Saturday, February 13, 2010

Darksiders Review

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I beat this game a while ago, so it’s not as fresh in my mind as I’d like, but I felt it merited a review.

Darksiders has a really original premise.  You are one of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.  You are summoned to earth to bring about the end of humanity, but you quickly realize something isn’t right.  Before long you are accused of starting the apocalypse and dooming humanity before its time.  The other 3 horsemen weren’t there, no one admits to summoning you, so why did you jump the gun?  The rest of the game is finding who framed you for the end of the world.  The story from there, sadly, only serves as a device to propel you forward, but the premise itself is pretty cool.

I really enjoyed Darksiders.  It was the perfect blend of old and new.  I played the game with a simultaneous sense of nostalgia and wonder.  It has been called a mashup of the God Of War and Legend Of Zelda series, and I’ll agree with that 100%.  And that’s a great thing.

Legend of Zelda was known for it’s fantastic dungeons, filled with puzzles and boss fights that would tend to make use of all the techniques you learned within that dungeon.  God Of War was known for its combat and it’s gory mature nature.  So a dark mature Legend Of Zelda?  Yes please.

And it did both elements perfectly.  The puzzles are challenging and rewarding, and some of them are especially creative.  The combat, while simple, was fun and rewarding.  And the guys at THQ really knew how to balance the two.  Whenever you’re getting worn out from the combat you run into a new puzzle to solve.  And when you’re beginning to get mentally exhausted from solving that puzzle, on the other side is a fresh horde of enemies to mindlessly slice through.

The mix really shined when combined together though.  Each boss was a mini puzzle in its own right.  Using the techniques you’d learned and used to reach this far, you had to find a creative way to use them to take down the boss.  From targeting multiple targets with your glaive, to using portals to gain vertical momentum to get on top of a towering boss, to making use of your new grappling hook to reach a teleporting boss too fast to reach any other way, it was more than button mashing combat. 

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Joe Madeira is the man responsible for the fantastic art style in Darksiders.  With a history in comic book art, it really shows in the game.  Hand-painted textures and slightly out of proportion levels and characters create a unique cartoony but dark look that really add to the experience.  I especially loved the fact that each dungeon had a “theme” like the videogames of old.  One dungeon is overgrown with plants and trees, while another is a desolate desert.  It brought back memories of Mega Man 2, with each level having a distinct feel.  It may be an old gimmick, but it’s one I’ve missed and was glad to see return, especially in the hands of such a capable artist.

That game has some fantastic voice acting as well.  Mark Hamil lends his insane voice to The Watcher, and while it’s a little too similar to his Joker voice, it’s still always great to hear how creepy he can sound.

Darksiders was one of the best games I’ve played in a while.  It was the kind of game I could bunker down and make a night of playing.  Rewarding puzzles, fun combat, old-fashioned bosses, a variety of environments and gameplay mechanics, combined with a mature art-style and some classic design choices made for a truly enjoyable experience.  Very easy to recommend.

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