Darksiders Review

Darksiders
8.7 Overall Score
Grapics: 8/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Sound: 9/10

Atmosphere is done well | Nice effects both audible and visual | Excellent boss encounters

A port without much else | Keyboard/Mouse issues | Sparse options for PC customization

As someone who for the most part focuses my gaming on titles that release for the PC, I was thoroughly enthused to see that THQ was bringing their grim action title Darksiders to the platform. Though this title is certainly not a RPG by stretch of the imagination, the chance to take on the role of one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse was one I wasn’t about to let pass by. Very few areas of PC gaming are as thin as that of the action platformer hybrids, basically devoid of God of War types of games, and with the exception of a couple of enjoyable Devil May Cry ports, little else stands out that combines this style with a mature theme. Darksiders was poised to potentially change all of that, delivering a smashmouth style action title with platforming elements, all wrapped inside a kick ass chaotically bloody apocalyptic backdrop.
As Darksiders had been on my radar for a good while, it was an initial disappointment that it was delayed instead of releasing along with its console counterparts. I had hoped the extra time would be used to provide PC gamers with a little something special, but Darksiders shipped basically the same as it originally debuted on Xbox and PS3. Still, I did take advantage of the offering of the Hell Book Edition, which I imported from the UK, that arrived appearing as a very cool dark tome, which opens to show parchment style paper with drawings and contains the DVD’s, a nice quality artbook and art cards. Nothing necessarily earth shattering, but a solid package that really sets the mood of the game and wasn’t much more expensive than the boring by comparison standard edition.

Darksiders puts you in the heavy boots of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. A brooding hulk of a man, War pretty much has the look of a guy you don’t want to screw with, think Arthas of Warcraft lore with a bigger sword, a penchant for throwing cars and the ability to transform into a raging demonic beast. You start on Earth thinking the seals have been broken signifying the end of the world and that you are doing your duty, when you find out that is apparently not the case. You are brought before the Council who decides that instead of enforcing a death sentence, you will be stripped of much of your power and returned to Earth to correct the balance of power. This is not exactly uncharted territory here for this type of game and War may come across a bit subdued for the dark hero role, but it doesn’t take long for you to realize that the story pretty much fits the gameplay like a glove.

Graphically, Darksiders is both great and a bit of a let down at the same time. I say that since on the one hand the game is vibrant and beautiful in motion, with exquisitely detailed characters, armor and weapons, intricate backdrops and nicely rendered animations, really conveying the power that War possesses. On the other, there wasn’t a lot of love given to the PC platform which is obvious by the lack of options, no texture levels, no filtering, nothing. The only option is to change the resolution and enable Vsync, that is it. Though Darksiders runs very well and appears fairly optimized, this may provide a problem for older hardware as you are unable to turn off features to gain frames. This gripe aside, on my rather beefy test machine at 2560 x 1600, the game looks brilliant and some of the slow motion gruesome kills and destructible environments really carried a nice bit of graphical flair. Though the games engine shines brightly here, I was disappointed with the cut scenes, which were fun to watch and progressed the story nicely, but were grainy and obviously not of particularly high resolution. Darksiders really shows its heritage and inspiration from comic book artist Joe Madureira, the attention to detail and the aura of power War’s presence emanates can most definitely be attributed to his direction. This is one of those games that really requires you to play it to appreciate the art style, a few bosses in I was still finding myself impressed with the creativity it exudes.

Gameplay in Darksiders is an area where I found myself having a top notch experience but only after an initial bout of frustration and subsequent research to alleviate the games ills. Upon installing Darksiders I was preparing to test it with keyboard and mouse before switching to controller, which arguably should be more natural as the game was designed around using one. However, upon going to the control setup, I was unable to even select keyboard as it was only allowing me to use my connected controller, which was only functioning marginally and had camera issues as well as buttons incorrectly mapped. After some digging it appeared that I could unhook the controller or substitute a DLL file to make the game allow me to use the keyboard and mouse. After experimenting with that combo, a Playstation style dual analog and the Xbox 360 controller, I found all to work well with the nod going to the natively supported 360 pad. Keyboard and mouse work well, with some careful key remapping and the luxury of extra buttons on my mouse I was able to pull off special power combinations without contorting my hand to terribly.

Once control issues were sorted I was pleasantly rewarded to find that guiding War to deliver devastating damage upon all he meets was very enjoyable. Executing combos and special skills both were fairly intuitive and whether using War’s weapons or tossing things that were lying around, it just felt darkly satisfying and solid. Though as mentioned you start your journey stripped off all the glorious powers that you had access to in the games intro, you still are a force to be contended with and immediately you start the process of reacquiring your slew of abilities. Basically the more death and destruction you wreak, the more souls you collect which augments your health, increases your power and provides currency for you to purchase upgrades from Darksiders resident bartering demon, Vulgrim. In addition to your basic talents, you will also have access to your Chaos form which causes just that, Chaos. In this mode, you are a virtual wrecking ball, a juggernaut who shatters, crushes or impales all who oppose you. Though this form can feel a bit overpowered at times, there is no denying that it gives a bit of twisted pleasure to transform and unleash unbridled fury on all in the nearby vicinity. You also will be able to take advantage of your ghostly steed, Ruin, who will help you to cover ground quicker as well as looking fairly sinister in the process.

With all this power, I guess the Council worried that you might not follow their wishes, so you are shackled to a being known as The Watcher. The Watcher lets you know when you are straying from your objective and also is a backup in case you somehow forget where you are going or what you are supposed to be doing, not that this should be a perpetual worry in this type of game. Still, this is not purely a combat driven game, to the contrary it has numerous platforming style challenges, from secret areas to explore to puzzles of varying degrees of complexity to solve. It very much is a hybrid of the genres, but due to the vivid impression the combat leaves, it is easy to overlook some of the games more subtle nuances if you are not careful. The blend works well and the puzzle or exploration elements never interfere with the flow or progression of the story, which can take in the 15 hour range to complete.

On the audio front, Darksiders again brings it and brings it hard. This title shows the effort the designers put into it on the sound side, with polish evident from the soundtrack to the voice acting. Speaking of the games musical score, Darksiders included the soundtrack as a standalone which allows you to play tracks at your whim. The game really does a great job of blending the cracks, creaks and groans of a battered world that has collapsed under a vicious apocalyptic war through the ambient noises all while leading up to the infusion of dark musical notes which truly add to the appreciation of what lies around the next corner or in the next room. Instead of settling for providing the player with just a pair of audible delights, the design team went for the trifecta by delivering a solid accompaniment of voiceovers. War is brought to life by Liam O’ Brian and his ever present companion The Watcher was done by Mark Hamill. Both of their performances were solid and the supporting castings were carefully chosen as well, you never felt like the voice didn’t belong with the character, as so sadly happens in far to many titles.

So where does all of this leave us, the rabid, under appreciated PC gamer? Darksiders as it arrives on the PC is surely not perfect. It is a fairly straight forward port without a lot of considerations taken for the specific needs of the platform it was being translated for. Still, if you are a PC gamer who doesn’t stray to the dark side of the console, this is sadly a rarity and in any guise a definite gem. I would encourage anyone who remotely likes a gritty, dark adventure or those who can handle the mature theme while craving the underlying platforming aspects to purchase Darksiders as I feel the experience as a whole shines. Perfection would be nice, but it is important to remember that support for the game most definitely will weigh on whether sequels or similar titles are brought to the PC in the future.

Darksiders is not about group hugs, rainbows or happy places, it is a game that portrays a world broken, one that succumbed to the ravages of the Apocalypse and is now barren of humanity. It encourages you to revel in this and you as the horseman are given the tools to exact bloody justice or cruel vengeance, depending on your perspective. The strange thing about Darksiders is that even with all the doom and gloom provided for your canvas, with a gleaming six foot long sword as your brush, a visceral type of art is created and from the chaos you find a sense of duty, perhaps a purpose. War is coming you say? No, he is already here and there is going to be hell to pay!


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One Comment on "Darksiders Review"

  1. Venger February 17, 2013 at 8:36 PM - Reply

    Darksiders 2 is pretty much an improvement on the original in every way. It has the addition of loot, which is implemented well and a much more epic feel than the original. The soundtrack is extremely well done and really adds to the games world. Again, PC Gamers get almost no additonal options and need not attempt to play without a Xbox controller handy unless beating your head on your desk is something you enjoy. Still a fun game that is well worth your time.

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