Frankenreview: Darksiders

Frankenreview: Darksiders

War? Good god. What is he good for? Find out in the Frankenreview for THQ and Vigil Games’ Darksiders.

From the pen of comic book writer and artist Joe Madureira comes Darksiders, an epic tale that could very well have been called “There Goes The Apocalypse”. The end of days has come prematurely, and the hideously disproportionate Madureirized apocalyptic horseperson War takes the blame. With a thirst for vengeance and no small amount of embarrassment (whoops!), War takes to the mean streets to find out who tricked him into wiping out humanity.

Sounds like light-hearted fun to me! Let’s see what the assembled game critics think.

Darksiders catapults players into a post-apocalyptic Earth full of demons, angels and War, a pissed off horseman tricked into destroying mankind. Plenty of bloodshed ensues, as gamers plunge the likeable hero into heavily guarded fortresses, severing limbs and decapitating monsters en route to the ultimate showdown with The Destroyer. It’s both gorgeous and fun, with plenty of memorable characters, intimidating bosses and Hellish imagery. It’s also monotonous, confusing and somewhat falsely advertised, making it a good but by no means phenomenal way to ring in the New Year.
Both primary and secondary support character models convincingly push established boundaries of quality, with demons Vulgrim, Samael and Ulthane standing out as particularly noteworthy in terms of believable performance, weight of animation, and as an example of the guiding light provided by Madureira’s beautiful artwork. Indeed, that overarching influence is clear from the outset, with War’s disgraced Horseman existing as perhaps the most obvious testament to the rich appeal that drew so many comic book readers towards the now-abandoned Battle Chasers series. Sadly, however, while the ceaseless onslaught of Darksiders’ generous aesthetics will likely placate gamers focused on instant gratification, there’s no hiding the game’s derivative structure and lack of ambition when it comes to level design and back-track exploratory aspects.

Game Informer
Though it doesn’t go so far as to place War in tight green spandex, Darksiders might as well be set in Hyrule. A subtle nod occurs when War’s health is nearly depleted, and players are alerted of impending doom by a faint-yet annoying-repeated beep. More obvious homage is paid through dungeon exploration. Vigil follows Shigeru Miyamoto’s blueprint down to the last detail, including maps that reveal all chest locations and the boss room signified with a large red skull. The Zelda observations dip into the realm of “can they really get away with this?” through many of War’s gadgets and weapons. A hookshot-like device grants War passage across large expanses, and a boomerang-like object can chain multiple targets together with a single throw. If you’re not sold on the similarities yet, War navigates the overworld via horseback, obtains additional health containers at the conclusion of each dungeon, and is on a quest to reassemble a rare artifact that will bring peace to the world. Need I go on?

But enough about that – let’s talk combat, as Darksiders has a baffling array of mechanics to get your head around. We wouldn’t normally do this, but we’ll list most of them just to give you an idea what you’re dealing with. [Editor’s Note: Not here they won’t]Phew! Amazingly enough, all these options (and watching the various gauges associated with them, such as Wrath power and Chaos Form, erm… juice) become relatively intuitive relatively quickly – and of course, you don’t have them all at the start of the game. It’s a formidable list, but thankfully less experienced players can probably get a fair way through the game by mashing, as there are some great basic combos, and you can choose what aspects of the combat you want to focus on upgrading.

Console Monster
The presentation of Darksiders holds up to the rest of the game, along with competing titles. There is certain design flair to be found throughout the game, with some beautiful environments and fantastic animations being the highlights. The most impressive aspect of the presentation is simply the flawlessness of it all. Everything from the models, to the environments, to the menus and user interface, is all of great quality and extremely fitting of the games theme. The audio once again is equally fantastic, with impressive voice work in particular for all characters. This goes hand-in-hand with the level of polish the game holds, giving a feeling that the developers were not rushing the product out of the door and instead spent time and attention to do it right from the start.

You’ve also got to wonder about the timing of the game’s release. Zelda inspirations aside, you’ll spend the bulk of your time in Darksiders brawling, and with God of War III and the sublime Bayonetta on the way, maybe THQ should have got this out the door a little sooner. Since they didn’t, though, what we’re left with is a game that initially disappoints with its bland levels and uninspired premise, but will, for those willing to ride out its humdrum opening hours, gradually unfurl into a competent action RPG.

Can we agree to disagree?


  • I find it interesting that Luke seems to be the only one who really dislikes this game. Also notice that Gabe over on PA tore into his comments a little, suggesting that “Perhaps he should be relegated to stories about cakes that look like 1up mushrooms or cufflinks shaped like the Triforce.”.

    Whilst I can see some of the obvious complaints (ignoring the screen tearing, as they’ve stated that’s being fixed) around some of the slow opening, I’ve still found myself really enjoying the game thus far (For the record I’ve only just met Samael & been told to go kill Tiamat). I’m still questioning my decision to play the game on Apocalyptic from the outset, but I haven’t thrown a controller in ages 🙂

    • I’m playing on Apocalyptic also, and I defeated Tiamat yesterday afternoon and played a little further. At last check I was just over 3 hours play time.

      I’m not regretting playing on Apocalyptic from the start, but there was a fight en route to the Twilight Cathedral on top of a broken overpass that was frustrating at the time.

      It must’ve taken be 5 or 6 restarts to beat an enemy that wasn’t even a boss! In doing so however I learnt alot more about the combat system with timing attacks and combos and when to dodge. Needless to say I was pretty satisfied after I beat him to a pulp.

      • That was the fight which, after about 10 wipes, had me restart on normal. I felt the controls were a touch too clunky for the precision needed to avoid getting two or three shotted by anything.
        There’s a gauntlet run section fighting angels, without giving too much away, a bit after the Tiamat fight, that was pretty punishing even on normal. I reckon I would have ragequit if I was still playing on Apocalyptic.

        • Yeah, the angel section is where I’m upto now. I just got the ‘Redemption’ rifle/cannon. I wiped twice last night, but got fairly far and was about 15+ angels ahead of Ulthane too.

          Will be trying to slog it through that section this afternoon.

  • I’m a fair way into it I think (a long way into the Black Throne section… without giving any spoilers, if I said “redirect the beams” you’ll know what I mean if you’ve been there).

    The Zelda comparisons are true. Penny Arcade said it best, really. The difference between “derivative” and “homage” is whether you like it. Darksiders is the clone of one of the best game series ever, but with terrific visuals and combat of a style that cannot be done in the Zelda series itself. I fail to see the problem in Darksiders copying terrific games and adding its own flair. Most games these days copy earlier games. Writing a game off because it’s “derivative” is pretty lazy. There’s very few games you can’t do that to if you want (Portal and Flower are the most recent ones I can think of which I couldn’t).

    The section where you first get War’s horse and the boss fight soon afterwards is freaking AWESOME and justified the purchase for me right there. They got the riding and mounted combat stuff absolutely right.

    Darksiders isn’t perfect. This section I’m in now is seriously dragging (too many similar puzzles in a row), some of the combat against big demons boils down to run in, hit, run out, repeat ad nauseum because you can’t block their attacks, and there’s an annoying thing where in some tricky spots, the Watcher will dash over to the exit and yell the same thing at you every 5 seconds while you try to work out how you get up there (the “redirect the beams” guy is also very very guilty of this). No love for Hamill from me, I find the Watcher character mostly annoying so far even when he’s not in repetitive spam mode, he doesn’t give useful hints and only seems to pop up to be annoying. Just about all the other characters with speaking parts are very well done so far, though.

    • The black throne was one of the more tedious part of the game which really tickled my ico brain. It was enjoyable for me in that sense, but i doupt a lot of people would find that challenge good. Redirecting one beam should’ve been enough, level design wise, as i did groan when i found out there was three in total. Oddly though i found the second to be the longest challenge of the three. Also, certain chest locations which you couldn’t access until later levels, when you got the appropriate “equipment” was frustrating to figure out, that you had to wait, when you didn’t have said equipment on hand.

      Other than these two complains, I loved the game overall, I will tip anyone to get the whirlwind combo early on, as it is very efficient in dealing with the crowds. I think the most exciting part for me was in fact the ending when it was more than obvious there would be several in the series. It gave me the sense that the franchise could/would be improved down the road, and that was the biggest satisfaction in a weird sense.

  • I love this game.
    For the flaws mentioned its still a stand out title for me.

    I know its been said that its a Zelda clone and all that, but i dont have an issue with it. Different character, stories, dungeons, environments…well different everything makes it feel fresh.

  • Firstly I want to say that Darksiders is 1 of the best games ever made. From the character design , game play and level design its all top shelf here.Only thing I had to pick is the screen tearing I felt it was a bit to much but its minimal at times and once you start playing its quickly overlooked.I would say that alot of the games journalist compare this game to that and so on.God of war 3 + devil may cry 4 + world of warcraft.Well I say woohoo finally someone brought all the good stuff and placed it all into 1 game. The game should be taken for what it is and its a true work of art.Well done to everyone who worked on the game.Congrates.

  • after playing darksiders 4-5 times, currently i am able to complete in 7 hours 28 minutes…
    That is personal best timing to complete this game….
    And to complete it all life and wrath upgrades, every artifact.. I need only 8 hour 15 minutes…

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