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A Fine Way to End the World

Next to zombies, aliens, space marines, and WWII, the apocalypse is one of the most common settings for video games these days. Some games like Fallout and Gears of War use them as grim reminders of some tragic war while others like Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask use them as the reward for failing the game. Darksiders uses the setting as its promising beginning, showing you how to slay demons and angels while enticing you to play through the game by showing some of the abilities you'll have to regain. The tutorial is riveting, but the rest of the game follow suit or branch off?

So it's that time of day; the End of Days, to be precise. All hell's breaking loose across the world as demons and angels battle it out in open streets with no regard for us humans, since we'll be dead by the time it's all over. You play as War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who's arrived on Earth to help tidy things up. Unfortunately, he got his dates mixed up and finds himself on the wrong side of his bosses, the Charred Council. With the help of the not-so-friendly entity known as the Watcher, War heads back to Earth to find out who set him up and redeem his good name. Right from the start, the story ends up getting lost. War, though he does look the part, comes across as emotionally dead, thanks in no small part to his voice. The other characters all have a bit of personality to them, though there one who seems like he belongs more in a fairy tale movie than a game about the apocalypse. The plot twists are flimsy and weak, but the hook they throw out for the ending will definetely get people excited.

Ever since its reveal, Darksiders has been touted as being a mix between God of War and the Legend of Zelda, and they'd be pretty much right on the money. At first it might seem like it leans heavily toward fighting, but Darksiders is really a puzzle game at heart. For a good portion of the game, you'll be solving puzzles in order to progress to the next area. Some are incredibly simple, while others will have you scratching your head in confusion. What they pretty much amount to is the camera doing a sweep shot over a few items and whatever it is you're supposed to go to, but the shots are really only there to show off the settings. For example, there was one time where I entered an area and had to press several switches to unlock a door and reflect a beam in a time span of what might have been three seconds. After about twenty times, I discovered that there was a switch that could slow down time, which might've eased my frustration if the camera showed the switch. Other times, the game will simply hand you a puzzle and keep quiet, offering no sorts of clues whatsoever except to use the item that you recently found.

On the combat side, War's skillset is a mix between God of War and Devil May Cry. Aside from his heavy and light attacks with his giant sword, War can also use the items he acquires, like the pistol or hookshot, or the breakable objects scattered around each level that he can use to throw. Using cars to take out a small scout troop of demons is amusing, but using the lock-on system without going over the shoulder is amazingly bad, sometimes getting you stuck in an awkward position while demons slice your stomach open like a pig and take down three quarters of your health. Speaking of, the enemy AI in this game can be described as cheap. As I mentioned in my blog a few weeks ago, on the highest difficulty (Apocalyptic), they pretty much take enough damage to kill maybe three people while you die faster than Brad Pitt's character did in "Burn After Reading." It gets especially worse as the game progresses and enemies can break combos while you try and get a fistful of sword down your throat. This is also not helped by the game, who decides that it's best not only give you about four waves of enemies to fight through, but to let them teleport themselves right next to you just as they prepare their attack. I've come across games like this before (Ninja Gaiden II and Devil May Cry 4 come to mind), but this is one that really punishes you for the slightest error. Add in the sometimes unresponsive controls and you'll be tempted to toss the game out a window.

2010 has got its first big hit in just five days with Darksiders (or it's the second, if you played and liked Bayonetta). While it's easy to point out and name what it's taken from other games, it's able to do it so well that it feels more like a reminder of how far games have come. Sure, you can point out some issues with the combat and puzzles or the screen tearing on the 360 version (which I didn't experience but don't know what it is anyway), but the amount of polish and work into each element is definetely admirable. Not only is this a great first effort for Vigil, it's a great game, period. Arm up for the End of Days and get this game.

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