Sunday, January 24, 2010


If you've heard anything at all about Darksiders, it probably involved its similarities to other video games. It's a bit lazy to rely on comparisons to other titles to describe a game, but in Darksiders' case it would be disingenuous not to mention it. So let's just throw it all out there. The overall game structure and use of puzzle-filled enclosed areas are reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda series and its temples. The platforming elements seem most directly taken from God of War, and there are some similarities with the combat but it feels closer to Devil May Cry in that area. There is a segment that more or less matches the standard gameplay of the Panzer Dragoon series, and there is an item later on that borrows heavily from the mechanics of Portal, although you can trip yourself up if you assume certain things about it. And that about covers it.

A game that takes this much from other titles could have easily ended up being derivative trash, but for whatever reason the crassness with which it borrows is almost charming. As shameless as it is, it's well executed for the most part, and in some ways I'm actually glad it does what it does. The God of War games will always have superior production values and a (slightly) deeper combat system, but the adventure elements are what I like most about that series anyway, and Darksiders is sort of the perfect balance. Well, not quite perfect. They still force you into fighting a bit too often, and the game's reliance on enemies doing tons of damage in lieu of adding more strategy to combat is a bit weak. But while I love Zelda, a lot of us have wanted a darker take on it, and this is basically our shot at getting it. Note I didn't say more serious, because this game is pretty far from that.

It was designed by a comic book artist, and there's an unflinching over the top style to everything. The game takes place mostly on a ravaged Earth after humanity was wiped out, and you play one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (War, naturally) as he defends himself against both the forces of heaven and hell. He has few allies, and the story is a quest of redemption as he tries to prove it wasn't his fault everything went bad. The designs of everything from the costumes to the monsters is like a little kid's idea of what's totally awesome, and the comic book comparison really is fitting. It's the sort of thing that I enjoy in a not really ironic but still not totally serious way, but really wouldn't show to anyone who doesn't like games.

But I really do like it, there's a nice thickness to everything that's part of the appeal along with the consistently solid level design and simple honesty of the whole thing. When I was maybe a third through the game my PS3 hard drive crashed and I lost most of my saves, so I had to sit down and marathon my way back to where I was for four hours, and I liked doing it. I don't think I could really say that about a lot of games, so take from that what you will. The game makes mistakes along the way, but it's sort of like an eager to please puppy or something that you can't possibly hate. I also have to mention the voice acting, which really fits the whole thick, over the top thing. Mark Hamill plays a character who accompanies you on your quest that I could take or leave, but pretty much everyone has this deep, guttural voice and is really way too into what they're saying to each other, and I enjoyed every second of it. It really completes the sale on this insane doomsday scenario they're throwing at you. The end promises a sequel, and I'm looking forward to the possibility.

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