Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The legend of a god called War

I'll get this out of the way first, yes Darksiders borrows heavily from other games, in fact to say borrow seems like an understatement; "copies and pastes" is a more accurate description. The Legend Of Zelda, God Of War and Panzer Dragoon are the main contributers to this game, and with a rich original sample like that how can you go wrong? Here's the part where you expect me to say 'somehow they found a way' or something similarly negative, but the truth of the matter is that you genuinely can't go wrong.

Darksiders opens with a brilliant FMV introducing us to the war between heaven and hell, when humans are created the two factions forge a pact of peace and maintain a constant balance until the day comes when the seventh seal is broken and judgement is passed on all three factions. It's all very biblical and presented in an appropriately dramatic fashion, and provides a great back story for the events that are about to unfold during the game. Essentially what happens next is that Armageddon starts before the allotted time, and only one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse is summoned; War. The blame for premature anhiliation falls completely on War's shoulders, and you spend the game playing as the horseman as he tries to find those truly responsible.

The first gameplay segement is the tried and tested gaming hook of an abilitease section. Allowing players to experience the apocalypse first hand as the very disorientated horseman War, this scene has to be one of the highlights of the game and is a great introduction to the games universe. People run around disorientated, flying demons clash with helicopters, the forces of hell and heaven brawl through the streets and creatures taller than skyscrapers stomp around causing havoc. Fully powered War is exactly what you'd expect from a horseman of the apocalypse, all powerful and unyielding to even the largest of enemies.

The only downside to this section is that it's very short and a rather linear experience, and while it's true that the main game is pretty linear, short is not a word that can easily be attached to it. Not that being linear is a negative point by any means, there is plenty of room for exploring within the confines of the path forward, and the constant direction helps keep pushing the compelling narrative forward. The game takes somewhere in the region of 15 hours to complete, although admittedly around an hour of that consists of some game lengthening backtracking.
The puzzles very quite wilding in their time sink status, many of them will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played one of the games this title borrows from, for example at one point you will be tasked with lighting a torch by throwing your boomerang through some fire first, although in this game the torch is a leaking gas pipe, and the boomerang is a very large throwing star, the fire is still fire but then some classics can't be messed with! Some of the later puzzles are far more taxing however and can certainly push you in a way that many games fail to do so these days.

Graphically Darksiders is very impressive, and isn't afraid to use a wide colour pallet, and it's extremely gratifying to see a post-apocalyptic world with more variation than shades of greys and brown. The character models seem to be inspired by World Of Warcraft, but in a nice twist the few human characters seen at the start of the game are all realistically proportioned, making the super natural humanoid characters look especially imposing. Special note needs to be made of the demon Samael, who is in my opinion one of the coolest looking demonic characters to feature in gaming, despite sticking to every cliché in the book.

Overall I'd recommend Darksiders not only to anyone who has played and loved any of the Zelda games over the years, but also to anyone who is looking for a lengthy game with some challenging puzzles and buckets of personality. It's only apt that a game that borrows from some of the most popular franchises in gaming's relatively brief history be summed up an an extremely popular expression: truly Darksiders is a game that is easy to pick up, but oh so hard to put down.

Darksiders is available now

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