(For The Campus Times January Issue)
Okay let me try and explain a bit of the backstory first. Long before the mankind began the earth, the forces of Heaven and Hell were beating the crap out of one another constantly. To calm things down, an entity known as The Charred Council said “Knock it off will ye?” and sent in the four horsemen to force a truce between the two kingdoms. The two kingdoms say “Ah may as well give it a break for a bit.” Eons after this truce, the Kingdom of Man was formed on earth. Charred Council decided “Sure we’ll give em a go” and decides that a final war between the 3 kingdoms will be eventually fought. Once humanity is ready and capable of kicking some arse as well, seven sacred seals will be broken.
Fast forward to present day, Armageddon begins on earth and the game starts. During this one of the four horsemen, War, arrives on earth to keep order in the battle. However the other horsemen haven’t arrived, and the seventh seal wasn’t broken. War’s power gets taken away and he gets squished by a massive demon. Saved from death, the Charred Council blames War for the apocalypse being brought so early. War says “Hold on a sec now, lemme fix it. Don’t be goin’ killing me yet!”, and so he’s sent back to earth. With one of the councils chosen, The Watcher (voiced excellently by Mark Hamill) , to keep a reign on War’s powers and actions. Problem is, a century has passed and Hell now reigns on earth.*
Now that the background is out of the way, let me just say one of the strongest points for Darksiders’ is its story. It might look fairy convoluted up there but that’s the only complicated part. Even though it can get silly and outlandish at parts, it’s delivered with such enthusiasm and an excellent cast of characters that you get swept up in the world that’s created. Mark Hamill is excellent as The Watcher, hissing orders at you as he floats behind you. War himself doesn’t talk much, but it makes him more of a badass somehow. He’s here to kill and that’s it. Whenever he does speak, it sounds like he’s just barely holding back to urge to kill whoever he’s talking to.
Darksiders’ feels like one of those class action adventure games. Almost all of it’s parts are borrowed from other games apart from the story and art style. However what it borrows, it does very well. The game is overall like a mix between Legend Of Zelda’s dungeons, Devil May Cry’s combat and enemies, and God Of War’s combat and epic boss battles. Speaking of the boss battles, every one of these is a highlight in the game and rival any of those found in God Of War. Combat can range from just a simple button masher, to a vast array of weapons and abilities all of which can cut your enemies to pieces. There isn’t exactly an expansive range of moves and weapons, but when you’re playing you won’t even notice because it’s so much fun just hacking away. Drag them towards you with a chain just so you can uppercut them and then go nuts, or chuck a car at them.
Unfortunately it’s in the combat that one of the game few flaws can be found. Blocking in Darksiders’ is very difficult and at some point it just feels like a pointless addition. This is because many enemies in the game use unblockable attacks that just shear away your health. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as most games have a dodge roll or evasion of some sort. Instead you get a dash move that lets you dash straight in one direction. Some of the tougher enemies just degrade into dash-attack-attack-dash-attack-dead. Another fault lies in the games use of The Watcher. You’re told he’s there to make sure you don’t get out of line, but also to help you along the way. While he does show you the exit, when its blatantly obvious that there’s only one door, almost anytime I got lost or stuck in a dungeon with puzzles I would summon The Watcher to tell me what to do. He would respond with “WHAT DO YOU WANT!? GET BACK TO WORK HORSEMAN!!” ……It wasn’t helpful at all…..
However these minor flaws never affect the overall fun and action packed playtime you get with Darksiders’. The puzzles and bosses might seem very challenging every now and then, but it never feels impossible. You won’t have to worry about chucking your controller at the wall. The world and characters are unique to the game, and backed up by an interesting story full of twists and turns. Combat is fun with no shortage of brutality. War is a badass of the best kind, and a great main character. Many games try to take a spin on the “world has ended” story but Darksiders’ does it better than any of them. This is one of the best action adventure games available. Well worth a rental if not a purchase. 9/10
*Not actual in-game dialogue. They probably explain it better than me.