Imitation is a form of flattery they say. In the game industry this can prove true, but it can also become what it is, an imitation that makes you want the real thing. Darksiders is a mash-up of imitation; it's combat screams God of War with a little bit of Devil May Cry, it's visuals are like a heavy metal version of World of Warcraft and it's level design and means of progression is not unlike Zelda. Does Darksiders bring out the best of it's inspirations, or does it deserve to be left on the dark side of things?
Story is another thing that was imitated to some degree. Like God of War, it takes religious mythology and puts it to play but, unlike God of War for the most part, puts a spin on it. The world consists of three realms; Heaven, Hell, and Earth stuck in the middle. These three realms are guarded by seven seals, the seals basically stopping a massive war from breaking out. When the seals are broken, four riders will set forth and destroy everything, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This is where the player comes into things. You play as War, the second of the Horsemen, who arrives on Earth to find Heaven and Hell battling against an unprepared Humanity. War soon comes to find that all the seals weren't broken and he was the only Horseman to hear the call. He then confronts a large demon by the name of Straga, and is defeated after losing his power mysteriously.
When he awakes he is before the Charred Council, a group of mysterious beings represented by stone faces. He is then tasked with finding out why he was called and clearing his name of breaking the law, starting the war early. The story can get confusing at times, especially when everyone, including War himself, seems to know about things the player doesn't. Nevertheless, it's an interesting tale and the way everyone talks brings about thoughts of heavy metal, seriously, you can take any of the important names or terms (colored blue in the subtitles) and make a heavy metal song out of it, making it a very unique narrative. The game ends with the intention of a sequel and it makes you want to see what happens next, like any good start to a saga should. One downside is that you don't see any of the other Horsemen, you are the second and they are always being mentioned so where are they during all this? Other than that, I had a lot of fun with the story.
The gameplay is the biggest imitation of them all. You run about an interconnected overworld littered with enemies, dungeons, treasures and collectibles. Does it sound familiar? It should, it sounds like Zelda. Now, as mentioned before, the combat is mostly like God of War; you hack and slash at the enemies until you get a button prompt to instantly finish them off brutally. This isn't a bad thing, however, as it is really fun hacking at the demons roaming the land and your weapons level up as you use them but a saving grace about the copycat combat is the fact that you can target single enemies like in Zelda. This really helps out when you want one certain enemy out of the way, but it can be hindered by the way it selects who you lock onto, it can get a little wonky sometimes. Another big change is the fact that you use a close range sword and can easily air combo, which you will tend to rely on, making it a bit more fun to watch than in God of War.
War can also pick certain pieces of the environment up to throw at his enemies, these become increasingly rare and are not particularly useful when you get more powerful but it is there if you want to use it. You also gain abilities called Wrath, they are assigned to L1 + one of the face buttons and usually help along in the murder of everything. I find they were pretty near useless and all but one are bought from the store, using precious souls that could be used to buy other things like moves for your standard weapons. When War's Chaos meter is unlocked, it allows him to transform into his Chaos Form, granting him immortality and immense power for a short period of time, it is pretty neat and a crutch if you need it. Speaking of buying things, there is a vendor you will meet who will sell the previously mentioned Wrath powers among new moves and consumable items. He also serves as the fast-travel in the game so he is incredibly useful considering the size of the world, it would not be fun having to run everywhere multiple times. Also aiding in traversal is War's trusty steed Ruin, who you gain at a later time in the story. Surprisingly, the horse controls extremely well, miles better than Epona's control in any Zelda game she made an appearance in.
One of the most important part of the gameplay is the dungeons, and they are pretty varied and grand. They are well designed and full of puzzles, treasure and combat ending with a boss fight. The only issue with them is that, while the layouts are fantastic, the formula for a dungeon is pretty much the same all the way through; room-by-room clearings, find an item that is mainly only used in it's home dungeon, find a key, bring said key to the only door in your way, activate/kill 3 special things to open the way to the boss, it isn't helped by the completely obvious strategies for the bosses. It's tried and true and, while it might sound tiring, it really is a lot of fun, including the old-school boss battles. The pacing is enough to prevent burnout in one dungeon bursts. The dungeons are fairly lengthy as well, seeing as there are only five they'd have to be, meaning that you might get tired of them before they are over but they tend to mix things up enough to prevent that from happening. After all the dungeons are through you are sent on a fetch quest which has you revisiting all the previously explored overworld locations, it can get boring seeing as little next to nothing happens during these searches besides combat with enemies you already seen plenty of.
There are some problems, however, enemies have little variety and each seem to attack slower than War, even though War is two times as bulky as most of them, which can unbalance some of the fights making them way too easy. It can also be two easy to get caught on the environment in ways that force you to reload, for example; I climbed up a wall only to get hit by an enemy as I jumped off, forcing me to fly backwards onto a little tiny piece of ground sticking out from the wall. I got stuck in the hit animation and couldn't do anything, forcing me to reload. Didn't happen often but it did happen. Overall you are looking at a quest of around 20 hours.
The audio front isn't bad. The game has great music but I find it's volume is way too low, even when I have it's slider up all the way I still can barely hear it half the time. The dialogue is excellent, all the voices fit and sound like you'd expect with Liam O'Brien as War and Mark Hamil as The Watcher, War's version of Navi just less annoying usually. The dialogue can be a little over the top but it just adds to the heavy metal-like world of angels and demons doing battle among demi-gods of destruction. It would be high-end if it wasn't for the music issues, but it's still great.
The look of the character models reminds me of World of Warcraft, just more badass. All the characters are large and bulky, War is so big that a car isn't much bigger than him, and it just screams heavy metal. The environments of the overworld can get extremely repetitive thanks to that apocalyptic, ruined city look, granted you are in an unnamed city for most of the game. That's not to say it looks bad, it looks good, not the best but good, especially for a game of it's size. You see the same enemies a lot, but they look great and so does killing them. This game isn't in the Top Goriest Games list but it can be pretty violent and it's satisfying pulling all the violence off. The dungeons are usually the visual highlight of the environments but the comic book character models are packed with detail. It's a fantastic looking first attempt from a new developer, though some visual glitches hold it back.
- Interesting story that borrows from Christian mythology
- Fun combat and great control
- Awesome dungeon design that never seems to tire
- Great voice acting brings this Holy vs Unholy war to life
- Heavy Metal sounding dialogue can be mystically amusing
- Lengthy quest filled with secrets and collectibles
- Awesome CG intro movie
- Homage to other great franchises
- Combat remains fun up to the end
- Fun, if predictable, boss battles
- Can be on the easy side
- Overworld environments can get tiring
- Story can get confusing
- Wasted effort with the Wrath Powers
- Somewhat difficult to lock onto what you want to attack
- Rare glitches that force you to reload if you are unlucky enough to trigger one
- Some visual glitches, mostly with the finishers
- Repetitive enemy design and attack patterns
- Music is downplayed to the extent of non-existence in some instances
Overall, it's a quest worth taking and seeing through to the end. If you like Zelda or God of War you shouldn't miss out. It has it's share of issues, mainly repetition and lack of variety. This should only be a tiny turn-off so slay all the demons and headbang your way to the truth.