Monday, July 21, 2014

Review #130: Darksiders

 In which I proceed to praise this game from top to bottom.
 Y'know how people with a terrible understanding of the word "mature" want a "mature Zelda"? This is that game. Developed by Vigil Games and published by THQ before their demise, Darksiders is a game that borrows a ton of elements from other games and blends them together seamlessly. The adventuring and puzzling from The Legend of Zelda series and combat mechanics that feel like a mix of Devil May Cry(the combo system) with God of War(The heavy feel behind the attacks, dodging), it's something that, surprisingly, hadn't been tried before, and it works. It works so well.

 The game takes place before and after the Apocalypse. You play as War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who comes to deliver the human race only to discover that the seals, which were placed to stop Heaven and Hell from invading the kingdom of man, hadn't been broken yet. War loses a fight with the demon Straga and spends 100 years in imprisonment while his wounds heal. Awoken and healed, he is directed by the Council to find out what happened and end all who were involved, placing him under the leash of a Watcher(Voiced by Mark Hamill!). The Story is alright, but where the game really shines is in its setting, the world itself, all the very memorable characters, fantastic scenes of badassery and some fantastic lines.
 The game is set in the Kingdom of Men, or what remains of it, as War comes across the demon Samael who promises to take him to the Destroyer's lair if he slays the four Chosen of the Destroyer(The game is full of terms depicting badassery like these!). What this translates to is to War finding the dungeons, finding the boss inside and killing it. The game borrows a lot from Zelda in this regard, as the dungeons are filled with puzzles, and you'll usually come across a tool that will aid you in clearing the puzzles inside, defeating the boss, and then granting you access to treasures in the overworld that you couldn't reach before. Puzzles are very fun to figure out, and the way they gradually get harder as you advance through the game is very well balanced.

 While Puzzles are a big part of any Zelda game, the combat is usually just a means to an end(Maybe clear the room to open a locked door or what have you) and very shallow to boot. Not so here, War will do battle against zombies, Demons and Angels, aided by his sword, the ChaosEater, a Scythe, a Metal gauntlet and other miscellaneous tools that double as weapons. The game maps the ChaosEater to the Square button, and whichever secondary weapon to the Triangle, while tools are used with the R2 button. Controls are very simple, but combat is very fun and gratifying. While War's moveset isn't as large as Kratos or Dante's, it's serviceable and allows for simple juggling combos or switching weapons mid attack. Thanks to the weight behind each attack, it feels really good. He also has access to deffensive manouvers, a dash that doubles as a dodge and a parry/counterattack move by timing the guard button just as you get attacked. War also has four different spells that can be assigned to a four-slot palette accessed by holding the L1 button. Lastly, as you deal damage with the ChaosEater you'll fill your chaos gauge, once maxed, you can enter War's alternate form, not unlike a Balrog from Middle Earth, and wreck havoc on your foes.
 Killing enemies rewards you with souls, which you can then use to barter with Vulgrin in order to buy new moves, consumables or enhancements. There are 12 enhancements in the game, 2 that you can buy, the rest you have to find, these provide slotted and passive bonuses. Passive bonuses are granted just by possessing the enhancement, but you can also slot them to any of your three main weapons in order to gain better buffs. Speaking of finding, there's a ton, a TON of stuff to find, usually hidden behind puzzles, there's Life Shards(Collect four to extend your life bar!), Wrath shards(To increase your Wrath bar, aka mana), the Abyssal Armor set, relics and, well, the enhancements. There's no shortage of stuff to find.

 The art direction for this game was helmed by Joe Madureira and it shows, big, muscled guys sporting huge pieces of armor and weapons, but it's all very stylized. Joe Madureira's art has never been translated to 3D so faithfully before, and it looks glorious. Character design is excellent all around, the NPC demons, like Samel and Vulgrim, in particular look very good and detailed, War himself is no slouch either. The world of Darksiders is very beautiful, with a lot of different environments to traverse. Voice acting is just as good, with a ton of known names involved, like Liam O'Brien and Troy Barker, but the rest do a solid job as well, every Voice Actor manages to sell you on their character. As for the music... it's there? It's not that it's bad by any means, it simply isn't very notable.
 As much as I loved the game, there were a couple of minor inconveniences that I should at least mention. the biggest one being how limited your slots are. There are six tools but only three slots for them, which means that by the end of the game you could potentially have to go back and forth to the menu to equip and unequip some of them, especially if you want to use the Mercy. This also goes for the skills/consumables, there are four skills and a different variety of consumables, but they all share the same 4-slot palette, I played on normal and didn't use consumables at all, but I can see how this could become annoying. There's also a bit of input lag when pressing buttons, but nothing too bothersome.

 Darksiders is hands down one of my favorite games released on the last generation, I actually struggled coming up with bad things to say about it, which is why I called them minor inconveniences, as they didn't managed to put a blemish on this masterpiece. Some people might take issue with the game not having a single original gameplay mechanic to call its own, but when it does what it does so well, who cares? A game doesn't need to be original as long as its fun, and Darksiders is as fun as it gets.
 10 out of 10.

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