king9999's Darksiders (PlayStation 3) review

It all depends on how you approach Darksiders as a game.

Darksiders is an interesting game from new developer Vigil Games. It takes elements from various popular games and wraps them around a story loosely based on events from the Bible. The game's graphics even resembles a certain world-renowned MMORPG. To its credit, Darksiders mostly succeeds in meshing these various gameplay elements together, but the best way to approach the game is to think of it as a more violent version of The Legend of Zelda. If you try to play the game with any other expectations, you'll be rewarded only with disappointment.

Darksiders begins with Armageddon-always a good way to begin a story, right? The twist is that the purging of the world occurred a bit too early, thus upsetting the delicate balance of power between Heaven and Hell, and leaving both parties broken and battered. The game's protagonist is one of the Four Horsemen; you play as War, who is framed for passing judgment when it wasn't called for. War takes it upon himself to clear his name by finding the real culprit and figuring out their motive. Along for the ride is The Watcher, whose job is to make sure that War carries out his objective and doesn't try to rebel against his masters. The Watcher occasionally serves as a guide, either by telling you what your next objective is, or by showing you something of interest. He's essentially the Darksiders version of Navi, except he's annoying in different ways.

For the first few hours, Darksiders might not seem all that great thanks to the limited combat, but its strengths become apparent once you reach the first dungeon. The game's dungeons share more than a little resemblance to Zelda, but it was Vigil Games' decision to imitate from the best. Dungeons are a joy to play through, and although they are few in number, they're quite lengthy, and take up a good chunk of the 15-20 hour quest. Another thing that Darksiders does well is provide constant rewards; it feels like you can't turn a corner without acquiring a shiny new item. Items range from new dungeon tools, to passive skills, to weapon enhancements. There's a shop where you can purchase new moves for each of the weapons you currently have. You can also buy wrath abilities, which are essentially magic skills that require a sufficient amount of wrath meter.

There's plenty of power at War's disposal, but it's a shame that all that power doesn't need to be used to any great effect. If you're expecting combat that's on the level of Devil May Cry, then you're looking at the wrong game. War can hurt his enemies any number of ways, but Darksiders doesn't do much to encourage using anything other than your basic weapon techniques and a handy dodge move. The other problem with combat relates to control; you can lock-on to a target by holding down the L2 button, but if you want to use a wrath ability, you must hold down L1, then press any of the face buttons with an assigned skill. Now, it may be that I'm just not accustomed to using my middle finger to press a shoulder button, but using a wrath ability while locked on is more complicated than it should be. There are other scenarios where the controls could have been simplified, but they are areas of opportunity for a likely sequel.

The graphics in Darksiders are very pleasing, even if the characters look like they came from something straight out of a Blizzard Activision game. The Xbox 360 version of the game apparently suffers from some heavy screen tearing (which will be fixed according to the developer), but rest assured that the PlayStation 3 version has no such issues. The music is standard fare, with ambient tunes and choruses peppered throughout, but there's actually quite a bit of silence. The lack of music may just be a design choice, perhaps as a way to illustrate the aftermath of the end of the world. The voice acting is quite good, with some recognizable voice actors lending their talents. Mark Hamill in particular reprises his role as the Joker, now known as the Watcher. Joking aside, the voice suits the Watcher's character just fine, but it's a little strange hearing that iconic voice being used for a character other than the Joker.

Let's be clear here: Darksiders is not an original game in the slightest. The developers knew what kind of game they wanted to make, and in that regard, they absolutely succeeded. Not many games can consist of a mishmash of genres and still be considered good. Vigil Games has made a solid effort for their first attempt at making a game; let's see if they can carve out a more unique identity for the inevitable sequel.

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