The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
It’s not that playing as a horseman of the apocalypse (the
sword-wielding War) is an empowering experience (he gnashes his teeth,
communicates almost solely through threats, yet ends up being a
transparent “who needs backstory?” guide through the end of days).
Darksiders’ allure comes from the homage it pays to Zelda and God of
War. Upstart developer Vigil Games does nothing to disguise the fact
that both aforementioned games are channeled to the fullest extent.
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?
Miyamoto isn’t the only one who may demand a
cut of the take. If Vigil decides to release a Darksiders prequel, most
of the game would likely show War palling around with God of War’s
protagonist Kratos. The horseman’s attacks channel the same fiery
orange trails and an elegant, yet violent beauty. Defeated foes don’t
simply fall to the ground. They stand dazed with a flashing icon over
their head, alerting War that he can finish them off with a brutal (and
visually satisfying) strike. When the body explodes into blood, War is
rewarded with colored souls that regenerate his health and mana, and
are also used as currency at stores to purchase new attacks, weapons,
and upgrades. As Kratos’ understudy, War is also overly abusive towards
doors and chests.
For one level, Darksiders doesn’t hump God of
War or Zelda’s leg. It instead shifts its admiration of great games to
the most unlikely of candidates: Portal. Yes, War wields the portal
gun. And yes, if you fire it once, it makes a blue doorway. Fire it
again to create an orange exit. As strange of a fit as it may be, Vigil
makes it work well with the context of the game. Some of the game’s
greatest moments are tied to this device.
All of the familiar
mechanics and designs are handled with care, almost making me think
that the Zelda, Portal, and God of War teams were involved with
Darksiders’ creation. From the complexity of the dungeon designs to the
finesse of combat, Vigil shows us that it is capable of much more than
imitation – it can twist decade-old ideas into new experiences, and
make every battle a sweat-inducing affair.
These elements come
together to create an engaging adventure that kept me in a state of
wonder most of the way. Exploring the dungeons and solving their many
riddles was the highlight. The combat system, although periodically
bothered by camera tracking issues, controls admirably, and offers
depth in combos, weapon choice, and tactics.
While succeeding in
design, Darksiders doesn’t keep gamers engaged with the narrative. War
isn’t the only character that delivers a transparent performance.
Almost every character feels like he or she was assigned a cameo role,
as you never can quite grasp their importance to the tale at hand. The
plot bounces around recklessly and doesn’t open itself up enough to
make you believe the apocalypse is a worldwide event. From what I could
tell, it happened in a city the size of Baltimore, and affected the
lives of 200 people and/or demons. The “big” players in the story – if
you can call them that – also go down like chumps through boss fights
consisting of repetitious tactics that are intended to require
experimentation to solve, but are telegraphed far too clearly.
without a clear narrative purpose, Darksiders never wavers from being
an enjoyable adventure. I had a blast playing it, and strangely enough,
the obvious nods to other games added to the fun. Despite a lame last
boss fight, the setup planted for the sequel has me counting the days
until it arrives.
Email the author Andrew Reiner, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Darksiders is
flattering the hell out of the last few years’ biggest hits. Zelda’s
dungeon-oriented structure, God of War’s combat, and even a portal gun
(?!) all figure prominently into Darksiders’ formula. While originality
may not be a specialty of the grim horseman War, I am impressed at
Vigil Games’ ability to weave so many disparate concepts together. Some
of the puzzles are fiendishly clever, and the pacing strikes a decent
balance between exploration and action. Unfortunately, repetitive
objectives detract from the thrill of discovery, making some sections
feel needlessly bloated. Issues with the camera and sluggish
dodge/block mechanics interrupt the fluidity of combat, though War
generally feels like a ruthless force for vengeance. This sense of
godly empowerment is the game’s greatest strength, but in its effort to
adapt and execute ideas from other series, Darksiders fails to
establish an identity of its own.