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Beheading enemies can only push Darksiders so far

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Darksiders is a hack-and-slash title from Vigil Games that released in 2010. The obvious goal was to develop a God of War-like game to span the entire console market starring a theologically-rooted badass with vengeance on his plate. Its roots permeate, but don’t help this game achieve the same level of quality that competitors boast.

Darksiders is effectively based on existing theology, similar to its Sony counterpart. War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, is called to Earth to bring balance to a war that has broken out between Heaven and Hell – the Apocalypse, signaled by the breaking of seven seals that were put in place to prevent such a conflict. The seventh seal, it turns out, has not been broken, the angel Abaddon dies, War is tromped by the demon Straga fighting on Hell’s side, and is furthermore blamed for the whole fiasco by an all-powerful council.

While Abaddon and War have roots in Christian theology, the other characters are completely made up, as is the premise of these events. Regardless, there’s a solid story thickening here as War begins the trek to clear his name under the leash of the council who would rather have him dead for his crimes.

After conversing with a demon named Samael, another figure with Hebrew roots, War looks to fight the Destroyer and get to the bottom of things by collecting the hearts of several of the Destroyer’s Chosen, all of whom are made up.

Here is where the plot stops dead in its tracks. The story’s arc fails to effectively tie together these “Chosen”, and with no inherent background to make them interesting, the quest to track down their vital organs boils down to “How fun will it be?” The answer: Not very.

These tasks are laborious. War’s sword is fun to swing for a while – you'll feel powerful in the beginning. But it isn't particularly deep. Stringing together combos never really happens despite unlocking several sword maneuvers, and seems not to have any sort of benefit to combat, despite a counter in the top-left corner. You’ll pick up a couple of other strictly combat weapons, but it’s difficult to justify using them, as is also the case with wrath abilities that you'll only remember in a serious pinch. The quick-time activated finishers are nothing we haven't seen before. Don't get me wrong – it's fluid and well-designed, but not interesting enough to eclipse flaws in other aspects of the game.

Traversing the environment is a bit slow – War is not nearly as agile as his counterpart Kratos. Additionally, there are several “puzzles” with a dungeon feel to them that really only amount to flipping switches as you approach them.

Before long, you’ll have a slew of gadgets at your disposal comparable to the myriad available in the Batman games. Only a couple of these prove useful beyond the course of the segment in which they are acquired and the corresponding boss fight.

Speaking of boss fights, they're certainly the highlight of this portion of the game. It goes beyond simply dodging and then whittling down health, and while they do fall victim to the hokey "hit 'em three times" cliche, they smartly implement that newest gadget and break up the drone of sword-fodder the other enemies amount to.

The hacking-and-slashing continues for what seems to be an eternity until all the hearts are collected. The narrative slowly starts picking up steam at this point – the only reason I didn’t finally just put it down due to mundane gameplay. Some interesting twists and the sly use of a Latin pun offset the impending groan when the player acquires a portal gun ripped from Valve and the game wraps up very nicely with a nice segue for a sequel.

A strong start and a strong ending, however, do not a 14-hour game make. The narrative does nothing to drive it along, and gameplay rarely can propel any game that far – a fact that Darksiders is hallmark of.

Bottom Line: 6.5/10

Posted from Musings on Gaming – http://ethanclevenger.com/?p=658


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