The last couple of years have been good for gamers and comic fans alike, and Vigil Game’s Darksiders appears to be a prime example of the gaming industry finally getting comic adaptations right. After years of lacklustre releases, the industry has finally begun to release comic-inspired Games that stand on their own as compelling action Games. With that being said, Darksiders occupies a strange niche, especially since Darksiders comic influences are both authentic and abundant. With creative director Joe Madureira’s comic-inspired art design, and the Spawn-esque hierarchy of characters, Darksiders looks and plays like a comic book game. The only catch is that there is no actual comic source material. This one-player game allows its users to immerse themselves into a richly developed world that feels as if has just jumped off the page of a mylar-sleeved limited release. In short, as fun as it has been to play Games based on comics, it is refreshing to experience a sophisticated game that has learned a trick or two from good old fashioned comic books.
Darksiders starts off with an epic bang. Perhaps the most epic bang as far as humanity is concerned. Whether you call it The Rapture, The Apocalypse, of The End Times, those times have come. The end is nigh, and the Horseman named War, descends upon Earth. Using our cities and towns as battlefields War wreaks havoc amongst the squabbling angels and demons that now populate the land. But as you might guess, things have gone horribly wrong. Despite the fact that the final seventh seal hasn’t even been broken yet, a trigger happy War decides to proceed with the Apocalypse anyway. In response, a celestial body known as the Charred Council holds War personally responsible, and as punishment, they strip him of his powers and send him back to a devastated Earth. It is there that War must toil, 100 years into the aftermath, left to determine exactly what went wrong, or perhaps to die in the attempt.
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For comic fans, particularly those that remember the impact of Todd McFarlane's Image comics, Darksiders will be a pleasant surprise. Thus far, no other game has so successfully captured the essence of Image’s influence. War, and the world he explores, shares colour palettes, chiselled jawbones, and beefy builds that exemplified Image comics throughout the 1990s. Being a multi-platform game of a lower quality than Sony or Microsoft’s best exclusives, it is not surprising that the screen occasionally slips into minor graphical hiccups. In terms of graphic stability, the PS3 version slightly edges out the 360 version, so if your option are open, then the PS3 version is definitely the way to go.
On an audio note, Darksiders delivers adequate sound quality. Despite the fact that the voice actor for War seems to have graduated from the “We are Sparta" school of laconic enunciation, the character performances are generally solid and engrossing. As is expected for an apocalyptic game about angels and demons, the score boasts a mighty orchestral theme backed by the obligatory choir of forceful vocalists. This isn’t the kind of high octane action title like Modern Warfare 2 or Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Darksiders is not intended to give an expensive sound system a multi-speaker workout. What it does do though, is deliver a diligent onslaught of battlefield sound effects like the clashing of armour and the galloping of horses.
Zelda-style game-play is a particular itch that’s rarely scratched in today’s generation of game consoles. The exploration of labyrinthine dungeons, the use of found tools, and the need for environmental problem-solving are all elements of less popular genre. Darksiders not only attempts to revive this style, but it does so with style. The game's opening hours are deceptive, and hint at little more than a pleasingly simplified God of War-style brawler. However, as the narrative unfolds, the complexities come to the surface. Darksiders' elaborate puzzle-based dungeons require a cache of collected weaponry and a knack for creative thinking. The world of Darksiders is brimming with calculated nooks and crannies that aren’t immediately accessible. But when approached under the right set of circumstances, these recesses will willingly yield their secrets and treasures. While none of these puzzles are diabolically difficult, the solutions are rarely immediately obvious. In that way, players are not forced to scour the internet in search of assistance, but feel a sense of well-earned satisfaction when a quick tour around the depths of their brain earns the desired result.
The combat sequences of Darksiders are functional, though not particularly demanding. For the most part, it’s restrained to effective one-button combos that require either a timely pause, or the use of an intermittent trigger. Once realizing that finishing moves grant a few seconds of invincibility, as does the transformation into War’s Chaos form, these prove to be effective strategic tactics to employ, whether intentional or not. Of course, these elements will be very familiar territory for experienced gamers. Such simplified implementation is engrossing and easily forgiven, while other elements involving flying beasts and on-rail shooting add some much needed variety. The end result is a game that achieves the most essential of goals - It provides hours of fun and minimal complaints.
In the end, Darksiders is the sort of title that is easy to recommend, if nothing else happens to be available. With heavy hitters like Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy XIII and God of War III on the horizon, the more budget-conscious gamer might give this game a pass. But for people looking for a decent game to while away the hours until more coveted Games come out, then Darksiders is definitely a title of note.