I installed Darksiders onto my Xbox 360 the other day, keen to give it a shot after hearing the comparisons to Zelda, and keen to experience the first game made by promising dev Vigil Games, who have been vocal about their support for Wii U with Darksiders 2. It’s time I finally gave Darksiders a shot.
First impressions count, and my first experience booting up the game was awful. The frame rate was terrible, barely over 10-20 frames per second, and the screen was tearing in half every time I moved the camera. My game actually locked up twice too; the frame rate got progressively worse as I played and eventually STOPPED, freezing the screen. It was so bad I thought my Xbox might be broken, so I searched the internet to see if it was a common problem. It was, and “thankfully” it had been fixed with a patch. After I connected to Xbox Live, downloaded the patch, had a steak dinner, went back into the game and started anew, the game finally didn’t run like ass. The frame rate is still bad, but it’s playable now, and the screen tearing is completely gone. To think that every single copy of the game shipped like that is disgraceful. The graphics and environments in the game don’t look too demanding either: it has pretty simple geometry and not much detail. Everything feels fake and has a plastic look. The animation, however, is fantastic. The enemy design and artwork is very good, and the enemies look pretty cool as they bounce around fighting, and the cutscene animation is expressive. The effects are great too; the coloured souls flying around after you kill demons look great.
The gameplay so far is very, very basic. Killing enemies gets you souls that regain your health. Combat against standard enemies consists of one button being mashed over and over, and using a finishing move when the enemies are weak. Your sword is so big and swings with such a wide range that enemies are impossible to miss. The bosses so far have been the same, but require double-jumping to avoid attack. It feels like a dumbed down Samurai Warriors, set in an apocalyptic urban setting. Absolutely nothing like Zelda.
Every path has been linear and I haven’t had to do anything outside slashing and throwing demons. You can also pick up objects, like cars and chairs, to throw at enemies and crush them. It’s hilarious how far you can throw things – cars will fly forward at a rapid speed and disappear into the distance. It’s reminiscent of The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.
The controls aren’t bad: you basically just mash X to slash and press A to jump, the left analog stick runs around and the right analog stick controls the camera; both are quite smooth. However, one thing REALLY bugs me, I like to have my camera controls inverted. The game has that option, but it’s not the default, and when I change it, it doesn’t SAVE, so every time I boot up the game I have to manually go to options and put it back to inverted. It is a small issue, but it shouldn’t exist, and I haven’t seen such a basic feature ignored for a long time.
The “dungeons” so far have just been linear caves and buildings, and circular rooms with objectives ranging from “kill 30 respawning enemies within 5 minutes” to “kill 5 enemies with uppercuts”. Not much design has gone into this, certainly not enough to compare it to Zelda. As the game “opens up”, it gets slightly more interesting. There are some new environments outside of brown urban warfare, and I’ve been doing a bit more adventuring. Climbing walls is done pretty well in this game, you can slash things while climbing, and there’s a rapid movement jump thing for avoiding stuff; it’s interactive. I’ve also got a gliding ability, after double jumping I can hold A to hover for a bit, and use certain energy things to get a boost and get higher. I’ve noticed weird alien things hovering around that I can’t use; I have a feeling they’ll be grappling hooks. The similarities to Zelda are creeping in, and the game is getting more fun at the same time.
The story and presentation are bland and has been done a million times before, but there’s something I like about it. It doesn’t waste your time, the apocalypse is here and evil is attacking – go kill things. Collect souls. Why? Just fucking do it! This is a game that focuses on gameplay, and the story and setting is just there to fill in the gaps. It tells you what’s happening and what to do, but doesn’t bother with any backstory. There’s one dude who follows you around and randomly sets up a shop; he’s like the merchant in Resident Evil 4, complete with creepy voice. Instead of hiding in the shadows, though, he pops out of the fucking ground.
So far the game is very flawed, and the gameplay is so basic that I’m already bored of the combat a few hours in, and I’m not playing on easy either. The enemies aren’t getting any harder, they just take longer to kill and occasionally shield. The only reason I’m still playing is to see what kind of new abilities I’ll get, and find new places. The game does have a lot of potential, jumping around and climbing is quite fun, but when the destination is more boring combat, there’s not much motivation. There’s an initial cool factor of slashing shit up, good sound effects and bright lights, but for me the thrill faded pretty quickly. Maybe my bad first impression has biased me against it somehow, who knows, I’m just not feeling it. Vigil Games can be forgiven since this is the first game they’ve made, and it is a competent effort, but I hope Darksiders 2 is much better.