A great inspired hybrid game but not without flaws
Many similarities have been drawn between Darksiders and games such as Zelda, God of War, Portal and so on. All of these comparisons are fair but it’s more accurate to say that the game is simply a massive hybrid of good game design; an homage to other games we’ve all enjoyed or at least heard about.
Whether you think of it as simply derivative or not their is no question that Darksiders pulls off every borrowed mechanic and similar idea just as well as the games it seems to have derived them from, in some cases even doing a better job.
You begin with a very limited number of abilities and gameplay options but as you progress more and more become available to you, as you would expect in a game that claims to be more of a Zelda clone than anything else. While the core combat system is much more basic when compared to titles such as Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry the fact you can seamlessly switch between your collection of weapons and items on the fly makes up for this. Most double as weapon and puzzle solving items, the Crossblade for example functioning as a means to raise platforms from afar, explode and set fire to things or stun enemies at range.
You eventually end up with so many items that you will essentially be forced to develop a preferred set as you can only ever use four at a time without having to go into your character screen and re-assign one to a different quick use button. While your secondary melee weapon can be toggled on the fly between one of two, upgrading both and your main weapon becomes expensive and heavy grinding will be the only means of maxing out all three. Not to mention all the other aspects of War you could be putting upgrades in to instead.
Combat is fluid and fast with your arsenal and the many upgrades you can obtain always keeping things fresh and interesting. Like in RPGs you will also gain stat items that grant various bonus's to items and abilities, extend your Chaos Form time (war's true form; the one button spam ownage form) and increase things like health and Wrath; your magic pool for special attacks.
Where Darksiders combat does fall a little short is War’s targeting and evasion system. Performing either actions is easy enough but when you become surrounded by more than a handful of enemy’s things can get a little tedious as the targeting system favors low enemy counts and becomes a little unreliable when the numbers increase and the enemies themselves get a lot tougher. I found myself having to spam the dodge which also doubles as a charge (depending on which way you point the stick) quite frequently in later levels.
War can counter after blocking but because of how hectic things get its rare that you are able to pull off such a move without taking an axe in the back. For this reason the difficulty of Darksiders can fluctuate but as long as you keep upgrading and finding those precious health items you should do fine, that still doesn’t change the fact the system is a little wonky.
A large part of what made Darksiders so enjoyable for me and perhaps helped me see past its flaws was the visual design and feel of everything. The characters, the weapons and the environment all have a heavily comic book influenced feel to them. It is a dark and mature setting but it never strays in to what I call ‘gears-of-yawn’ territory where everything is de-saturated and truly bleak and is instead quite vibrant and full of personality.
While their is no real life aside from the occasional bird and all the wandering hellish creatures out to kill you it is still an interesting and well designed version of a post apocalyptic Earth set a hundred years after demons take over. In a lot of areas you will feel as if the levels are designed solely to be more fun and challenging instead of realistic which I quite enjoyed as it made up for the simple fact outside of traversal and completing tasks with your items or killing things their isn’t really anything else to do. Not that their needs to be as it’s all stupidly fun; something a lot of modern games often forget about.
You can interact with some objects but they all end up being environment weapons you can use against enemies or breakables that give souls, the currency of the game. So yes this is a very gamey game, while it has a competent story and some great characters and fiction the world of the game itself is more about interactive entertainment than immersion.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story from start to finish and grew to like not only War but a number of the games characters. Samael became a particular favorite of mine as he reminded me of other really well written evil characters with a lot of depth. I’d go in to more detail but that would spoil the story so instead I will simply say he plays a significant part that directly relates to the games progression itself.
The voice acting in Darksiders is utterly brilliant, it seems as if every single character had the perfect actor cast to play them with Mark Hamill (The Joker in Arkham Asylum) even making an appearance as the Watcher, an annoying floating demon who spends the entirety of the game with you acting as your ‘Cortana’ for those of you familiar with Halo’s intuitive guidance system.
Now the main reason I have rated the game four instead of five is based on the fact I had some annoying experiences mostly consisting of the end dungeon boss fights. In all of these you are never told what to do in order to defeat them, in fact you are given no real guidance or hints at all and I as well as a number of people it seems had quite a tough time figuring out what had to be done in order to not get utterly annihilated in seconds many times over.
In all honesty I had to consult a FAQ more than once which to me is a sign of bad game design. Upon learning from the internet what I had to do the fights quickly became a lot more fun and less of a rage-inducing sanity test. Some people prefer this kind of game design as it is akin to older gaming experiences of time long since passed but someone who prefers more modern ‘hand holding’ in my games it hindered my experience for a time.
Darksiders on PS3 also has some frame rate issues that seem to pop up randomly, none were ever bad enough that they broke the game for me though.Overall a very fun game with some minor flaws here and there. I highly recommend it to anyone who is even remotely interested in what it has to offer.
Here is a recap of the main points of good and bad I made in my review:
- Cool setting
- Good story
- Awesome characters
- Well designed and executed gameplay for the majority of the game
- Amazing visual design
- Some annoying boss fights
- Combat system becomes a bit tedious in more intense fights
- Some non-game breaking but still existent frame rate issues