Late to the Darksiders party, I waited until after the game went out of print before I decided to track down a copy. Despite being out for over two years, used copies of the game are still hard to come by at your normal brick and mortar store. It never occurred to me to check online, where new copies of the game are readily available for around $20. Nevertheless, with the impending release of Darksiders II, I felt it necessary to experience the first one before I got too excited about a sequel. Looking back, I don’t know why it took me so long.
In Darksiders, players take control of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a group whose purpose is to maintain balance between Heaven and Hell until the Seventh Seal is broken, thus marking the End of Days. Being summoned to Earth in present day, War finds the armies of Heaven and Hell in the midst of conflict, that his fellow Horsemen have not arrived, and that the Seventh Seal remains intact. Blamed for inciting the violence and starting Armageddon, War is stripped of his powers and is sent back to Earth a century later to find the true culprit and enact his vengeance. What follows is a story of good, evil, corruption and betrayal.
Originally appearing to some as one of many God of War clones in recent years, anyone who plays Darksiders quickly realizes that it has more of Legend of Zelda-style of gameplay, from the item-based character progression system to the large, connected world sprinkled with a handful of “dungeons”. Sure, the combat is little more than a mashing of buttons, remembering the occasional combo, but the added tricks of the trade to the players repertoire help break up the monotony. And while the storyline is linear, the player is rewarded for seeking out every nook and cranny this apocalyptic world has to offer.
The story borrows a lot of its content from Christian and Hebrew mythology. While it isn’t anything exciting, and serves little purpose than to give War an excuse to kill anything and everything, you never feel as though it’s inconceivable. And the story isn’t the only thing derived from other sources. Several game mechanics are borrowed from other popular titles, like the Voidwalker that creates orange and blue “portals” for War to traverse though, and the Crossblade, a spinning Glaive-like weapon that can absorb the power of nearby flames to ignite torches or explosives and solve puzzles. And in true Zelda fashion, the boss of each dungeon can be defeated by using the weapon War received in the very dungeon they reside.
Even though Darksiders seems like a venerable smörgåsbord of all the great ideas of the past few years, it’s not a bad game. In fact, it’s a great game. It seems to have the right amount of all the different bits to become something new altogether, a phenomenon Penny Arcade put into context. And for the inaugural game of Vigil Games, the development team behind Darksiders, it represents a great jumping-off point for their future endeavors.
If you haven’t already given Darksiders a chance, then there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t. It’s a game you wouldn’t gripe spending full price on, much less bargain bin numbers. If you’re the kind of player that likes to get the most out of your games, then Darksiders will take up enough of your time to label it as a good investment, perhaps even enough to satisfy you until the sequel comes out on June 26, which there’s no doubt in my mind you’ll be clammering for once you’ve had your fill.