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I’m sure all of you out there have them.  Those games that you WANT to play but for some reason never have.  Time, money, other games, we all have our reasons.  So as I found myself in the market for something to play, Xbox live reminded me:  Darksiders!  Now, Darksiders is not an XBLA game.  It was a full retail game that now is now available as a download for $19.99.  Taking a shot with it has convinced me of two things.  First is that I am ready for the digital download age.  Not only did I not have to go out to a store and buy something, or want it NOW but have to wait for an order to reach my house, but also the game is just there right on my hard drive.  The super lazy part of me even enjoys that I don’t have to get up and change the discs in my Xbox (Do I want to play Rock Band or Need for Speed….well Rock Band is already in there, let’s play that!).  The second thing is that Darksiders is a game I should have taken a look at earlier, because as it turns out, this is a solid action/adventure game.  It’s not game of the year material by any means, but especially for $20, it’s well worth playing.

The first thing almost any review says about this game is “ZELDA!”  So let’s get that out of the way.  Darksiders is indeed very similar to the legendary Nintendo series.  Powers and items earned throughout the game will let you open up new areas and backtracking through others with the newfound powers will open up treasures that are unreachable before.  Zelda does it, although the start of the game reminded me of another famous Nintendo series, Metroid.  War (one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse) starts out with all kinds of cool powers, but shortly loses them in true Samus fashion.  Speaking of War, the plot here is serviceable but nothing truly stands out.  War, and the other horsemen, are there to intervene in the war between heaven and hell if all seven seals are broken.  The seals breaking means the clandestine war that humans have no idea is going on can go all out and most likely destroy humanity, so it’s up to War and his bros to beat both sides back into submission if that ever occurs.

Damn it HEAVEN, I'm trying to save the world! Back off!

War is summoned to do just that as the game begins, as Angels and Demons battle it out in the streets of major cities across the world.  However, something is amiss.  It turns out that all seven seals had NOT been broken, but somehow War was summoned as if they were….and both heaven and hell are blaming him for causing this mess.  War decided the easiest way to solve this is to murder everybody, but when he suddenly loses most of his powers, he’s defeated by an exceptionally large demon called The Destroyer.  His boss, giant stone heads that talk and are on fire known as The Charred Council, tell him that they’re going to kill him for causing the whole end of the world thing, unless he can stop it.  So off War goes into the ruins of the Earthen realm, having to defeat demons to get to the Destroyer, hold off the forces of Heaven who still blame him and are trying to kill him because of it, and not piss off the charred council anymore, who are now watching everything he does by possessing him with a being known as “The Watcher”.  The Watcher is voiced by Mr. Mark Hamill in what doesn’t QUITE sound like the Joker but is close enough to make me think of the clown prince of crime commenting throughout my game, which is fun.

The gameplay is a mix of puzzles, platforming, and combat.  There’s nothing truly challenging that I’ve encountered in Darksiders.  Some of the puzzles will take a few minutes, you’ll miss a jump here and there, and a boss usually killed me once or twice before I got the pattern down, but this is a game that’s easier than those it might be compared too.  For example, Devil May Cry or Bayonetta veterans will find themselves blasting through this game, as the combo system has a ton more wiggle room and enemies just don’t seem to take as many hits as foes in most action games do.  That’s not to say that it isn’t fun though.  Zelda comparisons are apt here, but only for the combat if Zelda was EXTREMELY VIOLENT.  Most enemies have a finishing style move (think God of War) done to them once they reach a low health threshold and these are as gory as you would expect them to be.  War will slash foes in half, decapitate them, pull off wings when appropriate, etc.  He’ll do all this with three main weapons:  His sword called Chaoseaster, a giant Scythe, and something called the Tremor Gauntlet, which basically is just a giant metal fist with which you pound enemies faces in.  Smaller secondary weapons include a gun, a serrated metal ninja star that acts like a boomerang, and what basically amounts to the classic Zelda hook shot.  All of them will be used in combat as well as the puzzles.

Using the comically oversized Scythe to harvest some souls.

The world of Darksiders is impressive in that it’s BIG.  There is a warp system that lets you travel to specific points on the map, but you could in theory run all the way across one side to the other.  The environments are varied, from ruined cities of humanity, deserts, underground tunnels, forests, and what feels like hell itself in one lava inspired level.  Chests and artifacts are scattered about everywhere.  The sheer amount of things to collect in Darksiders is crazy.  The three main weapons can all gain levels and equip an enhancement, which are found throughout the world.  Artifacts will net War souls when he turns them in to a demonic shopkeeper named Vulgrim.  Souls can in turn be used to purchase new techniques or upgrades for weapons, items that will restore health, wrath (think mana), or chaos (charge up the chaos meter to turn into a giant flaming demon…good for clearing rooms quickly!).  There’s always something tucked away in the corners of the game world, which makes exploring it interesting and rewarding.

Mark Hamill as the jok.....The Watcher, rather.

Sound and voice acting are somewhat uneven.  Hamill if of course great, but the actor playing War is…..one note.  The voice sounds fine, but he always has the same tone and attitude for every single situation.  The other NPC’s hit and miss even more, with some ranging in the very bad category sadly.  The music is present but forgettable, it’s the expected mix of gothic and more action oriented stuff that fits the game and mood but fails to really capture your attention.

Those of you itching for a Zelda type game (but smart enough to NOT own a Wii) will find plenty to like here.  The combat is visceral and fun (if a bit easy), the environments are good looking, and the plot is interesting.  The real star though is how it all comes together, creating a huge world that War fights his way through.  The myriad of collectables really captured my interest as I always felt like if I just played a couple of minutes longer, I would find something worthwhile hidden away.  Darksiders, when broken down into its parts, doesn’t seem like much.  But it’s one of those games that when put all together ends up being enjoyable.  Way more enjoyable that I thought it would be going in.  And now it’s downloadable and $20?  Easy recommendation.  Also, War eventually gets his horse, Ruin.  How could you NOT want to hack enemies apart on this?!

Ruin is a freaking badass.


One Response

  1. I just finished this one myself. The story is good. It’s really good. This is a great game for $20, and I can’t wait for the next one. It’s twice as big, and you play as Death. Let’s just hope THQ can stay on their feet for more Darksiders and Saints Row. Anyone wanna buy a uDraw?

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