, but Darksiders mostly brings this level of scrutiny on itself.  Few games so clearly plagiarize classics of video games as does Darksiders, with the result being an almost catalog of games from the past.  Unfortunately, Darksiders greatest success is proving just how masterful and creative those games were originally, in unfortunate contrast to this multitasking doppelganger.

Darksiders drops you straight into the end of days as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  Although at first the plot seems particularly novel, especially when placed against the decidedly bland video game landscape, it quickly turns into a convoluted mess.  The dialog is fun, and well done, but the meaning behind the words will go over your head so often that it simply becomes necessary to accept whatever is said, even if it makes absolutely no sense.  What's more the characters you interact with in the game are incredibly memorable, but there simply aren't enough of them.  Samael may be one of my favorite characters in the history of gaming, as he is particularly twisted and menacing, but the fact that he is practically the only person you interact with for half of the game diminishes from the overall felling of immersion.  

So what are you doing in between talking to people and advancing the plot? Cutting stuff and solving puzzles.  In a lot of ways the gameplay of Darksiders feels exactly like Zelda with mature themed combat.  When fighting you can throw out simple combos with your sword, use magic abilities, or use your ultimate meter to turn into a big fiery demon, all while being soaked in gallons and gallons of demon blood.  It's a good mix, but it never approaches the quality of a Devil May Cry, or a God of War, and by the end you may be a little fatigued on it all.  Thankfully, you will spend most of your time solving puzzles, unceremoniously ripped from other games.  You'll have a hook shot to cross chasms, a shuriken to hit switches, and a gun to... well... shoot stuff.  Again, the puzzles have a life and aesthetic of their own, but they never fully shake the feeling of deja vu.

The game also has some exploration and progression elements tacked on, neither of which are truly engaging.  You can upgrade your health, find more magic meter, learn new combos, etc., but War is already so powerful (even on the hardest difficulty) that none of it is really necessary.  This review may sound melancholy, but that's because it is.  I really wanted to love Darksiders, and I had a few moments of true exhilaration over my 15 hour or so experience.  To a degree, I find it a very daring game, as it attempts to reminisce and honor some of the most memorable experiences in gaming history.  However, it succeeds more in feeding your nostalgia and longing for those classics, then it does in creating it's own legacy or unique experience.  As a result you'll probably return to the franchises it is based on more eagerly, making Darksiders a forgettable (albeit enjoyable) gaming diversion. 

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