As I sawed off the wings of an angel and approached the next dungeon in Darksiders Warmastered Edition, floods of memories from games like the first God of War and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came rushing back. Darksiders has its own flavor, sure, but its ability to borrow mechanics from popular games before it makes it a greatest hits of popular game mechanics. Darksiders does lack an overall cohesiveness with how many ideas it throws at you, but its story and puzzles still shine six years later.
In Darksiders, you play as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and enforcers tasked with keeping balance between the kingdoms. After being summoned into the war between heaven, hell, and mankind far too early and thus breaking the sacred rules – or something like that – War is saved from death by the group that maintains balance between heaven and hell called the Charred Council. War believes he was framed into prematurely starting the final war between the three kingdoms, and the council agrees to let him find those responsible, but forces him to lose all his power and have a being known as the Watcher attached to him with the ability to kill War if he strays from his mission.
While the story seems a little too grandeur for its own good, it’s held up by fantastic voice acting performances that really help sell the apocalyptic world that Darksiders is throwing at you. Mark Hamill stands out as the Watcher, even if it’s just a shade or two away from his iconic Joker voice. With how serious Darksiders takes itself, the performances could easily be over the top or cheesy, but almost every character is gracefully performed and makes you give a damn about what unfolds. The world that’s painted is fascinating, and the lore that’s created gels really well right after the underwhelming first level.
Think of Darksiders’ combat as a love child between God of War and Devil May Cry. War is equipped with his sword, named chaoseater, a scythe, and various other weapons to dismantle the armies of heaven and hell. War can hack and slash his enemies, getting their health low enough to trigger an instant kill attack. The combat may be borrowed from two games with great combat, but it never reaches the satisfaction or complexity featured in the either. There isn’t a smooth way to chain combos together, and locking on to an enemy is jarring and is less useful than you would think, sans boss battles. On the surface, it’s fun combat, but once you try and be more advanced, it feels like the game is working against you.
Early on, War comes into contact with a demon named Vulgrim, who sells powerups and weapons in return for the souls of those War has vanquished. Vulgrim can make your health bigger, add more slots to War’s wraith bar so he can transform into a giant fire demon, and teach new kinds of attacks for War’s arsenal, among other things. It’s a very old-school kind of upgrade system, but it’s a welcome call back. Running around with thousands of souls and finding a Vulgrim shop is one of the most child-on-Christmas kinds of moments with the eagerness to make War powerful, again.
The real gem of Darksiders is its dungeon puzzles and exploration. Taking a page right out of Zelda’s book, you’ll have to find keys to unlock areas, get cool new weapons, and use powers to solve simple, fun puzzles along the way. Just like Zelda, the new weapon or item you receive is heavily relied on in the dungeon so you can learn its uses from opening up secret areas to exposing a weakness on a boss. Dungeon design is simple, but it’s challenging enough to keep your interest while simple enough so it doesn’t make you want to throw your control and look a wiki guide in utter defeat. I often found myself getting upset that the puzzles would be interrupted by the inferior combat, but luckily it’s divided and paced well, for the most part.
Besides the puzzles and combat, there are some out of place segments like a rail shooter on a griffin and some third person shooting elements thrown here and there. Not only do these feel random, they ruin the pace when they rear their ugly heads. The first griffin segment was a head-scratcher, and one that lasted far too long. The third person shooting comes from weapons that can be picked up, but aiming feels off and stiff.
The original release of Darksiders came out in 2010, and the difference, at least on consoles (this review was played on a PS4) is instantly noticeable. Darksiders was never a visually demanding game – hell, it wasn’t a great looking game in 2010 – but it’s silky smooth framerate, which is almost always at 60 fps, and few drops in performance make it a necessary update and must have for those who played it six years ago. And if you have never picked this up, it’s only 20 bucks – go pick it up.
Darksiders doesn’t do anything particularly better than the games it heavily borrows from, but it does do many things well. Where it does falter may be off-putting, but for everything Darksiders gets wrong, it does twice as much right. Any fans of the games that influenced Darksiders will feel right at home – just don’t expect it to replace those experiences.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 4 version of Darksiders Warmastered Edition by KAIKO and Vigil Games. Review copy provided by THQ Nordic.
- Fun puzzles
- Engaging lore and voice acting
- Consistent FPS
- Hit-and-miss combat
- Lacks overall cohesiveness