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I tried getting into Darksiders multiple times but always gave up after a short while. I played the original once or twice and the Warmastered Edition once before but something about the game didn’t hold my interest. I don’t know what it was because I always thought it looked cool. Well I gave it another go and this time I beat it. Developed by Vigil Games and published by THQ, Darksiders was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in 2010. A remastered version called Darksiders Warmastered Edition was released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, in 2016, Wii U in 2017, and Switch in 2019. For this review, I played the PC version.
The Charred Council is group that was created to keep order and harmony between the forces of Heaven and Hell and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse enforce their rules and keep balance in check. After humanity emerged, Seven Seals were created to be broken when the Three Kingdoms were prepared for the apocalypse. War, one of the horsemen, arrives on Earth where angels and demons are engaged in battle and he discovers the Seventh Seal, which is meant to summon the horsemen, has not been broken. The Council accuses him of destroying the balance resulting in the Apocalypse. War demands a chance to prove his innocence and The Council agrees but he’s bound to one of their servants called The Watcher who has the power to kill him should he stray from his mission. War sets out to find the culprits and clear his name. Overall, I liked the story. I like the whole Heaven versus Hell thing. Darksiders features a pretty good voice cast including Troy Baker, Phil LaMarr, and Mark Hamill as The Watcher who happens to sound exactly like his Joker. I thought Phil LaMarr gave the best performance as Vulgrim. I love the way this dude talks.
War can walk, run, dash, jump, double jump, swim, climb certain walls, and block when stationary. His primary weapon is a sword called the Chaoseater and you’ll acquire secondary weapons as you progress. You can perform counter attacks and pick up and use objects as weapons or throw them. You can perform all kinds of attacks and combos and juggle enemies. Unfortunately, the camera sucks and it can be very easy to take hits from enemies you can’t see. Luckily, you can focus or lock onto foes. Every now and then you’ll get to use ranged weapons like the Redemption and Fracture Canon to obliterate foes. War can utilize Wrath powers which do drain through Wrath bars. More Wrath can be acquired from souls. Souls manifest in three forms; currency, health, and Wrath. They can be acquired by killing enemies and from chests found in the environments.
One of the biggest problems with the PC or Steam version of the Warmastered Edition is the controls. I played with an Xbox One controller and besides the fact that the controls can be cumbersome in general, certain actions were not mapped in my game and apparently I’m not the only one who experienced this. I had to map them in the Steam controller settings. I also had to adjust the stick sensitivity in the controller settings because the camera was way too sensitive and the in-game settings didn’t help. Furthermore, some of the button prompts in-game don’t show the button icons so I had to figure out or look up how to perform certain actions.
Scattered throughout the world are Vulgrim shops or locations where you can buy items and travel through Serpent Holes which is the game’s fast travel system. When you choose the Serpent Hole option, you pick another Vulgrim location on the map and then must navigate along a path to get there. Nothing interesting happens along the path so why the game doesn’t just let you instantly fast travel is odd. I would say Darksiders is a somewhat slow-paced game and sometimes navigation can feel tedious. At a certain point, you’ll unlock the ability to summon a horse called Ruin at the press of a button but you can’t ride it everywhere. Usually when you’re in big open areas and it does make traversing across long stretches easier.
As you use weapons, they’ll gain experience and level up and become more powerful. If you want to max them out, it will require farming for experience which can feel like a chore because they level up slowly. It took me around thirteen hours to beat the game and none of my weapons were close to being maxed out. The Scythe and Tremor Gauntlet act as secondary weapons and you can switch between them at any time. You can acquire enhancements and legendary enhancements which are more potent. Enhancements can be inserted into weapon slots and provide bonuses but some of the standard ones don’t seem to be very effective. For example, the Bloodthirst enhancement leeches health but it leeches very little. Then there’s the Bane enhancement which is supposed to generate Wrath over time but it takes so long that it almost feels useless.
You can buy consumables, weapon attacks, and upgrade attacks at Vulgrim locations by spending currency and over time, you will notice it becomes easier to take certain foes down. At a certain point, you’ll unlock the ability to enter Chaos Form where you transform into this big fiery demon that can inflict a ton of damage for a limited time. You can only enter Chaos Form after building up enough Chaos which is done by attacking enemies. Wrath Powers can aid you in combat and they, too, can be upgraded. You can summon blades around you, scorch enemies in a barrier of hellfire, and plague enemies with an affliction that causes damage over time, among others.
Darksiders is kind of like a mix of Zelda and God of War. You solve puzzles and acquire items to progress through areas and kill enemies with different weapons and equipment. You will gain abilities that grant you access to new areas like Shadowflight that lets you glide and the ability to use Chronospheres to temporarily slow down time. You’ll acquire gear, some of which can be used as weapons, in several major areas of the game. You’ll get to throw a Crossblade, shoot foes with the Mercy pistol, use the Abyssal Chain to grapple around, create portals to instantly travel between two points, awaken gates with the Earthcaller, and wear a mask to see hidden objects and paths. If you’re one that likes to complete games to one hundred percent, you’ll want to revisit previously explored areas with any new gear you’ve acquired. If you want to max out everything and be super powerful, you will want to farm for currency and weapon experience which can be time consuming. There are multiple difficulty modes and I played through it on Normal which puts up a decent fight but never felt impossible.
My favorite thing about Darksiders is the bestiary. There’s a large roster of enemies and they all look cool. You’ll engage both angels and demons and they all require different strategies to defeat. You’ll take down large demonic bats, skeleton demons, angel soldiers, and undead shield lords, among other deadly foes. Proper timing is required to counter certain attacks and you can evade attacks by dashing. Some foes can be really tough and knowing when to dash can be the key to survival. Once you’ve upgraded your weapons, certain foes become easier but the game does get more challenging as you progress and more tougher types are thrown at you towards the end of the game. Many of the challenging encounters include one or multiple tough types with other common foes thrown in and the shitty camera can make some encounters frustrating. Once an enemy takes enough damage you can perform a finishing move which is when War performs a violent and bloody attack that decimates the foe. There are numerous bosses you’ll have to defeat and I found most of them to be not very difficult and I found the final boss to be one of the easiest.
The game world is large with a good variety of locations some of which include destroyed urban areas, a desert area, cathedral, and caves. The Zelda influences become obvious once you get to the Scalding Gallows. It’s basically the center of the game world with paths leading to multiple different locations which act like dungeons. You’ll have to travel to each location or dungeon to find items, keys, and solve puzzles to progress through them and a boss is always waiting for you at the end. You will have engage enemies and sub-bosses along the way and many encounters require you to kill all of the foes to progress. You’ll come across chests that contain resources or items and there are hidden or out-of-the-way areas that normally house goodies like Abyssal Armor Pieces, legendary enhancements, and if you find enough Lifestone and Wrath shards, you will permanently increase your health and Wrath respectively. Artifacts are scattered around and these can be traded to Vulgrim for more currency. Overall, the locations and dungeons are diverse and flow together nicely.
You will come across areas you can’t access until you acquire specific equipment but you can backtrack through previously explored areas later on if you want to collect everything. You’ll have to use sticky bombs to destroy obstacles, do some platforming here and there, and push and drag objects. Each dungeon is large and intricate and, luckily, you’ll be able to open up shortcuts back to previous areas. I do think some dungeons take too long to get through, although that could be due to the game’s slow pace. Some are just tedious like The Black Throne where you traverse through many of the same looking locations repeatedly. Most of the puzzles are clever and whenever I got stuck it was always because I missed something obvious.
I really like Darksiders’ art style. There’s a good variety of environments that keep the game visually interesting from beginning to end and there’s a good amount of color. I love the aesthetic and character designs. The big bulky bodies with small heads look isn’t anything new but I like the demonic-looking creatures and giant weapons. The game showcases a detailed post-apocalyptic world complete with destroyed buildings, debris floating through the air, dead bodies peppered throughout, and meteors falling from the sky. When enemies are attacked or executed, blood spews out, each strike feels satisfying, and some of the finishing moves are awesome. When it comes to the audio, the music and sound effects are noticeably quieter than the voices during pre-rendered cut scenes. I don’t know if this is the case in the original game or console versions but, evidently, it’s a known issue with the Warmastered Edition for PC but you can download a fix. The soundtrack is composed of a lot of orchestral and dramatic sounding stuff that compliments what’s happening on-screen nicely. I really enjoyed the songs Prison Break and Chaos Eater. I hope the names are right because I got them from YouTube. On the technical side, I didn’t encounter any issues with the performance or gameplay.
I enjoyed my time with Darksiders but I feel like it loses steam after a while. Honestly, I almost gave up towards the end of the game. There’s just something about it. On the surface, it’s very cool and I like what I see. I love the art style, I like all the Heaven and Hell shit, I like the character designs, I like the enemies, and I like the post-apocalyptic world mixed with the fantasy stuff. I like Zelda, I like God of War, and mixing the two together sounds like a great idea. The result is Darksiders but I feel like it’s missing something and I can’t put my finger on it. The combat, enemies, and atmosphere are what kept me going. Killing enemies and exploring does reward you with experience, items, and currency which can result in War being more efficient in combat. You can perform a variety of attacks, execute enemies in cool ways, and improving weapons by using them is a good idea. However, the gains in this game can often feel very minimal. Sometimes it takes a while before you notice a difference and some enhancements just feel useless. Farming will be required to max out weapons and acquire enough currency to afford everything Vulgrim offers. It can feel like a chore.
I would recommend the Darksiders Warmastered Edition to anyone that likes action games. However, I don’t know if I would recommend the PC or Steam version because in my experience, it has control and audio issues. Overall, it’s a solid action game that should keep you occupied for a while. Definitely check it out.