The first half of my tale of my time as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ended on a cliffhanger. I was being crushed to death by a mighty demon. Did I escape?
Read the first half now, otherwise the rest of this post won’t make one lick of sense.
00:30 – I’m saved by a cut-scene! I awake in a cavern churning with yet more lava, genuflecting before a rock sculpted as a skull. The rock speaks to me and it becomes clear I’m in the presence of the Charred Council. I’m being interrogated as to why I descended to earth ahead of schedule. Apparently it’s not yet time for the Apocalypse. My protests concerning the fact that Heaven and Hell were already waging war fall on deaf ears. I ask that I be sent back to earth to uncover why I was summoned out of turn. The Council agrees.
00:33 – But first, as punishment, I’m stripped of all my powers and told I will have to earn them back. It’s a very Metroid thing to do, giving you a taste of your character’s potential in the opening scene and thus extra incentive to rediscover those abilities (and more) over the course of the game. I’m also assigned a Watcher, a spirit contained in my ridiculously oversized gauntlet who will appear throughout to offer advice, akin to Navi in a Zelda game.
00:35 – Before I go, I’m given back my sword, Chaoseater; granted my first power, Blade Geyser, which deploys a ring of sharpened steel around me when called upon by holding LB and hitting the assigned face button; and lectured on the collectability of souls (blue act as currency, green as health, yellow as Wrath, which is used for my special powers).
00:39 – Earth looks a little different now. Dust whips through the streets. Grey buildings are hollowed out and on the verge of disintegration. Long-abandoned cars lie gathering rust. It’s all a bit like Downtown Washington in Fallout 3. I find myself in what appears to be a multi-storey parking lot. There are even mutants here, too. I’m attacked by several dozen of the lesser variety, shuffling towards me like zombies. I can swipe several at once with my sword or hit B to pick them up one at a time, either squishing their skulls in my hands or slamming their bodies into the ground.
00:44 – Fighting my way upstairs, past a few more groups of ghouls and one large pot-bellied beast who spewed fire at me until he exploded, I emerge in an expansive, ornate ballroom populated by yet more ghouls. After killing about half of them, a horned demon bursts through the floor, setting the stage for a mini-boss fight. He proves quite resilient to my sword attack and packs up a punch of his own when I get too close or fail to dodge in time. So I change tack, instead hanging back from him and lobbing severla tables and even a grand piano at his head. Eventually he slumps to his knees, so I move in, stab my sword through his arm to pin him to the ground then slam my fist into his face before I retrieve my sword and skewer it straight through his skull. Now, that’s what I call a finishing move.
00:48 – Moments later I’m stepping outside into a wide plaza. There I met Vulgrim, a demon who’s fallen out of favour with his kingdom’s ruler, known only as the Destroyer. Vulgrim is willing to help me reach the Destroyer’s domain, but only for a price. 500 souls of the dead is apparently the going rate for information here, so I start exploring the plaza to collect some more to add to my current tally of 290. There are plenty of ghouls around, an enemy I’m quickly realising are just there as cannon fodder whenever you want some souls rather than pose any sort of challenge. There are a few bigger and tougher guys, too, including the mini-boss I just fought, and a greater challenge equals more souls.
00:50 – Vulgrim’s also given me some help: an item called the Hoardseeker helpfully marks treasure chests on my map, each one full of blue, green or yellow souls. Down one street off the plaza is a tunnel blocked by luminescent blue crystals – ice perhaps? I suspect I’ll be returning here later once I’ve attained a power capable of melting it. Down another I find an Artifact that I’m told I can also turn over to Vulgrim in exchange for a reward.
00:55 – 500 souls thus collected, I head back to Vulgrim. He hands me a key to the gate ahead and tells me someone called Samael – also no friend of the Destroyer – will be able to help me further. I’m able to trade my Artifact with Vulgrim and can purchase a range of abilities and items from him with the remaining souls I’ve collected. Interestingly, the currency is the same regardless of whether I want to buy a new combat move or a life essence crystal (ie. health potion), a system I can foresee resulting in some difficult choices down the track.
00:57 – I spend a few minutes considering all the options, of which there are plenty: eight combat moves, seven consumable items, four powers and even a brand new weapon. The latter costs seven times my current soul tally, meaning I’d be sacrificing a lot in other areas were I to save up for it. I can’t quite afford the combat move I really want – the Flipsaw, that spinning airborne attack I had during the opening – so I hang onto my cash for now.
00:60 – And with that my hour is up.
Don’t tell anyone, but I already have. I’m about four hours in now and I’m hooked. Darksiders is a tricky game to pin down. The opening section really does just ease you in, teaching you the basics of combat and explaining how the world works. Once you hit the third hour, though, it opens up, giving you more room to explore and throwing you into enormous dungeons and elaborate environmental puzzle set-pieces. It really is Zelda-esque in so many ways. You even get a horse.
Darksiders is released on January 7. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I thoroughly recommend it.