Darksiders – Review

darksiders-box-art

Developer: Vigil Games

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Release Date: Jan 2010

When I was a little thing….. boy I suppose…. I used to be rewarded for not setting hairy people on fire with a trip to the candy store! Once there, I could choose any sweeties I wanted, even the odd tasting sherbert sold in little packets by the hooded man outside. And every time, I would choose something like a KitKat, or a Twix, or a pack of Smarties. Any sweeties really, so long as it gave me enough of a high to molest the patience of anyone in my presence. But I never chose the plain bars. The Dairy Milk ones, that don’t really have any special features or add-ons. Everyone likes Dairy Milk (or at least I assume so, if you don’t, I’m forced to assume you’re an accountant or something), but it’s so basic, it’s the standard against which other bars are measured, and never really stands out for being in any way special or unique. And that’s sort of how I feel about Darksiders, to bring this long-winded analogy to a close.

I remember playing a demo for Darksiders around the time it was coming out, and even then it failed to impress me much, because it kind of felt like I’d played it before. The hacking and slashing, it was very ho-hum. It had intrigued me originally because I had heard it was ‘like Legend of Zelda’, and the last game I’d played that was ‘like Legend of Zelda’ was Okami, which had been quite good, in a serene help-me-I’m-lost-in-a-water-colour-gallery-and- holy-shit-I’m-a-wolf sort of way. I can see that Vigil games basically said, let’s make a Zelda game for the older crowd. Which meant, let’s make it dark. Which meant, let’s throw in demons and a hardass main character. Which meant, let’s have our protagonist whinge about stuff while looking all moody like he’d just walked in on his parents doing the horizontal Ha-Cha-Cha. For Every. Bloody. Scene.

You play as War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which sort of makes him a God. A God of War, that is. Well, put on my suspicion trousers, because I suspect Darksiders is aspiring to be like something it’s not! Wart is summoned to basically wreak havoc when the Earth pretty much explodes, but he turns out to be a little premature because one of the Seven Seals was broken, or wasn’t broken, and now the Angels are pissed, and the Council of BooglyBoo wants to fire you and… well, I don’t know really, I lost track pretty early on, it’s basically just a bunch of demons and angels messing around and generally not getting on well with each other.

The biggest problem Darksiders has is that it’s story reeks of something you’d find under a damp fridge. Very little is explained coherently and none of the characters are all that memorable. All I gathered was that demons are bad and need to die, so shut up and get to work. The main villain is the generically named The Destroyer, AKA Cuddles. I thought Cuddles was the first giant demon thing that showed up in the opening cinematic and it wasn’t until the last half hour of the game that I realized that he was actually some other guy I hadn’t even met yet. As well as this, the only real crime Cuddles seems to be committing, as far as I can see, is ‘being a dragon’, which made me feel that Wart was sort of a racist, or speciest, whatever.

There are other reasons not to like Wart as well. For one, he doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself nearly as much as he should be in a fairground of gore and carnage. Fair enough, he’s technically been killed and stripped of all his power, but buck up, you brick-headed building-wearing twat. Kratos might be a little bit of a dick, but at least he seems to be having fun lopping heads off and stuffing his knives into the divine colon of the gods. I’ve seen more enthusiasm from petrol station attendants than I’ve seen with Wart. At one point a demon thing roars fire right in his face and Wart just stands there, staring at something on the floor in front of him as if he’s lost his contact lenses. He looks like half an elephant that is constantly wishing it was the other half. He’s clearly supposed to be some kind of badass, but he’s the kind of badass that you could only really think is cool if you were still 12 and had posters of Metallica hanging on your bedroom wall. (Yes, I had a Metallica poster on my wall, shut up).

I also get the feeling that Wart’s quest doesn’t actually matter to anyone but himself. No one really acknowledges the work you’re doing and the monsters you kill just seem to be minding their own business, putting their feet up with a mug of hot cocoa and not hurting anyone. It’d be like a medieval knight bursting through a wall of your house while you’re watching Top Gear, breaking your legs and stealing your car keys, claiming it was the lost artifact that will bring about a new era of peace and chocolate Kimberly biscuits. He might believe what he’s saying, but it’s a little tricky for us to get behind it. I was kind of hoping that, just as Wart was about to stab the final boss in the heart, we’d hear a voice say “Timmy! Timmy! Are you ready to go home?” And then we’d realize that the entire game was all just the daydream of an imaginative 8-year-old, who was wandering around the playground, hitting the other defenseless children with sticks and broken bottles.

Sadly this isn’t the case. I can summarize how lacking the game is in epic scale with one simple occurence. I’m not really one for Trophies or Achievements in games, they’re a nice idea, but I’d rarely go out of my way for one. However, I noticed one that said “Destroy a helicopter with a vehicle during the Apocalypse”. Right-o, I thought, I’ll have to remember to do that when the Apocalypse happens. Then I cleared the game, and no Apocalypse. What’s this? I thought, thinking perhaps there was an alternative ending or secret area I’d missed. I looked it up online and apparently the Apocalypse was the opening linear training level that lasts about 5 minutes. What da fuq, Darksiders? I’ve played Crash Bandicoot games with a more epic sense of scale than this! I’ve seen more chaos in a chinese takeaway. If that’s the Apocalypse, then the Mayans might have been right because I witnessed it in my local when the jukebox got unplugged and we were forced to reenact Gangnam style without musical accompaniment.

I guess what I didn’t like about Darksiders is the fact that it mixes Legend of Zelda with God of War and it isn’t as good as either. The story and post apocalyptic setting just can’t match that of Hyrule. And why can’t a game in HD look as good as a game that runs on the Wii? Also, comparing the carnage to God of War to this game is like comparing a rocket launcher to a rice pudding sandwich. And another thing, after playing through the whole game, I’m still not certain what exactly the title Darksiders is referring to. It just seems to be one of those generic supposedly ‘cool’ names that don’t make any sense. Like Fistshadows. Or Flamewashers. Or Swordleapers. It kind of sounds like the secret society Darth Vader would invent when he was twelve, which sort of ties into the kids imagination thing. The whole game just takes itself too seriously when really I just wanted to stick a Kick Me sign on Cuddles back when he wasn’t looking.

Saying that, the game isn’t terrible, just average. Wart controls very well and even though the game is pretty easy, I never got tired of killing things. I like killing things and in Darksiders, there are plenty of things to kill. There is a nice level of variety with enemies as well, I thought, with different tactics needed to kill some of them. And the dungeons are kept interesting too, with a new toy to play with in each one. I quite liked how in one dungeon you’re given a thing, let’s call it a GUN, that when you shoot it, it creates PORTALS for you to traverse through. One portal is blue, one portal is orange. Awww, Darksiders…

Overall, I stand by my comparison between Darksiders and Dairy Milk. I could hypothetically recommend it in some circumstances. If it was a choice between playing it and not playing anything, I think I’d give you the royal thumbs up. But there a lot of better games out there that will probably feel a lot more satisfying than this one, and might leave more of an impression. I had fun playing Darksiders, but looking back, there’s nothing about it that made it much of an experience. Frankly, I felt the same way seeing the closing credits as I do when I pop the last bubble on a roll of bubble wrap.

Score: 6/10

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