REVIEW: Darksiders


Darksiders Review

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War! UH! What is it good for? Absolutely Nothing!

I am a man who appreciates a bad ass opening cinematic. Some games have such amazing opening cinematics that I wish they would of just never made the game and used the money to make a movie instead.  Half of the time these games are MMOs.

The three cinematic trailers for Star wars: The Old Republic were some of the most fantastic, visceral action sequences I’ve ever seen. I’ve shown them to everyone I’ve met who has ever said the words “Star Wars” and have rewatched them countless times. However the game itself was just something I couldn’t get into (much to the benefit of my productivity.) The same could be said for World of Warcraft and, unfortunately, Darksiders.

What Darksiders does right is its world-building and character design. I have always enjoyed the angels vs demons apocalyptic holy war setting and Darksiders mixes it up by setting the game 20 years after the apocalypse. You play as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, War, and battle both angels and demons on behalf of the Tribunal, a mysterious and powerful entity. The aesthetic goes for a testosterone fueled power fantasy vibe that might seem at home on a heavy metal album cover. War is hulking. The demons are hulking. Everyone is pissed off, all of the time except for the stoic gatekeepers but you might guess that even they have a quiet seething anger underneath their apparent calm. You have giant bats fighting griffons and armor clad angels flying through the ruins of post-apocalypse New York City. Everything seems cool in the cut scenes but when you are running around the game world it just feels flat. The in-game environments lack personality, the textures are bland and the architecture is boring. The city streets feel less like roads in a metropolis and more like corridors in an industrial hedge maze. The characters themselves seem interesting. Most of War’s allies are actually demons with their own agendas and the angels seem self-righteous and are quick to act on their own judgments violently. War is also accompanied by a sniveling, patronizing shadow creature voiced by Mark Hamill(!).

Before discussing the gameplay I need to admit that I did not finish Darksiders. Some people will say that you can’t have a worthwhile opinion of something unless you’ve experienced it from beginning to end; however, I feel that if a game can’t maintain my interest long enough to get me to finish it then the game has failed on some level.  As much as we love games, they are still just a leisure activity and thus they are constantly in competition for the incredibly valuable commodity that is our free time. It’s not enough for a game to simply be alright, it has to be more interesting than killing an afternoon watching youtube videos or Hulu. At the very least, it has to be more interesting than just lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling. I would rather lie on my couch and stare at the ceiling than play Darksiders, I’ve proven it many times. I played Darksiders for about five hours. I played through the prologue, I conquered the first dungeon, I got the boomerang, I killed the Bat King and then I turned off my console.

Darksiders’s gameplay has often been described as Zelda meets God of War, but both aspects just feel lackluster. There is an overworld but there is nothing to do in it and what I’ve seen of the dungeons was uninspired. The combat is equally mediocre. There are some rhythm based combos as you press the same button over and over again and a grab button for throwing weaker enemies and beginning finishers but none of it feels satisfying.  You get different secondary weapons and can buy new moves as you level up but none of it really feels like it adds much to the combat.

There isn’t really a lot to say about Darksiders. It exists. It’s playable but only in the same sense that plain grits are edible. If you’re not starving, why would you? Sure the setting is interesting but that will only take you so far. It’s like if J.R.R. Tolkein spent all that time creating Middle Earth and creating the elvish language and that entire back story just to have his characters sit around and drink tea the entire time. Actually he kind of did that for the first chapter of Lord of the Rings. Ok, imagine if Lord of the Rings was just the first chapter and that chapter was 2000 pages long and then it just ended and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what playing Darksiders is like, or at least what the first chapter of Darksiders is like. If you make it farther than that then god bless you, we aren’t all masochists. You can tell me what the rest of it is like but I’ll say it right now that I’d have a sneaking suspicion you’d be lying to me. It’s the same way I feel about people who tell me they’ve seen a ghost before.

Is this game worth $20?      nope          Rating:     D+

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