System: Xbox 360
Published by: THQ
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: As you may have guessed from our E3 coverage, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from Darksiders. On the surface, it looked like another shameless God of War clone, but Mark Hamill’s involvement did seem to lend some credibility to the whole project.
You step into the shoes of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and a god of war. War serves at the pleasure of a celestial governing body that mediates disputes between heaven and hell. He gets into some hot water with his bosses when he accidentally triggers the apocalypse that wipes out humanity. War convinces them to give him another chance, but in return, he has to remain under the guidance of the Watcher, his annoying sidekick/parole officer. And so, giant sword in hand, War sets off to find out who is really to blame for this whole “end of the world” business.
The story isn’t particularly engaging, and the dialogue consists mostly of War snarling at every NPC he encounters in his quest for vengeance, but what about the gameplay? Certainly the God of War element is there in the form of 3D fighting with weapons that level up, but the game has more in common with the Legend of Zelda. You start out in a small overworld, with a handful of paths leading off to the different “dungeons” in the game, with all but one blocked off by some unique obstacle that can only be removed with a certain tool. Once you make your way to a dungeon, you start to see more of a certain type of obstacle, and then you find the tool to remove it. At that point, the rest of the dungeon opens up, and you eventually make your way to a boss fight that will require you to make use of the item you’ve just found.
The game borrows a lot from the Zelda series, even going so far as to co-opt iconic Zelda paraphernalia like the boomerang and hookshot. As mentioned earlier, some elements from God of War are in place as well. Even the eponymous gameplay mechanic from Portal plays a part in the game. It seems that all of the gameplay elements have come from other games. Even the art style, though highly detailed work from famed comic artist Joe Madureira, bears certain similarities to that found in the World of Warcraft.
The cynic in me sees the game as just a hodgepodge of other great games bringing nothing new to the table. This may technically be true, but therein lays the most important part of all this: it doesn’t matter. Darksiders takes all these different elements that we’ve seen before and manages to make a truly entertaining game out of them. The fluid combat from God of War, the dungeon exploration from Zelda, and the action-oriented puzzle-solving of Portal all come together to make a game that really draws you in.
The only thing that bothers me is that Darksiders feels like a fantasy game with a post-apocalyptic shellac. The game takes you to a variety of places in the remains of a former human city, but each one is a just a small art change away from being something out of a medieval fantasy: The haunted cathedral is a classic fantasy trope, as is the giant spider’s lair. The subway dungeon is the mine level. The desert level... well, the only reminder that you’re in a post-apocalyptic city is the ruined buildings in the skybox and the revelation that it’s not sand you’re walking in; it’s the ashes of all the dead humans! And don’t get me started on the giant Scotsman you run into early on. It’s not a big deal, but all the same, the game could’ve been set in some Hyrule-esque fantasy world instead of New York after the apocalypse, and no one would have been the wiser.
If you wind up playing Darksiders, chances are you’ll find plenty in the game that you’ll like. It borrows heavily from some of the best games around, and it does so without coming off like a cheap ripoff. In short, Darksiders: derivative, but fun.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
Games can steal from God of War all they want, the Dante's Inferno demo was really fun.
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