The break was brief but the time to get back to business has now come. Today, THQ's Darksiders gets a very special treatment with a full article including my first impressions of the game after four hours in the story. Much like in our reviews, each paragraph will be illustrated by corresponding videos showing different gameplay sequences. Because we like to do things the proper way, you will also be able to see our typical first 10 minute video at the end of the article. All the team at Gamersyde would like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy new year.
Much like Dead Space, Darksiders is a subtle mix between several very big games. It does not imply that THQ's new game lacks personality, far from it. Take a slice of God of War, a pinch of Zelda and Soul Reaver and a zest of Prince of Persia and Dark Sector and you will get the recipe for a very good game indeed.
Darksiders tells the story of three Kingdoms: the Kingdoms of Hell and Heaven and the younger Kingdom of Man. The Charred Council's role is to maintain balance between them all with the help of four enforcers: the four Horsemen of Apocalypse. A truce is forged between Hell and Heaven so Men have time to strengthen to be ready for the Endwar, the ultimate battle that is to decide of the fate of the three Kingdoms. After being summoned, War - one of the four Horsemen you play - is betrayed, which leads the world to chaos and Mankind to an end.
As you probably already know it, Joe Madureira (comic book writer famous for his work on Uncanny X-Men and Battle Chasers) was in charge of all the artistic direction of the game. Not everyone will like the comic book design of Darksiders but there is no denying the work that has been achieved is worthy of praise. The different protagonists and all the environments you will encounter are all very coherent and convey a good sense of credibility to the game's universe. The post-apocalyptic atmosphere has been completely nailed and you will see that the landscapes are both immersive and varied.
If the design cannot be blamed, the same cannot be said when it comes to the game's performances. Darksiders is indeed a lot less polished than the other big games of the genre, which means you will have to cope with some screen tearing, small framerate drops, poor texture work at times and some aliasing issues. However, it would be a real shame to stop at such nitpicking and it soon becomes obvious that the game still has its moments graphics-wise. I'll let you see for yourself in the following video presenting some of the early environments.
With such a long and impressive sword, one is expected to learn to master it quickly and skillfully, should you want to use it to its full potential. Hopefully, the good amount of dangerous foes will make it easier for you to get a hang of it. The combat system is very similar to games such as God of war or Devil May Cry, with multiple combos to purchase in exchange for the souls you have collected and the many hidden collectibles that can help you enhance the character's powers more rapidly. Now very common in the genre, finishing your enemies will be indicated by the appearance of a button, which will be the opportunity to enjoy some pretty violent moves. Of course, you will also get your share of awfully big monsters to kill in boss fight sequences that will require more patience and some specific tactics to defeat.
Darksiders is a bit more than a beat 'em up however. Though War does not look as agile as a Persian prince, you would be mistaken to believe he cannot handle the necessary jumping and climbing around. The game then becomes a real platformer where you learn new abilities that unlock new areas to explore.
Quite unsurprisingly, all the platforming will also be accompanied by some pretty common - but appealing - puzzle solving time. It gives War a chance to rest his sore muscles after a series of exhausting fights and use his observation skills as well as his very useful cross blade - very reminiscent of Zelda and Dark Sector to name but a few.
Another clear reference is Panzer Dragon when the game transforms into a shoot them up as War rides a flying mount in a rail shooting sequence. Again, it's not so much that it really adds a lot to the game as it is simply a nice break from all the fighting and platforming. Thus, it brings more variety to the gameplay, along with a bunch of nice touching memories to all Sega fans.
A few words on the voice acting and the cutscenes unfolding the story. Again, they have done some really good work at creating some charismatic characters, and, although the story does not seem to be very original, it still gives a good incentive to keep playing to find out what is going to happen. Some sequences will remind you a bit of the long Shakespearian dialogs of the Soul Reaver franchise and it does give the game its particular atmosphere. Hats off to Mark-Luke-Hamill once again, he makes a very believable Watcher and the rest of the cast is just as good so there is nothing to complain in that area.
To sum up, in spite of a few technical flaws, Darksiders is a very addictive game which reveals its full potential as you move forward. I obviously cannot be sure, as I haven't had time to complete the game yet, but there seems to be much to do, which should guarantee a good longevity. I have not mentioned it before but, after a few hours, you will be able to ride Ruin, War's horse, and explore the world even more easily (and much faster) than before. So, with all the hidden chests and places to discover, it should keep you very busy for a while.
Darksiders is definitely a very good surprise for those who like such games. It took ages to be released - it was first announced in July 2007 - but it has the means to compete with all the big hits of 2010. To finish this article, here are at last the indispensable first 10 minutes of the game, if you still need to be convinced that is.