War, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse entrusted with maintaining the tender balance of light and dark, is accused of breaking sacred law and unleashing chaos upon the earth. He must now seek the help of Samael, a powerful demon, who sends War on a little errand — collect the hearts of The Chosen and The Destroyer, great monsters of the ancient world. Once defeated, the precious balance will be restored to the cosmos.
The problem with Darksiders is not the premise, nor the plot. It’s the execution. In the first few hours, Darksiders looks, feels, and plays like a ridiculous God of War knockoff, riddled with inane elements that will make many gamers switch off.
Though the shabby shards eventually come together to create an unexpectedly intelligent, stylish action-adventure, here are the top five things that make the first few hours of Darksiders just plain comical:
5) Excuse me, do you have change for a soul?
The currency used to upgrade weapons and abilities is the collected souls of your defeated foes. But you also gather souls from items you destroy. Can anyone tell me why a parking meter has a soul? And why doesn’t a lamppost have a soul if a construction barricade does? It doesn’t seem fair.
4) The hills are alive with the sound of … Hello? Is this thing on?
It’s apocalyptic America with demons roaming the streets and a great mythological protagonist, all with no moody soundtrack to be heard. From the epic, choral score heard in the game’s main menu, I expected much more.
3) A rose by any other name …
There are a dozen areas to play through in the game, many of which have names that make little sense. “Broken Stairs” has no stairs; “Twilight Cathedral” doesn’t take place in twilight and the “Ashlands” look more like they are made of sand.
2) Who needs action when you have puzzles?
In the final few levels, unleashing vengeance takes a back burner and you will spend literally hours with elaborate puzzles to unlock doors or to free allies. Great. Who wants to be able to slice through rooms of savage enemies when you can spend your time solving a level-wide puzzle to … open a door!
1) Look, Ma, no carpal tunnel!
Finally, a one-button game. Sure you have a barrage of weapons and combos you can unlock and purchase. But why would you use these or even use the standard hack-and-slash flurry strategy that plagues this genre? Save time and your wrists. You can get through most battles simply by holding down one button. It’s pretty sad when a developer can’t even get button-mashing right.
If you’re willing to forgive the initial stages of gameplay, Darksiders becomes impressive as subtle elements come together. The voice work and soundtrack move from redundantly silly to enticing. The detail in bosses and level design soon hook you into War’s plight. The grand, elaborate puzzles, which at first frustrate become surprisingly rewarding. Finally, weapons and equipment that seem clichéd at their onset become an integral part of your strategy in bringing each enemy to its knees. It’s just a shame that it takes the game 10 hours to get to the good parts.
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: 3rd Person Action
Rating: M (Mature)