Eons ago, the kingdoms of Heaven and Hell battled each other in a titanic struggle that threatened the very fabric of the universe. To cease the ultimate destruction of everything, the Charred Council forced the armies of Heaven and Hell to declare a ceasefire. Born out of the ashes of the battle there emerged a third kingdom, the kingdom of Man.
The Charred Council recognised the potential of Humankind and announced that the ceasefire pact shall be woven into seven seals. Only when the seals are broken can the end war start and bring on the apocalypse. To ensure the pact and to enforce the hosts of all three kingdoms, the Charred Council formed four terrific figures, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. However, one has been summoned early to bring about the final battle. War, huh, what is it good for? Kicking demon butt, that’s what!
Darksiders, a third person hack-and-slash from Vigil Games and THQ, puts you in the booted feet of War as he is accused of starting the end war without the breaking of the seals. War has been stitched up, good and proper. As the council are passing judgement he asks for his chance to return to Earth and clear his name. Earth by now has been ravaged by the demon horde and the population have either been wiped out or turned into horrible re-animated corpses of the H.P. Lovecraft kind. You have to travel through the blasted cities of Earth and battle eldritch demons and spirits to find the Destroyer, the one responsible for breaking the pact and starting the war.
Those familiar with the Legend of Zelda games will no doubt be familiar with the general play. Been there and done that, may be bandied about when looking at Darksiders for the first time, but the game is surprisingly fun, entertaining and keeps you wanting to play past the next level, or to reach the bigger bosses. Darksiders has in it plenty of potential for sequels, movie tie-ins, comic books and other big money forms of media.
First off, Darksiders is ace. Playing as War – although stripped of your powers and forced to carry around the demonic spirit (and Council stooge) of the Watcher, so he can keep an eye on you – is wonderful. There’s nothing quite like brandishing your over-large sword and ploughing into a group of demons, performing blistering and impressive combos either in mid-air or on the ground, then finishing them off with a graphic and blood lusty move.
The combat in Darksiders is very sweet, you can use your aforementioned sword or your fists, or, if you’re feeling in the mood, and the enemy is a distance away, you can pick up a derelict car, use ‘Q’ to aim it, then middle mouse button to throw it at the target. Watching the car sail through the air then hitting the demon has a certain beauty to it that can only be fully appreciated when actually executed.
Wiping out the demons releases different coloured souls. Blue ones are used as a currency, green ones replenish your health and red ones increase War’s wrath, giving him the ability to dish out more pain. The blue souls can be traded at one of the many demon ‘shops’ found on the levels. Vulgrim, the shopkeeper, will accept the blue souls in return for upgraded weapons, gems (that can be inserted into the weapons) health and other useful bits and pieces.
Vulgrim isn’t the only demon you end up talking to instead of chopping up. On your epic quest you will need the aid and advice of a few demons who have fallen out with the Destroyer and would like to see him finished as much as you. To receive the aid of these monstrous entities you will have to either combat a certain number of enemies, or, in true Zelda fashion, complete some very easy puzzle-based scenarios. The combat/puzzle technique works well, it won’t have you scratching your head in frustration or throwing the controller through the window, but it adds a pleasant extra that makes you want to explore a little more and unlock the occasional secret.
On a down side, playing Darksiders via the keyboard/mouse will require you to have mutated multi-jointed fingers. The game, being first born on the consoles, is really designed for a game pad, however, don’t let that put you off. I managed to complete the game via keyboard and mouse, despite the severe cramp. Although I don’t want the keyboard controls to be a negative for such a cool game, it has to be mentioned. And whilst we are on the subject of negatives, I may as well mention the camera angle that occasionally slews off to one side of War, making you have to control him from an odd angle until either the scene changes or the game goes into an animated cut scene. This usually occurs mid-battle, and typically during a boss fight, but hitting pause then going back into the game can release it. The camera angle can also mess up when you back into a building or during the many areas when climbing around the buildings. Annoying, but semi-tolerable.
The graphics are very good, demons looks suitably hellish, the different beasts that attack you are animated well and the AI is clever enough to represent a reasonable challenge. The cut scenes, although not usually an important part to a game, tell the story and play out fantastically. War looks and sounds as hard as nails and the other characters are nicely acted. The Watcher is voiced by Mark Hamill and the Charred Council sound like that bloke who used to do the Carlsberg adverts (I think it’s the same guy that plays the Hulk in the cartoons?) The sounds of squelching, screaming, ripping and rending of limbs is nicely portrayed and puts a suitably evil grin on your face when finishing off one of Hell’s lesser beasties.
On the whole, Darksiders is great fun and well worth the asking price. The game has a good few hours worth of play and can immerse you into the role of War with enough vigour without becoming too cheesy. A damn fine plot with some cool combat moves thrown into the fiery pit, with plenty of opportunity for an equally good sequel.
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