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.


5 Responses to “First Impressions: Darksiders”

  1. noobcake Says:

    Decent review. After watching trailers I wasn’t sure, so it’s always nice to read a genuinely decent review without all the crappy promotional jargon. Reckon I might give Darksiders a bashing this weekend!

    • Thanks noobcake. Well this isn’t my final review, just a jotting down of my first impressions for the 4-5 hours or so that I could devote to Darksiders so far. Definitely a string start though; it will be interesting to see how far they push the puzzles, and whether they can keep the combat varied enough to be interesting throughout.

  2. Cody Says:

    Interesting perspective. The influences you mention here are undeniable (taking both the good and the bad). That said, I think the art direction and character design have actually been the star for me; though, surprisingly, I’m even enjoying the silly story.

    When it comes down to it, I’d take strong execution over awkward gimmicks or middling innovation. I’m still only five or so hours into it myself, assuming you’ve had more time to sink into it, how’s it holding up?

    • I’ve actually not revisited it since these First Impressions – I’m suffering from having too many unplayed games on my shelf at the moment. I’m plugging my way through Bayonetta (and frequently having my ass handed to me) so when I’m done with that I’ll be switching back to Darksiders.

      Expect reviews for both soon(ish) 🙂

      • Cody Says:

        Ah yes, the happy burden of having too many games to play :P.

        Well, I look forward to your review! I’m almost at the point of breaking down and giving Bayonetta a shot, even though it’s not really my style of game. It will be interesting to see what you have to say about it that might sway me.

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