THQ unveiled its apocalyptic action adventure title Darksiders two years ago at E3 2007, which was when we got our first look at the game. Back then, we were told Darksiders was an "upcoming" title. That was a word repeated often, through previews and hands-on sessions in early 2008, at E3 2008, early this year, and now, at E3 2009. We can only deduce that THQ has spent all this time rather well, judging from our hands-off demo on the Xbox 360 at this year's show. The game looks great, the combat is fast and efficient, and there's certainly no shortage of awesomely gory moments.
THQ wanted to show us something new this time around, namely some of the more chaotic-looking areas of the game. Most of what we've seen of the game so far has been in the modern metropolis stages, full of parking lots and concrete. The focus this time around was on the fantastical environments that War travels through as the game progresses. These get increasingly more chaotic as War regains his powers and battles an ever-growing list of mythical creatures. THQ also wanted to demonstrate the gameplay on horseback.
The demo we were shown took place in an area called the Ashlands, where War began fighting smaller enemies with his large sword and arsenal of impressive weapons, including a gun and a gauntlet. Although the action was fast-paced and versatile in the number of combination moves and weapons that War possessed, the game was more about exploration than combat. Most areas can be fully explored; thus, War will find treasure chests, health chests, and bonus life points. The game has also been designed without a linear story, which means War can go back to areas he's already visited and explore further. This also applies when War lacks the skills or weapons to defeat a particular enemy--he can move on and return at a later time when he's stronger.
We then jumped forward to an arena fight where War's objective was to defeat an enemy and steal his horse, Ruin. After unleashing all sorts of wrath on his enemy, including various attack combos involving his gun, sword, and a throwing blade, War finished his enemies off with a quickplay move. On the Xbox, this was done by pressing the B button when it appeared near the enemy. This time, War's finishing move was to slash the kneecaps of his enemy, a large demon-type with heavy armour, which bled to death in front of our eyes. Awesome.
Once this was done, War mounted the horse and accessed areas of the game that he couldn't before and fought different enemies. We were then shown a desert where War on horseback battled a giant scorpion monster. While on Ruin, War used his normal dash ability--on the Xbox 360 this is the right bumper--and Ruin began to run faster. In the demo, War had to use Ruin to always keep ahead of the scorpion and only attack it when its mouth fell open. Again, after a few sword hits, the scorpion was ready for the quickplay move, which War took full advantage of by slitting its long stomach with his sword.
One thing we learned during the demo was that War can pick up and drop weapons in the later stages of the game. These weapons act like turrets and will make him move slower while he's holding them, but they'll also be more powerful than anything in his possession. War's sword, named the Chaos Eater, also does something cool: As War uses it to fight, it builds up power that is displayed in a meter in the top-left corner of the screen. This meter will only appear when it's full, and once this happens, War turns into a glowing, fiery demon that unleashes destruction on anything and everything that stands in his way. This little transformation doesn't last long, but it's enough to finish off any particularly tricky enemies.
You can assign different weapons to the Xbox 360's D pad and switch seamlessly among them, which is something that will be useful when enemies begin performing their so-called "desperation moves." The closer to death an enemy gets, the more annoying it will become, which means War will have to get creative with his combos.
Also, Mark Hamill voices the character The Watcher, whose task it is to keep War in line.
What's the Same:
The combat. Comparisons to God of War are inevitable--Darksiders looks very similar when it comes to combat and weaponry, not to mention War's combat moves and the absorption of glowing orbs from anything that he destroys. The quickplay moves and combo attacks, as well as the story, are also in line with what we've seen before.
What Impression the Game Made This Time:
Overall, this demo left us in no doubt that Darksiders will be big once released. We had everything to convince us of this, from the game's sense of progression and inventive skills and weapons to its vast array of environments, which ranged from the highly fantastical to the every day.
Check back on GameSpot for more coverage of Darksiders. It's scheduled for release on January 1, 2010.