First Impressions: Darksiders
January 10, 2010
Darksiders doesn’t so much wear its influences on its sleeve as sport the official fan club badges on its gleaming plated breast; ‘We ♥ God Of War’ they read, and ‘The Legend of Zelda Appreciation Society’. But if you are going to steal, than its wise to do it from the best, and Darksiders takes this to heart; knitting together elements from both games under the banner of its own individual art style and over-the-top tale of the impending apocalypse at the hands (claws?) of The Destroyer.
It’s the visuals that you will notice first; a comic-book aesthetic brought to the game by the creative direction of Joe Madureira, a comic-book penciller for such series as Uncanny X-Men. These sensibilities bring a fresh look to a genre that excels in murky browns and slate greys, instead adding splashes of bright colour to chunky, angular characters; but it’s not all effective. War himself surprises when first controlled by how short and stocky he is; a combination that actually comes off as unintentionally comical (no pun intended).
The first few hours of the game start off, unsurprisingly, by easing you into the combat mechanics. These are surprisingly fluid, with War wielding his immense blade Chaoseater with aplomb, scything down demons with ease. Picking up common zombies with your massive gauntlet and smashing them into the floor is particularly satisfying, the controller vibrating judiciously with each impact. Finishing moves are highlighted with a button prompt (always circle on the PS3), which ends each enemy in a visceral, gory climax.
Combat mechanics dispensed with, the game settles into its more Zelda-esque groove in the first major location – the abode of bat-queen Tiamat – the Twilight Cathedral. Tasked with returning her heart to imprisoned demon Samael (don’t ask me about the story, its too overblown and silly to pay much attention to), you have to negotiate the cathedral by solving puzzles. There are lots of statue-pushing sections (does that sound familiar?) as well as hitting switches with your boomera… I mean, Crossblade. As stated at the top of this article, Darksiders wins no prizes for originality, but it must be praised for the way it pulls off the execution of its borrowed ideas, even if over-fussy controls mean finishing off the first boss is an exercise in patience.
There is a lot of promise here, and those willing to look past the silly story, posturing demons, bizarre mish-mash of environments and utter lack of originality will find a dungeon brawler that’s bright and slick, combining elements of dumb-but-fun hack’n’slash swordplay with cerebral complexity. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Darksiders has to offer.