Darksiders might derive too heavily from Zelda and God of War, but it's a great game in its own right.

User Rating: 8 | Darksiders PS3
Darksiders is a fresh take on games you've played before. You play as War, one of the Four Horsemen, whose job it is to make sure Heaven and Hell don't overstep their boundaries in their endless struggle. But when War is summoned to earth too son, upsetting the balance between Heaven and Hell, humankind is destroyed in the ensuing conflict, with the forces of The Destroyer and Hell claiming victory. After being brought to trial for his premature appearance on earth, War must figure out what happened and seek vengeance against The Destroyer. Caught between the battle of the armies of Heaven and Hell and set in a brutally dark post-apocalyptic earth, Darksiders has one of the most original settings in recent years. At the same time, it draws heavily from series such as God of War and The Legend of Zelda, borrowing many elements from those famed franchises. And even though Darksiders will constantly remind you of those games, it is a great experience in its own right. It's not a replacement to the franchises of which it pays homage, but with God of War action and Zelda dungeons and puzzles, Darksiders is a game that Action/Adventure fans should take a look at.

The story of War's adventure starts off at a frantic pace, but much of the middle half of the game slows down greatly. The game's story is greatly disappointing in that regard, as War has to go off and find many different items he needs to complete his quest. But while much of the story is disappointing, the gameplay rarely slows down at any time. You get thrown into the middle of continued war between Heaven and Hell, and both sides are out to get your head. There isn't much of a good vs evil here: Heaven is just as brutal as Hell. This results in a nice twist to what you'd ordinarily expect from a Heaven/Hell battle. And it's War's job to battle both of them. With the God of War style action, it's a load of fun. Dozens of enemies swarm you as you franticly fight them off, copious amounts of blood and gore strewing across the screen. While the button-mashing action can get repetitive at times, those of you looking for high-octane thrills won't be disappointed.

Darksiders does a good job of mixing the action up as well, keeping from getting repetitive too often. There are levels in which you can pick up a large cannon blaster and shoot enemies out of the sky, you eventually find a horse named Ruin which you can ride and defeat enemies at high speeds, and certain enemies display quick time events, among other varying elements of gameplay. When you defeat enemies, blue souls and yellow Chaos meter charge (and sometimes green health) fly to you. This is a combination of the systems used in God of War and The Legend of Zelda. Like in GoW, you can spend your souls on upgrades for your weapons (or new ones) while the yellow souls are similar to recharging magic (or your special meter in GoWIII). But like in TLoZ, you can use the souls like you would rupees, for potions and other battle aids. And while the combat is very similar to the button-mashing in GoW, along with QTEs and with more combinations, riding Ruin will be incredibly reminiscent of riding Epona in Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess. The gameplay is almost overbearingly similar to the two series, but at the same time there's no doubt that it's a delightful mix of the two.

As has been noted, War will have to battle through massive dungeons throughout his quest. Each dungeon is in a unique area of the world map, which you can traverse by walking and riding Ruin similarly (though not quite as open) as a Zelda game of old. Or you can fast-travel by going through a portal world in which you walk through a zany path of moving pavement. Either way, once you arrive at your destination, you'll often have to battle to (and through) the labyrinth on the other side. The dungeons are massive and loaded with interesting puzzles to boot. The puzzles are actually well thought-out for an action game and will remind you of the older GoW's in design and Zelda games in scope and consistency. There are even some moderately difficult puzzles in the latter half of the game to go along with the brutal combat. Once you've made it to the end, you'll behold a gargantuan boss, most of which deliver superb battles. And while it's never overly frustrating, the bosses will be sure to give you a good challenge, so you know you've accomplished something when you deliver that fatal strike.

The many items and abilities you can acquire can also be used to finish puzzles along with battles. Like with a Zelda game, it's true that some of these items and abilities will be used in one area and probably not needed again for the rest of the game. There are also chests where you can find various colored souls, like in GoW, and there's a huge amount of collectibles scattered throughout the world. There's so many items to buy, collectibles to find, and abilities to utilize that Darksiders has a good amount of replayability after the first fifteen or so hours it will take to beat on normal difficulty. If you want to explore every nook and cranny to find absolutely everything the game holds, then you can expect a play-through surpassing thirty hours and perhaps more if played on the toughest difficulty settings.

As would be expected of a post-apocalyptic game, the settings are mostly dark and gloomy. Earth in Darksiders is wonderfully rendered, and each of the locations fit a post-apocalyptic warzone perfectly. So while the games artistic qualities won't blow you away, it certainly fits the bill with its creative spin on the post-apocalyptic stting. For a game with a world as large and open as Darksiders is, the graphics are also outstanding. The character models are some of the best you'll see on consoles with superb animations, and there are few jagged edges or blurry textures at any point in the game. The environments are vast and well-detailed, and some of the attacks provide a viewing of excellent particle effects. The action is very fluid, and outside of a few framerate hitches during some of the boss fights, the action moves without any slow-down. The draw distance is also very good, and it's beautiful to behold such great textures on these enormous environments from a big in-game distance. It might not look quite as good as some more linear games like GoWIII, but for the scope of its world, Darksiders is gorgeous.

Darksiders will also surprise you with its absolutely excellent sound design. The game provides some of the best voice acting ever, including expectedly convincing performances by Liam O'Brien as War and Mark Hamill as The Watcher. On top of that, the soundtrack is very good, not quite as memorable as a Zelda soundtrack, but still fitting the creative environments seamlessly. Most of the other sound effects are about what you'd expect from a GoW or Zelda game. Grunting from War during battle, the snarls of your enemies, and the clash of your weapons on metal and flesh are all exquisitely performed. The atmospheric sounds really help to create the game's environments, with sounds like that of the wind blowing in a deserted city, the crumbling of old buildings, and monsters moving around in your area. All of the game's audio coalesces to create a stunning mood for the creative atmosphere.

Darksiders is a familiar game that somehow manages to feel fresh despite its derivative core. Fans of franchises like The Legend of Zelda and God of War might feel that they should just pass it up as a game that copies too much from those series, but even the most ardent fans of those games should eventually admit that Darksiders contains its own merits. It's a very fun game with a creative atmosphere, helping it feel fresh regardless of the elements it borrows. The combat is exhilarating despite its similarities to GoW, and much of the rest of the interface fits in perfectly even though it's redolent of the Zelda franchise. It holds some outstanding boss battles and enough content to hold your attention for a long period of time, and along with the addicting combat, that's a recipe for a worthwhile game. Darksiders might derive too heavily from Zelda and God of War, but it's a great game in its own right.