Turns out, being War (the Horseman of the Apocalypse – that guy) isn't such a great gig. You spend all your time beating up angels and demons, getting shit for something you didn't do and crawling around on icky 'hell growth'.
Plus, the only fit female this side of Armageddon wants to shoot you with some sort of celestial energy weapon. If, however, you're the sinister sort to manipulate War from behind the scenes – say, with PS3 or Xbox 360 controller – the whole set-up works fairly well.
So, yes, in Darksiders
you play War. He's not that
nice a bloke. He has, however, been wrongly accused of bringing on the Apocalypse early, which it seems is the sort of thing to hack a horseman right off. Yes, there's good. Yes, there's evil. Turning back the clock and restoring life to Earth and thusly saving the day is not, however, on your agenda. Rather, you're on one to work out how it all actually
happened, clear your name and get yourself out of hot water. Think of it as an apocalyptic whodunnit. In fact, plot-wise it all plays out a bit like a hard-boiled crime noir story, with unpleasant sorts doing favours for other unpleasant sorts to get the job done. Only, of course, it comes with angels and demons. I'm calling this genre 'Celestial Noir'.
Anyway, a point and click adventure this ain't. It's more of an action RPG. I heard comparisons to Bayonetta
sail above my head as I played Darksiders
in the SPOnG Underwater Castle. Superficially, there is a similarity – namely that both are hack-'n'-slash action games and both feature the sorts of enemies you might find in the title of a Dan Brown novel. While Bayonetta
goes for an all-out, senses-overloading, brain-melting action experience, however, Darksiders
is a more thoughtful affair.
is actually quite old-fashioned. It has more in common with the likes of the Zelda
series than it does something like (the obvious comparison) God of War
. Your time is split between puzzling, exploration and combat. Yes, the whole experience leans towards breaking foes apart with numerous melee weapons and special abilities, but the other aspects of play are not to be sniffed at.
I need to take a moment to mention the art design, since it impacts on every other element of the game. It's superb. Joe Madureira is the man behind that – he spent a chunk of the '90s drawing Uncanny X-Men
before moving on to his own Battle Chasers
series. He was very good at both of them, and he hasn't dropped the ball here. Darksiders
has a gorgeous, chunky Western Manga look to it. The rich visuals immediately suck at your eyes and welcome you in and the entire game is better for it. It's complemented by well-executed animations and high-quality voice acting (Mark Hamill is on the credits list). Which brings me back around to the design of the dungeons and other areas.
They work well. It's partly because of the slick aesthetic, partly because their layout and puzzles are intricate without quite giving you a headache and making you want to punch something hard and wall-y. If I have a complaint, it's that the puzzles are a bit linear. Unless I've been missing a trick, there's never really more than one route to solving them. That route to success tends to come not so much from looking at the tools and environment elements at your disposal and thinking laterally to come up with a solution as they do from seeing something you're clearly meant to interact with and interacting with it, then repeating until you've hit made it to your goal.
Similarly, while you're encouraged to explore your surroundings by the plentiful loot to be picked up, it quickly becomes apparent that you're not really in a free-roaming world. The missions take you down a very linear path, and while the environments offer some scope for nosing around, they too tend to guide you in a fairly specific direction. Personally, I can live with that, but the RPG trappings of Darksiders
might lead some gamers to feel short-changed by the game's linearity.
The combat, for its part, is largely very satisfying. War's been significantly de-powered by the events surrounding the Apocalypse, but Vigil has nonetheless built the combat to make you feel like a Mitchell brother with superpowers. There are plenty of puny foes that you can smack around using your over-sized sword. Or your huge great scythe. Or your crazy-big gauntlet. Or a car you happen to find lying around. War's movements are big and there's a strong feeling of power to be had when you're fighting whoever happens to be in your way. That's not to say that there aren't bigger bads to be fought...