A year ago I tried to get into Darksiders, but only made it a few hours. A lot of things about the game rubbed me the wrong way. Namely the forced patch, broken graphics, and brain-dead combat. I decided to give it another chance, because I really want to be excited for the Wii U sequel. I just beat the game on Normal and there’s a lot more to it than I initially thought, but it’s still a crappy game.
This sums up the depth of the combat. Very basic button mashing with the occasional dive or block thrown in. To its credit, slashing the X button does feel amazing. The weight of your character combined with the huge sword clanking makes it somewhat soothing to mow down enemies. When they’re almost dead a “B” icon will show up for a finishing move. At first I thought this was a lame way to finish off an enemy, but as more enemies start flopping into battle, the finisher move becomes useful to dodge. You’re invincible while doing it and your character does a retarded animation and hovers towards the lucky enemy with the “B” icon, as you glitch away from danger. Later on it gets more interesting, as enemies take 50 slashes to kill instead of 10.
The dungeons are the good part of the game, and this is where we get a hint of clever design from Vigil Games. The items are nothing new – boomerang, hookshot, portal gun – but they are used to full effect and Vigil really stretches the environment to its limit. Vines are climbed with robust agility, blocks are pushed, terrain is altered, trains are punched, and beams are directed through multiple rooms. There’s some pretty crazy shit; one of the final dungeons might as well be a giant rubiks cube. It’s not frustratingly challenging but my brain did get a nice workout. Some of the boss fights are quite amazing too and make good use of whatever new item you just got.
Unfortunately, the fun stops there, and it’s hard to even enjoy these dungeons when every second room locks you in with 100 baddies that teleport up from the ground. It made me groan every time and it’s a terrible example of pacing. The more I played Darksiders the more it felt like I was taking part in an experiment. Each new item opens up a new exciting area of the game world, but also reveals just how sloppily put together everything is. Everything is contained and blatant, and uncovering “secrets” is simply a matter of backtracking.
The music is a big talking point for me here. There is none. The ambient rumbling is good, but it doesn’t suit the game at all. This is a highly action-driven game with a good dose of exploration thrown in; Vigil missed a big opportunity with the music. The entire game sounds the same in dramatically different areas and it lessons the impact of finding a new place. One of my favourite things about Metroid or Zelda is finding a new area, and looking around in awe as a catchy new melody massages my ears. Darksiders has no melody or compositions whatsoever and its identity suffers from it. Absent music suits a game like Fallout 3 or Fragile Dreams but not Darksiders. Looking for a sound guy, Vigil? I’m available.
I can’t tell you much about the story because it’s complete garbage, and halfway through the game I started skipping cutscenes. The dialogue is generic and the conversations don’t even make sense.
“You must redeem the glory of hell to infinite on thy crotch.”
“Perhaps. But first to the sky of heavens of an angel.”
“Indeed. Let’s battle, for glory yet might of not.”
If you told an 80 year old to come up with a “videogame story”, Darksiders is what he would come up with. The game is devoid of humour, inspiration, messages, foresight, or any kind of anything at all. It doesn’t even try to make you smile or surprise you. It’s frustrating because the art design is fantastic and there’s some amazing environments in this world. I appreciate the emphasis on gameplay, but a hint of personality would have made a huge difference.
It was worth playing just to see some ridiculous dungeon design, but I’m not coming back for Darksiders 2. I can’t imagine playing a sequel to a game that is basically already a ripoff of several different games. What are they going to do, copy different games this time? The development team clearly has talent but no direction whatsoever – Darksiders is a very “safe” and smart first game that is probably the result of the current market. It looks amazing in trailers and has a watered down version of every modern gaming concept. Hacking and slashing, on-rails shooting, third person shooting, lots of blood, souls, demons, double jumping, horse riding, quick time events. It’s like a bunch of talented artists all did their own thing, then threw everything together a month before the game came out. 5 games don’t fit in 1.