First released in 2010, Vigil Games’ hack and slash action game Darksiders set out to tell a unique story of War, his fall from glory as a horseman of the apocalypse, and his journey to clear his name. Acclaimed as a Legend of Zelda-style action adventure game, it was well received and even got the sequel treatment featuring brother Death. In 2014 Nordic games acquired some of now bankrupt publisher THQ’s properties and even took on their name, rebranding themselves to THQ Nordic. Along with several other titles, Darksiders was acquired, and a short two years later War rode again in the HD-updated title Darksiders: Warmastered Edition.
For starters, this game is gorgeous! Keeping in mind that this is only a polished version of the original game and not a complete remake, I was still very impressed with the level of detail on enemies, NPC’s, architecture, and especially cutscenes. Turning the camera is buttery smooth, and you’ll want to when you get to new areas. There is a real sense of scale that was missing from the original that is captured here. Buildings seem taller, falls seem higher, enemies die deader. Locations are diverse, and none ever feel recycled. When I find myself going into a new area, I immediately stop to just enjoy my surroundings. My only complaint is that everything is bright! Even one level which is supposed to be a graveyard at night looks less like a spooky cemetery, and resembles more of a city park with a blue filter.
Darksiders was the first game developed by Vigil games, and the story is proof of that. Its original enough that it peaks your interest, but stays safe in tropes found in many revenge style dramas. The game starts with a war breaking out on earth between Heaven and Hell. War shows up to kick ass and take names, trying to restore the balance between Heaven, Hell, and Mankind. He is defeated by a demon and nearly killed. Saved right before his death, War is quickly charged by The Charred Council for starting the apocalypse early, and being sentenced to death anyway. He tries to tell them in brute fashion that the war was already started, he was actually late. Instead of pleading much more, he convinces them to let him go find out what happened, and if he should die then the council gets what they wanted. The story isnt very deep, but that’s ok. It kept me interested and playing. I did however find myself forgetting a lot of why I was doing things in game. Its not a bad narrative at all, in fact the story of War redeeming his name is quite good, but I felt it was better suited to a comic book than anything else.
Everything about Darksiders is on a grand scale; the visuals, the stakes, and especially the audio. Weapons clang, the merchant cackles, and demons are especially loud. The music helps to sell not just what earth has become of in the middle of this war, but of large scale boss fights as well. Drums roll, trumpets blare, and violins hiss. No doubt Nordic Games put a lot of effort into truly bringing out and emphasizing the literal end-of-the-world feel from the original score.
Gameplay is the heart and soul of Darksiders. Swinging your sword around almost aimlessly, then running a small distance to do it again is the bulk of the game. Rarely do enemy types differ too far from each other. As with games like Dynasty Warriors and Dead Rising, it’s a great way to just blow off some steam at the end of the day. But unlike those games, Darksiders features puzzles that, even though they can be easily figured out, are fantastic at breaking up the monotony of hit this, go here, repeat. Boss battles are epic and rewarding. Sprinkle in some RPG elements and you got yourself quite the experience. A couple things did make this game feel incredibly dated though; quick time events, and on-rail shooter events. Knock an enemy back so many times, and watch a “B/Circle” button pop up over its head, telling you to give a devastating blow. Fun the first few times, but it quickly lost its charm. Shooting enemies while you glide through areas atop a griffin just felt really out of place as well. Even so, the gameplay is by far the best part about Darksiders.
Vigil games did a great job of putting out such an upfront, and genuine experience for their first game, and Nordic Games deserves a pat on the back as well for highlighting that. Darksiders had an original idea, incredible casting, and some amazing talent to back it up. There are some definite pitfalls in this game, but overall I didn’t regret spending time with it. I never put down the remote from a play session and thought that I would never come back to it. I wouldn’t put it in my must-haves list however. If you like Zelda-esque games, or brainless hack-and-slash, Darksiders needs to be in your collection. If those games dont interest you, you might want to wait until it goes down in price. Either way, it’s worth trying playing though at least once.