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Darksiders – hands-on

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There’s a hell of a lot of meat to Darksiders. In a literal sense, having played a huge chunk of it we’ve chopped off thousands of limbs, dissected hordes of gigantic spiders, and torn countless flying insects in half – but it’s meaty in other ways, too. Taking a large amount of ‘inspiration’ from Zelda and God of War, it offers an unusual blend of exploration, puzzle-solving and frequent gory combat. There’s a lot to see and do and hack up during the course of the game.

It’s yet another post-apocalyptic yarn, with a setting that manages to be both interesting and uninspired at the same time. The Charred Council that oversees Heaven and Hell has blamed Apocalypse-Horseman War for the premature destruction of humanity, and he has to traverse the ruined wreckage of Earth to discover what went wrong. To keep you in check they saddle you with The Watcher, a nasty floating creature voiced by The Joker himself, Mark Hamill.

It doesn’t take long for the game to settle into a familiar structure. You have four demon hearts to collect for the powerful, and untrustworthy, monster Samael; you head to four vast areas to find demons, then rip their still-beating hearts from their chests. Along the way you’ll gut zombies, skewer angels and befriend a Scottish giant called Smith.

Comic artist Joe Madureira’s character designs are memorable, but the world they inhabit isn’t all that interesting or artfully constructed. The opening areas are apocalypse-by-numbers: a ruined grey city, followed by a ruined grey cathedral containing that hoary old platformer staple, lava pits. Later environments are more appealing, but it’s not a world we were in a desperate hurry to explore. Aside from a few Zelda-style heart pieces (they’re obviously called something different) or chests squirreled away, there isn’t that much scope for exploration, anyway.

However, combat presents many more options. There are a few different melee weapons, and each can be levelled through use, or enhanced with purchased moves or artifacts. Later on you get a gun, and you learn how to transform into a big fiery dragon thing that can kill most enemies in a couple of hits. But while there may be a lot of choice, fighting always seems to boil down to the same thing: smacking enemies until they’re weak enough, and then killing them with a gory finishing move. We fought so many monsters, and saw the same finishing moves over and over again, and combat very quickly turned into a chore.

It’s a shame, because Darksiders does ‘big’ very well. Bosses are enormous, inventive and hugely satisfying to beat, even if they do rely on the slightly cliched Zelda method of working out and following a pattern. There’s a pleasing sense of scale to the cathedral rooftop battle with Tiamat – a hideous bat-woman whose heart you must rip out – while the other boss encounters proved equally grandiose, or indeed bigger.

In every ‘dungeon’ there are a couple of puzzles, and they’re actually pretty smart – a grade above the typical ‘drag box onto pressure pad’ variety. However, the game doesn’t do a great job of helping or directing you – you can make The Watcher appear, but he’ll only remind you who you’re supposed to kill next, rather than offer any useful advice. Although it’s nice to have the chance to work things out on your own, we spent far too much of our time in the game lost, confused and inevitably frustrated.

After playing a significant amount of the game, we’ve come away impressed at its ambition and scale, but less than blown away by the combat. It’s clear that Darksiders is substantial - it’s just not currently proving to be quite as much fun to play.

Dec 3, 2009

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8 comments

  • Makk_Mizzy - December 13, 2009 10:38 a.m.

    WOW! I already paid this game off on reserve and after reading the review, I must say the reviewer is obviously into FPS games like FALLOUT 3 and BORDERLANDS that babysit you thru the whole game with the GPS system or navigation module. Im picking this game up first thing january 5th!!!! I watched the gameplay trailers and etc. and that's what every hardcore gamer wants a new adventure!!!! I felt that Zelda was great and new, then along came Metroid and that game was awesome and new, then came Final Fantasy and that game was like OMG, then came Halo and I was like it can't get no better than this, and what they made GOD of War and I was like this is the best game ever, then they made Fallout 3, Bioshock, Assassins Creed, Batman Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Uncharted, and I can go on and on! I just feel that as a true hardcore gamer I need a variety of selections so that I don't get bored or the typical hack and slash or run and gun! Nowadays I am drawn into the stories before I care for the combat system! Like for example I own a Wii and I have Muramasa: The Demon Blade and that game is like one of the best game I have ever played in my life and for anyone that's curious about me, check out my profile and you can see the games I own and I could tell you if the game is worth buying and the game storyboard from beginning to end! Im not a nerd, I am a hardcore gamer on the side and I play for money just to show ppl that I am who I say I am!!!! My PS3 online is SCORPIO-MAKK!
  • ReubenBC - December 5, 2009 10:35 a.m.

    this is gonna be awesome but not many people know about it; its not that big yet
  • wharcraff - December 4, 2009 10:31 p.m.

    I just love this reviewer. He's citing things he found positive in other games as negatives. Now that's class. Puzzles that make you think. Boss Battles that don't hold your hand in the vain of some of the greatest adventure games out there(Zelda franchise). Who needs that anymore? And you wouldn't want to those GOW moments in a post apocalyptic gory action game. That's just crazy. I'm waiting to see,as it debuts next year, if the added polish it gets changes his mind.
  • sirpsychosexy - December 4, 2009 7:20 a.m.

    i agree with pinoklin on the whole repetative pattern thing. hate them with my life and they are really predicatable once you figure them out... hence the reptetativeness but this game sounds like it could be awesome, i love zelda, and i love ripping things apart haha can't wait to get more info on this one
  • pinoklin - December 4, 2009 5:25 a.m.

    well i love final fantasy but hate repetitive patterns with my life...they switch intelligent AI with stupid robots designed to do 2 or 3 things which most of the times include a regular attack, an escape and a super attack....and you have to throw a rock or something right when hes charging or something like that....but besides that ill get this game rofl....... and yeah AC2 is so damn great!!!
  • ryacer - December 4, 2009 2:24 a.m.

    well I'm perfectly fine with repetitive fighting patterns, after all I am a final fantasy fan, so Im still going to get this game when it comes out. besides most of the time when you say you don't like something I usually end up liking it anyways. but thanks for the warning BTW: AC2 IS AWSOME!!!!
  • Fancy Rat - December 4, 2009 2:09 a.m.

    I love it when we get previews that aren't all "Cannot wait for this game to come out! It's gonna be great!"
  • Dreddie - December 4, 2009 1:41 a.m.

    Damn... was looking forward 2 this game

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