If can you stick with it past the dull first few hours, Darksiders will reward you with a terrific adventure.

User Rating: 8 | Darksiders PC
Darksiders is generally described as being "derivative, but good". This isn't inaccurate, but it doesn't really do the game justice. Darksiders has a lot going for it. The combination of God of War style combat, character progression, and puzzle-based adventuring give the game a unique feel when you factor them all in. It borrows a lot from other games, but not enough to be a clone of anything else, and it typically only borrows the stuff that works. It takes a while to get going and it doesn't look very impressive, but Darksiders is definitely a game worth playing. This is especially true on the PC, where action/RPGs of this style are virtually nonexistent.

One of the series that Darksiders is commonly compared to is Legend of Zelda. In general, the game does follow a lot of the same structure as Nintendo's legendary series. It's a mostly linear game, with a small game world connecting a bunch of massive dungeons. You open doors by flipping switches and finding keys. You fight enemies, discover treasures, and negotiate all kinds of environmental hazards. To do this, you gradually accumulate a collection of gadgets like a grappling hook, a boomerang, and even a portal gun. It is a good formula, and this game was crafted with a solid understanding of what makes it work. Aside from one or two obtuse moments, the puzzles are satisfying, and they frequently give you the feeling that all great puzzle games have – the "aha" moments where you feel like you just outsmarted the game. Dungeon design is strong and exploration is rewarded very well – usually by giving you an all important item that increases your health or special attacks meter. Darksiders is a pretty challenging game, which means that you should always been on the lookout for something to make you more powerful. Thankfully, the game doesn't imitate all of the outdated design conventions that bog down the Zelda series (and lots of other Japanese games, for that matter). A modernized, westernized Zelda is mostly a good thing. Also a good thing is the fact that Darksiders has about as much content as a typical Zelda game, and stays solid through a good 20+ hours.

There is, regrettably, one big undesirable drawback that Darksiders borrows from Zelda, and that is its slow start. Darksiders takes at least a few hours before it finally starts to reach its potential. Before that, when you have only one weapon with no gadgets and no special abilities, you are mostly button-mashing against boring opponents and walking from point A to point B. There are a few tough opponents that show up, and you don't have many tools to fight them with. It is only after you are able to buy a few abilities and acquire some gadgets that both combat and exploration start to get fun. After a while, they get really fun.

Darksiders's combat can be most accurately compared to God of War. Camera control is automatic. You string together combos as long as possible, dodge when you have to, and occasionally call on a special power. You have a health bar and a rage bar (i.e. "mana") that you spend on your special abilities. Dead enemies release souls and, sometimes, health or rage. Combat doesn't fully stack up to the excellent God of War series. Enemy variety is fairly low, and, in general, it isn't as complex or precise. That comparison is a bit unfair though, because combat is only half the story in Darksiders. What is here is more than adequate.

If there is one truly disappointing aspect of Darksiders, it would be in its derivative story and presentation. When I first heard about the premise of this game, I thought that it sounded really cool -- a modern, post-apocalyptic Earth with characters from biblical mythology. When I played the game, I was disappointed in how the developers squandered the setting and, instead delivered a game that looks and feels very generic. The story is a God of War-like forgettable tale about a supernatural meathead getting revenge on some supernatural foes. The voice acting is at least top-notch though. I like the fact that the game uses a full color palette (I'm so sick of the trend nowadays where games are all gray or brown). However, the design of the enemies and the environments is fairly unimaginative. With the exception of the prologue, all of the indoor and outdoor areas in this game could have easily been substituted into any other fantasy setting. For the most part, I don't remember there being many enemies that looked like much more than typical vanilla demon/monster types.

As a whole, Darksiders is not a great looking game. It looks a lot like a PS3 or Xbox 360 launch title, with a protagonist that looks like a character from World of Warcraft. Level sizes and view distances in outdoor areas aren't very large, and polygon counts are relatively low. Animations are pretty simple and not as smooth looking as other modern action games. Finally, the game is guilty of one of my pet peeves – ugly cut scenes that have been pre-rendered in the game's engine. Considering the almost insane standard for graphics that have been set by games like Crysis and Batman: Arkham Asylum, Darksiders is pretty average.

Despite its flaws here and there though, Darksiders is a game that I can recommend to action/RPG fans pretty strongly. It isn't revolutionary, but the combination of good elements that it pulls from a couple of different genres makes it unique, especially on the PC. If can you stick with it past the dull first few hours, Darksiders will reward you with a terrific adventure.