Darksiders: Wrath of War Impressions

Stylish combat, classic adventuring, and an epic story make for one of the most promising games in THQ's stable of upcoming releases.

Ever since Darksiders: Wrath of War was first announced at last year's E3, not much has been seen of the game in the intervening months. That changed this week when THQ showed off an updated demo of this action-adventure game at a press event here in San Francisco. Though we didn't get the chance to grab a controller, the demo being shown was still impressive enough to pique our interest and cement Darksiders as one of the highlights of the evening.

Yes, there’s a giant hole in that building. No, we don’t know if this demon put it there.

Without much gameplay information to draw upon, our original preview of Darksiders from E3 focused primarily on the game's ambitious plot. For those who may not be familiar, the story is set right after the Earth's apocalypse, with angels and demons fighting among the remnants of the world. You play War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The intriguing part of the story is that War is very much a lone wolf who refuses to take sides in this battle. We're told that there really are no good guys or bad guys in the game (despite what you might think from the angels vs. demons setting). War is simply out to reclaim what was lost when humanity came to a screeching halt: namely, the powers that give him his rather intimidating name.

The postapocalyptic setting is rendered quite impressively in the two overworld sections we were shown. (We'll get to the dungeon-crawling aspects in a moment.) The beginning of the demo showed War making his way through an underground subway tunnel. He came upon a giant, insect-like monster sticking its head through the ground. At this early stage in the game, it would be impossible for War to fight it hand-to-hand, so a little creativity is required. War must then pick up the decrepit subway cars strewn around in the rubble and feed them into the monster's gaping mouth. This sequence is indicative of the game's tendency to present you with conflicts that you'd expect to brawl your way through, but which actually turn out to be clever puzzles.

It's when War emerges from the tunnel that you really get to see the impressive graphics that Darksiders has to offer. Around you lies the debris of a destroyed city. Though many of the buildings are hollowed out, if not entirely crumbled, you still get the feeling of being in a classical European city such as London. During this sequence, we couldn't help but notice the draw distance; faraway buildings were visible at all moments to give the level a very epic atomosphere, making you feel tiny in comparison. Most of the enemies crawling around the ruined city streets were zombie-like demons, though there were a handful of larger miniboss-type encounters. The one that stood out in our eyes had War picking up nearby cars to use as projectiles to soften it up, after which it was finished off when War sliced its limbs off with his sword.

Overall, the combat has a very stylized look reminiscent of such games as God of War and Devil May Cry. Helping the former comparison is the fact that so many of these enemies are massive, mythical-looking demons. We're told that the designers had such a good time coming up with these enemies that they all ended up looking like bosses, even when they weren't intended to be.

The next sequence of the demo showed off the adventure half of its action-adventure tag. To unlock certain parts of the overworld section, you'll need to venture into the various dungeons for some good old-fashioned exploration. Down there you'll find the gear items that will let you progress through certain blocked-off areas up above. Darksiders is very similar to games such as Metroid and Castlevania that require heavy exploration to find new items, then backtracking to areas you couldn't get through earlier. We asked about the balance between dungeon-crawling exploration and above-ground fighting, and were told by one of the developers that it's roughly 60-40 in favor of the dungeons. However, one thing to keep in mind is that you can goof around above ground for as long as you like, which means that in practice that figure could change dramatically.

Think of your trusty steed as a post-apocalyptic Epona who happens to be on fire.

Once out of the dungeon, we got to see War battling it out on horseback. When you've unlocked your horse, you can summon it at a moment's notice. At the beginning of this section, War jumped off a cliff that overlooked a giant sandpit, summoned his horse while he was in midair, and landed right on it. He then started fighting various sand demons that emerged from the ground. Instead of swinging the giant sword as you would expect of someone riding a horse, War focused mainly on shooting these enemies with a machine gun, a feat likely intended to display the variety of weapons at War's disposal. The developer playing the game then hopped off the horse to show off one of the more interesting parts of the combat, which is the ability to use enemies as weapons. War jumped on the back of one of the sand demons that was racing around and used it to plow through the smaller demons scattered nearby. This part elicited a few chuckles from the crowd.

Before War could invest too much time in toying around with the smaller demons, our attention was drawn to the latest boss to erupt from the ground, this one a giant sandworm. After some impressive swordplay, War finished off this boss in the most brutal kill shown in the demo. As the worm was stunned, War jabbed his sword into the bottom of its torso and dragged it upward like a scalpel, splitting the hulking worm in two like a banana peel.

This type of stylization, when combined with the frequent puzzles and old-school adventuring, is what makes Darksiders such an intriguing game. We're eager to see how War transforms during the course of the game as well. Members of the development team made sure to point out that the relatively normal-sized War shown in the demo would grow progressively larger and more machinelike as the story advances. Though no release date has been announced, we'll be keeping an eye on Darksiders as more details emerge.

Written By

Want the latest news about Darksiders?

Darksiders

Darksiders

Discussion

77 comments
ektorasgamespot
ektorasgamespot

Quite a unique game i'll buy it no doubt it's gone be crystal clear 10!!!

astronerd
astronerd

@ stinkymonkey58: Well, the game has two titles, and the first one is a plural, so if all you boys and girls chip in and buy it, there is a good chance for a sequel, and one that may feature Death as a playable character.

stinkymonkey58
stinkymonkey58

this sounds awesome!! too bad you couldn't choose which horse man you could be... i totally would be death, but war is pretty cool....he's got a red horse :D

Fady117
Fady117

ooohhh woooooowwwwwww i must GET this GAAAAMEE!!!!!!! can't waaaaiiiit!!!!! that damn shopkeeper better be worried about his face if he sells it to some other thug on launch date...... :P :P

Strigidae
Strigidae

I H O P E T H I S G A M E G E T S R E L E A S E D . Unlike similar projects that just fizzled out and wasted our suspense.

Mister_Critic
Mister_Critic

This looks great! I hope it has some really epic boss battles in the game. I wonder what the final boss would be. If they give it a really good storyline it should take off well. It would be cool if they used Metallica's " four horsemen" song as a theme or something

dr00pah
dr00pah

I think that after success of games like God Of War, DMC series, Ninja Gaiden, every signle game studio capable of making stylish gfx engines with good physics and some spare time will produce numerous clones as they attract attention of vast amount of players around the globe. And the thing is that finally, the main objective will be making a decent storyline.

sergecalame
sergecalame

Its like god of war's open-world version. I hope it will be great.

mancalledjoe
mancalledjoe

this game looks pretty damn sweet! my only hope is that the developers don't make war too strong so it takes some of the challenge away, just so it will appeal to mainstream gamers. *cough* devil may cry 4 *cough*.

worthlessdude66
worthlessdude66

charactor looks cool and everything else i'm trying it out

rotnem
rotnem

There was actually five Horsemen of the Apocolypse, Kaos. Formaly known now as Chaos. He started it and left before they became famouse.

Aka_Oni
Aka_Oni

Sup people. This game looks hot and I love the story plot, but I know we have all seen great looking games fall far short of their marks. ( Lair, Viking, Dynasty Warrior. ) Hopefully controlling one of the riders of the apocalypse is bad ass and not just ass bad.

ninjarat
ninjarat

Sounds good, I shall be keeping tabs on this game.

shaunamus
shaunamus

sounds cool. definatly worth watching. hopefully they wont make it quite as repetative as metroid prime with the hole going back n stuff.

shaunamus
shaunamus

sounds cool. definatly worth watching. hopefully they wont make it quite as repetative as metroid prime with the hole going back n stuff. also as long as war (character) doesnt look too weird ill be happy.

zowbaid
zowbaid

It was soo weird hearing the game designer say that this game was mostly influenced by Zelda seeing as it looks nothing like it. Wow, really can't wait to see more from this game.

JJB03
JJB03

now this is a change to all those FPS we keep seein these days this is worth trackin

burps_brasil20
burps_brasil20

this game is gonna rock some seeeeeeerious ASS!!! god of war + devil may cry...what else could anyone want?! =D can't wait

grafkhun
grafkhun

tons of potential right here. lets just wait and see how the game pans out.

dadoesch
dadoesch

I don't know. I got all excited for Viking when it suddenly appeared on the radar and it turned out to be a let down. I have a feeling this game is going to fit that scenario. Looks cool now but will fail to perform once it's a game. I just don't trust game previews any more.

pito2k7
pito2k7

hopefully it is a game worth wait in for it sounds like it will be a great game.

searingSKITSO
searingSKITSO

looks good. hope this is very epic with ties to biblical characters. fighting the arch-angle Michael with War would be sick!!!(if im correct, Michael was the angle who defeated Lucifer and banished him to hell.)

Poltergeist13
Poltergeist13

Hope the game shapes up well. Sounds interesting.

Nineball2112
Nineball2112

Quote: "Darksiders is very similar to games such as Metroid and Castlevania that require heavy exploration to find new items, then backtracking to areas you couldn't get through earlier." Now, when I read that I said "Cool!" I love those types of games... It gets you invested in progressing in the game, provides variety, and gives you an additional sense of accomplishment. This games has major potential. I'll be tracking this one...

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

i wouldnt exactly call DMC 'Free Roam' as your on rails all the way through the game!

MrQuest77
MrQuest77

this looks like it could be pretty good

chutup
chutup

Looks very interesting.

TyranyVaunt
TyranyVaunt

Exactly... This game reminds me of Devil May Cry... But kinda like a Gears of War type of environment. The combo counter really looks a lot like DMC.

KamuiFei
KamuiFei

Looks pretty cool. Almost like Devil May Cry meets Zelda, only more gory.

Adramelech-
Adramelech-

If the development team could produce combat as stylized, technical and free-form as Devil May Cry and combine it with the exploration and adventuring of a Metroidvania, the result could be spectacular. For such a juicy concept, it really hasn't ever been attempted.

Fauxjangles
Fauxjangles

Certainly intriguing. Will keep my eye on this.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Prime ingredients = 1, Take one of the best ever FP RPG's (Oblivion). 2, Add a great range of characters, weapons and locals. 3, Allow total freedom to roam and a Non-Linear story line. 4, Add a an intuitive and dynamic combat system. 5, Realtime Day & Night changes which allow multiple possibilities in completing objectives. Mix with an adequate game engine, add a dash of graphical prowess and sound design and whallllahh!! We'll see!

mars1212
mars1212

keeping an eye on how this turns out, looks good so far like to see more in coming months

Absolutezerr
Absolutezerr

God of War fused with Zelda... I'm game.

nsmnpc5000
nsmnpc5000

It's not very often that a preview can build up this much anticipation for a title that I've never heard of, yet here I am incredibly amped up for Darksiders. For years I've been hoping for a game that combined the stylized action of the Devil May Cry/God of War series with heavy exploration in the vein of Castlevania/Metroid. If that style of game has been released already, forgive me and please refrain from calling for my head.

My main fear is that the game will end up derivative of DMC/God of War/Ninja Gaiden. The difficult part is creating a game that feels similar enough to keep players comfortable while simultaneously introducing new ideas/elements that make you wonder how you could've played the games that lack these seemingly simple advancements. Here's to THQ making Darksiders into a game that reaches it's full potential.

jack00
jack00

I've been following this game since it was announced, i really want to play this one.

GunnyHath
GunnyHath

Looks good, probably a lot of fun.

jacksonm560
jacksonm560

sounds and sorta looks like a zelda game (ocarina of time/twilight princess), which is a good thing for me. im definatley going to be keeping an eye on this game. and yes i no im not good at spelling

Mutarotation
Mutarotation

nice looking game. I'd like to get a mere hint about the release. Are we talking holiday season or '09?

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

i think it will be to tall an order for this game to be anything like Oblivion! Could do with a demo or something..... very intruiged

morgonstjarnan
morgonstjarnan

Being "neutral" seems like the big trend in gaming this decade. Kinda feels like a cop-out. Why can't gamers at least be given a choice?