Darksiders™
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

More than just the sum of its parts Darksiders is a very entertaining game that nicely fills the gap in a genre that has very slim pickings on PC. It’s not going to be one of those games that people will be talking about years from now, but it’s a solid title that will keep you hooked through its 20+ hour campaign.

Gameplay: A pleasant mix of many different action/adventure games.

Graphics: Some very nice new effects bring the zone to life.

Sound: Good ambiance and decent voice overs

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Darksiders™

Developer: Vigil Games | Publisher: THQ Nordic | Release Date: 2010 | Genre: Action / Adventure | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

The long foretold Apocalypse finally arrives, and angels clash with demons with Earth as the battleground. It is the duty of the four horsemen to bring balance to the conflict. And so, when War is summoned, he enters the fray without worrying too much about where his brethren is. Unfortunately, it turns out that it wasn’t really time for the Apocalypse and of the four horsemen only War made an appearance. With humanity not ready for the conflict and thus biting the dust War is promptly blamed for the whole mess and stripped of all his powers but manages to convince his superiors to grant him the chance of clearing his name. They agree but bind War to a “Watcher” who holds power to take Wars life if he so much as strays from his mission. With all that done War is sent back to Earth. Here he has to regain his powers, unravel the conspiracy and clear his name by doing what he does best, cracking some skulls. This is just the first ten minutes of a twenty-plus hour game, so if you want a story to go with your action, then you’ve come to the right place.

The world of War was crafted (sorry) around the vision and art of comic book creator Joe “Mad,” and it shows. The character and enemy designs are very detailed and have a very comic-book style look and feel to them. The graphics are good but nothing jaw-dropping which isn’t too much of a surprise since this is a port of a nearly year-old console game. What’s not quite clear to me is where all the extra time went. This is because the game arrives with pretty much just the option to change the resolution and none of the finer tweaks that PC gamers take for granted. Nevertheless, the game is vast and has plenty of varied locations to explore. Most are of the post-apocalyptic brown and grey variety that is so overused lately, but there are some beautiful colorful areas thrown into the mix as well.

It is common knowledge that as well as being the talent behind comics like Uncanny X-Men, Ultimates 3 and Battlechasers, Joe Madureira is also a bit f a gaming geek. I have no idea how much direct input he had into the game besides his excellent art style. But Darksiders is not afraid to wear its influences on its sleeves. Depending on how long you’ve been playing games you’ll spot elements from God Of War, Prince of Persia, Dark Sector, The Legend Of Zelda, Soul Reaver, Devil May Cry, X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, Prototype and even Portal.

Some see this lack of innovation as a negative, but I think Darksiders have combined all it’s “inspirations” quite well. And, with the lack of decent action, adventure games on PC it would be madness to dismiss this one out of hand because it imitates its peers.

War’s primary weapon is an enormous sword, and cutting a path through enemies using combos is an easy but enjoyable experience. Secondary weapons like a scythe and gauntlet can be acquired and worked into your combos. However, the sword, along with some blocking, countering and dodging is usually enough to dispatch most enemies. Bosses are very old-school and rely on pattern recognition and focusing on their weak spots, but overall, the combat difficulty in this game isn’t very hard. Souls are your currency to purchase new combos, upgrades, and powers with from a creepy, demonic trader named Vulgrim. But, provided you have at least a little experience in the genre you shouldn’t see the game over screen all that often. Players that revel in the brutal difficulty of games like Ninja Gaiden might be disgusted, but I found the combat to be entertaining (stress relieving) without becoming something to dread. Besides if you think just hammering on the attack button is going to get you to the end credits, then think again.

Darksiders contain quite a lot of puzzle-solving elements, and while some of the ideas are once again lifted from other games, they remain challenging and engaging. Levels are rarely straightforward and in the best Metroid/Castlevania tradition, require the use of acquired skills and items to explore and progress fully. Whether its ethereal wings that allow you to glide for short distances, a grappling chain to reach even greater heights or a portal-style device called the “Voidwalker,” you’ll have to use your abilities to their fullest. War is a very rounded character and ticks all the right gameplay checkboxes so jumping, climbing, swimming, flying, horseback riding, gun shooting and more are all part of his sizeable repertoire. I played the game with an Xbox360 gamepad and had no issues with the controls barring certain parts where mouse aim would have made things easier. Unlike GTA4, for example, I was not able to change the controls on the fly, and a restart is needed to do so. Not the end of the world but quite an annoying omission. War has a ton of moves and combos that he can pull off, and the controls were a breeze with the gamepad. However, the game seems pretty manageable with the standard keyboard and mouse combination as well. Finishing off stunned enemies with a “fatality” style attack, flinging around cars and other objects or transforming into a raging beast can all be pulled off easily. In fact, barring the sluggish aiming for ranged weapons, the gamepad served me well.

A special mention should go to the voice acting in Darksiders with top-notch performances all around. Vulgrim with his creepy merchant voice was by far my favorite, but The Watcher voiced by the one and only Mark Hamill was also a standout. War himself has an interesting voice that fits his character well, and overall, there’s very little I can fault here. Well, apart maybe from Ulthane that sounds a bit like Shrek. The music was suitably epic although I don’t know if I’ll listen much to the soundtrack that I got bundled with the game. Likewise, the sound effects were solid, but there was nothing that jumped out and grabbed me.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Darksiders and felt like I have received value for money. The game might be single-player only, but it spun an entertaining yarn and had me hooked all the way through. At twenty-plus hours it’s well above the average length for the genre, and with Steam achievements, there’s also a bit of replay value. If you are one of those people that loathe console-style games, this isn’t going to be the game for you. Also, don’t buy this if you are the type to throw your toys at the mere sight of a jagged edge or low res texture. If however, you can still appreciate solid and addictive gameplay with a nice mix of combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving then welcome to the world of Darksiders. It’s not going to be a game that blows you away, but it’s heartening to see this very underrepresented genre on the PC.

*Review originally published in 2010.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP SP3, Vista SP1, Windows 7, DirectX 9.0c
  • Processor: AMD Athlon 64 Processor 3800+ 2.4Ghz or better, Intel Pentium 4 530 3.0Ghz Processor or better
  • Memory: 1GB XP, 2GB Vista / Windows 7
  • Hard Disk Space: 12GB
  • Video Card: NVIDIA (GeForce 8800/GeForce GT220) 256MB graphics card or better, ATI Radeon X1900 256MB graphics card or better ( must support pixel shader 3 )
  • OS: Windows XP SP3, Vista SP1, Windows 7, DirectX 9.0c
  • Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ Dual Core 2.60Ghz, Intel Core 2 Duo E6420 Dual Core 2.13Ghz
  • Memory: 2GB XP, 3GB Vista / Windows 7
  • Hard Disk Space: 12GB
  • Video Card: NVIDIA (GeForce GTS 240) 256MB graphics card or better, ATI Radeon HD3870 256MB graphics card or better ( must support pixel shader 3 )

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