There’s hardly a shortage of post-apocalyptic games in the industry. Most often, when there is a post-apocalyptic game it usually focuses on war between countries, not so much the forces of heaven and hell. If the game does focus on the forces of heaven and hell then… well it gets a little too preachy for my tastes. Darksiders, developed by Vigil games and published by THQ for the Xbox 360 and PS3, features both without being too bible-y.
To me, the biggest draw of this game was the game’s creative director, Joe Madueira, a comic book writer and artist known for working on the Uncanny X-men. The game’s story itself sort of reflects the comic book background in the game’s story structure and overall plot. You play as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, who is sent to earth. The problem is, he wasn’t supposed to be there, and he is blamed for starting the apocalypse early. He’s given a chance to prove his innocence and get his revenge.
The story itself sets up a very interesting focus for the entire game, with one major flaw. The characters with in the game are a bit too bland. Heaven’s forces is filled with self-righteous know-it-alls. Hell is filled with cruel beings who aids your quest for their own agendas. The game even has it’s own stout blacksmith with a Scottish accent. The bland character archetypes take this interesting concept, and make it follow a lot of the disappointing twists you expect. It does feature Mark Hamill though, and that’s something.
The gameplay is something unique in that it’s similar to a game we don’t see mimicked often, the Legend of Zelda. The layout of the levels is similar to that of zelda games, the boss fights are similar in that you use the new gadget that you got inside the dungeon to kill them, and of course there’s a horse. However, not all is so mirrored. A big difference in the games comes with in the combat.
Unlike the Legend of Zelda, Darksiders features a few weapons to choose from, and a combo system that is more than the same attack pounded into the enemy’s head. The combo system isn’t as complex as something like Devil May Cry, or Bayonetta, or even God of War, but it makes the game stand as it’s own when compared to something like Zelda. The ability to earn new abilities and upgrade your weapons by using them is a nice change in an equation many gamers are all too familiar with.
The game’s dungeons and bosses themselves are… familiar. The visual design for the two is really something impressive, but the typical design is one not too original. The emphasis is more on combat rather than puzzle solving, but in large it’s the same old design of going to a dungeon, finding a new gadget, use that gadget to get further in a dungeon, use gadget to beat the boss. It’s not a bad design, just one not overly original, and so it’s a bit disappointing.
Perhaps the best part of the game is what it takes from having a comic book artist for a creative director, the art. Darksiders is filled with some really impressive visuals. Great looking levels, extremely awesome looking character designs, and some absolutely amazing graphics. There are a lot of close-ups in this game during the cut-scenes, and they never make the game look bad, only better. Save for the opening sequence, the cut-scenes largely look like some really clean in-game graphics. What tends to suffer because of this isn’t the framerate, but some really annoying screen tearing(which THQ is saying will be patched shortly). It happens often, but doesn’t effect the gameplay much, just rubs me the wrong way when it happens this often.
Darksiders is, in large, a Zelda clone with better combat and a more interesting, if not slightly cliched, story and characters. The gameplay is fun, thanks to the entertaining combat with in a tried-and-true formula. The story does suffer from some turns and characters that aren’t completely original, but the story creates a base for an interesting setting. The graphics in the game are superb, but the cause for a few major screen-tearing issues. This is a mature Zelda, and any fan of the Zelda series will enjoy this game greatly.