Review in Progress #14 : Darksiders (PS3 [played]/Xbox360)

Status : Game cleared (Apocalyptic)

A few weeks ago, I remember mentioning how upon getting The Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time 3D I’ve been playing quite a few adventure games of a similar style. Beyond Good & Evil, was incredibly fun despite me not reviewing it (I’m lazy sometimes). I talked on one of our video-podcasts about how Ocarina overshadowed adventure games for years to come including Beyond Good & Evil‘s initial release and Star Fox Adventures, both games that I would not come to appreciate until the past year or so.

Thankfully, it is much easier setting the 3DS aside because I already played the hell out of that game. To be honest there has not been much interesting on the new releases side. Darksiders had been still in plastic since Christmas and the second I heard that Liam O’Brien was voicing the main character, it was just a matter of finding a window to play in. The guy has a habit of voicing a lot of my favorite characters, so a game where I can hear him grunt and yell for hours upon hours had me pumped up from the very beginning.

One of those few times I can really say : That's some pretty sweet box art. From the splattered paint highlights to the almost copper tone of War riding atop Ruin, there is an overall intensity that I don't see too often.

Now, with a little over 23 hours logged on my last save final, I can say that I finished Darksiders on Apocalyptic (hard) mode and boy was it…. easy.

This is one of those games where being a collection whore -I wanted my trophies- makes the game absurdly simple. If you do everything there is to do, you’re going to have 10 extra health bars, 8 containers that function like Zelda’s bottles ready to do a variety of effects if needed (including resurrect with full health/wrath when you die), a set of armor that seriously reduces damage taken, abilities that allow you to absorb health upon attacking any enemy (even bosses) and a wrath ability that further increases your defense and your attack power at the same time while very gradually reducing from your wrath meter…. oh and if things get really hairy, if you have a full chaos meter which fills naturally through combat, you can temporarily transform into this giant beast that does massive damage while taking none in return. Honestly, I went in for the final battle with 8 filled containers of stuff that would immediately refill my health or wrath and finished the fight using absolutely nothing. War just has too much at his disposal!

When it comes down to it, that's a lot of shit!

Of course, things don’t start out this way. Because enemies dish out more damage, I was getting my ass kicked hard at the very beginning. The kind folks at Vigil Games took pity on folks who die a lot such as myself. Very frequently, the game auto-saves a checkpoint – if you die, it starts you from that point with full health (unless you have over 3 bars of health, which is the limit replenished per retry). This practice, while forgiving, severely undermines the need to heal via consumables in the game when you can just as quickly die and start the fight over with enough health to carry you to the next checkpoint and no wasted consumable. The other reason that I learned to avoid consumables is because some dungeons like to trap you in with no way out until you clear the boss, so I would save them for the big fight so that I wouldn’t end up with a fucked save because I have no items to heal up when it’s most needed. That strategy worked wonders for the first major boss, Tiamat, because she’s the only early boss who you have to brawl to the death in the last leg of the fight. Because of this, my Stoneskin wrath power barely carried me to victory (the one that increases your attack/defense).

Just about every boss after that revolves around gimmicks to defeat : do something that forces boss to expose weakness, hit it a couple of times in the soft spot and repeat two more times to end it. They’re so scripted that wrath abilities become worthless outside of fighting the hordes of powerful regular enemies, and they’re usually so simple to exploit that you won’t be open to serious damage. There are a couple of occasions in the last leg of the game where you find yourself in a good brawl of a boss battle, but by then you’re already powerful enough to get by with no problem.

In theory you could create an artificial challenge by collecting the bare minimum of items, but it would all be about fighting the regular enemies who are far more dangerous, especially in big groups, but then you have to look at all those missed trophies because they’re related to doing everything available in the game, and since people might not have the time to give it a second playthrough, it isn’t worth it.

Now that the complaining is out of the way, the fact that War has so many possibilities in his arsenal goes to show how many different ways you could play through the game. While you could entirely beat the game with the normal 5 hit sword combo like I did, you could actually purchase abilities for the sword and the other two weapons and power them up by applying one of the many weapon enhancements. There are also a variety of sub-weapons such as a gun and a giant boomerang-shuriken thing each with upgrades to make them more powerful. At least if you’re gonna go kicking everyone’s ass, the game gives a good supply of ways to do it. That kind of freedom I respect in games and there are enough things to kill that aren’t the pathetic bosses to keep me content. Also, having two weapon buttons instead of one is a great addition. You can hit a couple of times with your sword, immediately begin a scythe combo or vice-versa for instance. There are additional attacks available for purchase at the shop allowing a decent amount of attacks per weapon, but it is nowhere near Ninja Gaiden’s range of weapon attacks for example.

Although possibly having the weakest combo potential, the scythe hits like a truck.

The overall atmosphere is post-apocalyptic with the game’s world being among the ruins of a destroyed modern civilization. A lot of games seem to do that nowadays for some reason : Nier and Enslaved are two examples I can think off the top of my head. The dungeons especially are well designed, and tend to go on far longer than I would expect, which is cool because it gives you more time to enjoy how they’re all constructed out of destroyed scenery. I remember one place where all the walls were covered in spider webs, and some of the exposed walls would be concrete with graffiti tags. Details like that are great to come by and admire, especially when you start visiting some of the really distorted areas later on, and it gets increasingly hard to find anything resembling the city.

There are a few glitches here and there that I came across, one of which had me falling into infinite space in The Ashlands.  There’s a trophy for riding your horse, Ruin for 100 miles, and I decided to try cheating the system by riding endlessly into a wall.  Instead I got stuck in the wall and started my never ending descent while trying to wiggle out.  There have also been a few instances of game freezing, so I recommend frequent saving, especially while grinding weapons (in some places the auto save doesn’t trigger if you’re going back and forth grinding in the same room, so you’re fucked if it freezes).

Is this even a city anymore? It's hard to tell...

The music is alright, while I can’t exactly remember much of it, it never became irritating, and I vaguely remember a couple of tracks being enjoyable. The story is pretty cool, and sets up space for at least 4 games if the creators plan to go past Darksiders 2 – the first game revolves entirely around War while the second will be centered around Death, leaving two more horsemen to possibly get their own games and adding to the overall story which is still a little vague right now.

Here’s hoping that the Darksiders series doesn’t take after the Mega Man Legends series and the developers finish what they started. Personally, I can’t wait for the next installment and recommend anyone in need of an action packed adventure to give it a shot!

One thought on “Review in Progress #14 : Darksiders (PS3 [played]/Xbox360)

  1. Hachi76

    I really should play this. Mine too is still in the plastic. Oh, and stop biting off my style, James! I knew who Liam O’Brien was years before you! I love the guy also, but more importantly, Voice actors are my territory, and I WILL kill you if you step in…
    *Ahem* As for the sequals, although I’m sure death would make a good theme for the second, the latter two might not lend themselves as well. Do you really want to play “Darksiders: Rumbling Tummy of Famine” or “Darksiders: The Runny Nose Of Pestilence”?

    Reply

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