Many action games are now aiming at an all new formula, one that was popularized by games like Devil May Cry and God of War. One such game is THQ's all new Darksiders, a story about War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. As of late, the hype around Darksiders began to build and it looked like THQ had a bonafide hit on their hands...or at least a title that's garnering quite a bit of attention, enough to likely succeed and sell well. With games like Bayonetta out, and Dante's Inferno and God of War III due to arrive very soon, how well does THQ's ambitious title stack up?
Well, don't stack this up against games like God of War III, that's on a whole other level. But as a whole, Darksiders is a decent beat 'em up game with some pretty good controls, which are extremely crucial in a game like this. The story is also engrossing, as it deals with War being blamed for bringing on the Final Battle, leading to the destruction of the Earth and it's people. Without getting into the thick of things, he testifies before the Charred Council, stating that he had answered the call of the seventh broken seal and sprung into action under the assumption that the Final Battle between Heaven, Hell, and Man was underway. It wasn't, and because War was the only Horseman to engage in battle, he is pinned for the atrocity. War pleads with the council to allow him to clear his name and is sent back to Earth stripped of all his powers and shackled to The Watcher, a keeper who will kill War if he shows any sign of disobedience. It's been 100 years since War entered the premature battle, and all of man kind has been eradicated, so your enemies are demons and the undead.
You spring into action with your giant sword, the Chaoseater, in hand. Different colored souls from the enemies you defeat will act as your health source, magic source, and upgrade source. Of course, just as you'd expect, even though War loses all of his powers, he will eventually regain them all as you progress through the game. Just like every other game in this genre, there is a straightforward upgrade system you'll use. You'll gain a number of different magic abilities, moves/attacks, as well as weapons, including a gun called Mercy. Eventually, you'll also be able to strap on your red horse Ruin, and ride around when you're in the open world.
Level design, is not this game's strong suit. Your locations are often bland and drab, both to play and look at. This, in turn, makes it a little difficult to really immerse yourself into the world, because while the story is interesting, the world isn't. On the other hand, you shouldn't have too many problems getting around the game, as controls are straightforward and easy to get adjusted to. My one complaint, though, is that perhaps the action isn't nearly as over-the-top as it could've been. Sometimes controlling War feels a bit...heavy. Where as games like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, God of War, and even Ninja Gaiden are light on their feet, Darksiders isn't.
But Darksiders is definitely not something I'd call a bad game. And while it may feel derivative, it's not exactly generic. It falls into a weird categorization, and I'd say that it's worth looking at if you're a fan of this particular action genre. The story is well done, even if the environment isn't, and the action is fun and diverse enough to keep you entertained, even if it isn't the deepest. And since you can easily spend 15 hours on the story, you're getting a decent amount of game for your money.
The visuals are nothing to write home about. Darksiders is not a particularly good looking game, as its riddled with bland texture detail that's lacking polish. The cutscenes, which look a bit sharper, still manage to make all of the game's imperfections that much more obvious. Character detail is sharp around the edges, and the environments aren't what I'd call great to look at. On the plus side, the frame rate is pretty solid running mostly at 30 frames per second, with only the occasional frame dip or screen tear. Still, if you're looking for something good looking, Darksiders is not it.
The audio is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the voice acting could've been a bit tighter, and the distorted voices for some of the hellish characters are pretty generic in execution. On the other hand, Mark Hamill, who voices The Watcher, is basically using his Joker voice for the character and it works extremely well in the game. There are parts outside of Hamill's acting that you'll like, as well, but those distorted voices will probably get on your nerves quick. At least the soundtrack is acceptable...perhaps a bit too derivative like other parts of the game, but acceptable.
Darksiders is definitely a game that's capable of becoming a full blown franchise for THQ. For a first game, the gameplay is executed fairly well, even if it isn't the deepest or best designed game. Visually, it can stand to see a number of improvements across the board, but it doesn't make you want to gauge your eyes out, at least. That said, give it a little time for the price to come down a bit on the game, and you'll probably find yourself enjoying it for about $30-40. But with Bayonetta already out, Dante's Inferno and especially God of War III around the corner, for $60 Darksiders is a hard pill to swallow.
1/7/2010 Arnold Katayev