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Gaming: Darksiders

Over the weekend I started and finished Darksiders on PC, which I picked up very cheaply in a previous Steam sale. It’s a good game, and like the demo suggested it sits somewhere between Zelda and God of War, being combat-heavy and sending you off to dungeons in search of items which help you navigate the world, the boss generally having a weakness to your newest item. The world feels like the creators know more about it than they’re revealing, that they do have some investment in their story and it’s not just dressing up the combat, and there’s a good visual style to a lot of it (especially the main characters), like they’ve been plucked out of a comic or cartoon but without being cel-shaded.

War’s not a very interesting character, his voice not really seeming to fit the angry war-machine the story suggests he is, and it feels like they were going for a Kratos style of motivation where everybody betrays him so he’s going to kill the world but his anger isn’t as understandable as Kratos’. I can see why they’ve jumped over to Death for the sequel, but War mostly works here because everybody around him is a lot better (you’re basically accompanied through the whole game by Mark Hamill doing his Joker voice). There’s an odd sense of padding to the game, several points where they keep you in the same room for a few waves of respawns, and at one point near the end you’re sent back to every previous area you’ve visited to collect pieces of the weapon you’ll need to defeat the final boss in a pointless bit of backtracking. It’s not a short game so I don’t really know why they did that.

It’s biggest problem is checkpoints. In the game world itself it’s fine, a death will usually knock you back to the start of the room, but in boss fights there are usually two stages, and if you survive the first stage on low health you’ll generally have to face the second stage with that health, and a death knocks you back to the first stage. The first stage is usually the easier of the two, but it still adds at least two minutes of busywork per attempt before you can try the stage you’re actually learning. Even the final boss fight does this and for me both stages were pushing four minutes to complete, and I died a couple of times.

Defeating a main boss also gives you an extra health bar, as is traditional, but Vigil didn’t seem to know what to do with it as their response is to increase the damage enemies deal up to massive levels to compensate. Look at the damage this guy does to me between 2:15 and 2:20:

That must have been about halfway through the game, but each hit essentially takes off a whole health bar, of which I only have five. It means in boss fights you end up playing like in that video, getting in the occasional hit but otherwise scooting away from the boss all the time like you’re having a fit (their attacks go straight through your blocks). It doesn’t exactly make you feel badass.

So yeah, it’s a good game but there are some obvious points where they could refine a few things for the sequel. It’s one of those times where you can see THQ are really trying to put out a blockbuster effort that competes with its peers, and it would be nice to see them succeed here.

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