Developer: Vigil Games
System requirements: Windows XP SP3/Vista SP1/Win 7, 2.4 GHz AMD Athlon 64 3800+/3.0 GHz Pentium IV 530 or better CPU, 256 MB graphics card with Pixel Shader 3 support, 1 GB RAM (2 GB for Vista/Win 7), DirectX 9.0c-compliant sound card, 12 GB hard-drive space, DirectX 9.0c
ESRB rating: Mature
Release date: Available now
I have to say, while there are certainly a few post-apocalyptic games out there, Darksiders is the first one in which the apocalypse was not our own fault. You get to take control of War, the First Horseman of the Apocalypse. The forces of evil deceived him into prematurely inciting a war between Heaven and Hell without waiting for the Seventh Seal to be broken. The war destroyed the human race, the demonic forces defeated the heavenly host and laid claim to the Earth. War is indicted by the Charred Council (whose self-proclaimed duty is to preserve balance), stripped of his powers and sentenced to death. He gets a last-minute reprieve and is allowed to return to Earth to search for the truth and punish those responsible.
War starts out with just his sword, Chaoseater, and no powers. As he progresses through the campaign, he begins to regain his original abilities, such as using his Chaos Form for short periods of time. He also finds new artifacts, weapons and abilities, or buys them from the exiled demon Vulgrim with the souls he collects. Some areas of the game can only be accessed once you’ve found certain artifacts, and the game conspires to make sure that you get a chance to use all of them. For example, the Earthcaller allows War to stun or even knock back some enemies, and is the only way to awaken the Tormented Gates that block his access to parts of the game world. The Abyssal Chain fires a spear-tipped chain that allows him to use specific grapple points to swing across chasms too wide for him to jump (and is actually a required tool to defeat a few enemies).
Darksiders is single-player only, and can take at least 15 hours to complete (which is longer than most action games these days). Possibly longer, if you insist on finding every single chest, life shard and rage shard, and all 10 pieces of the Abyssal Armor. Some of you might’ve heard that Darksiders is very derivative of other games, and that’s absolutely true. For example, the Voidwalker artifact allows War to create two portals (though only on specific surfaces) and travel instantly between them. Sounds familiar? It should, if you’ve played Portal. One portal’s even orange, and the other’s blue. The Abyssal Chain is probably based on the hookshot from Legend of Zelda. The combat is straight out of God of War and/or Devil May Cry. But being derivative doesn’t make Darksiders bad; far from it. I mean, you’re playing one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse! His sword is called Chaoseater. It eats chaos, for crying out loud. It just doesn’t get any cooler than that. And to top it all off, the characters were designed by Joe Madureira and the script was written by Joe Kelly, both of comic-book fame.
I’ve certainly got to praise the artistic merits of the game. The graphics (on the PC version) are incredible, and you can use almost every graphics resolution that your video card supports. Of course, it looks best in 16:9 or 16:10 widescreen; I played it in 1920×1080 on my new monitor. The sound effects are equally impressive, and you’ll immediately recognize some of the voice talent. Mark Hamill brings his vocal talents to The Watcher, Fred Tatasciore takes on the role of the Charred Council, and there are other actors you’ll recognize, such as Keith Szarabajka (prior to Darksiders, he provided the voice of Harbinger in Mass Effect 2) or Lani Minella, who has done voice work in more than 500 computer and video games.
I can really think of only one thing that bugged me in the PC version: the game supports the use of either a gamepad or the traditional keyboard-and-mouse combo. The problem is that if it detects a gamepad, it automatically uses it and doesn’t let you switch to keyboard-and-mouse control. Not only that, it seems to assume that any gamepad is an Xbox gamepad (with its two bumpers, two triggers, two analog sticks, etc.) Since I don’t have an Xbox gamepad for Windows, and have never gotten used to using a gamepad anyway, I ended up unplugging it so I could use keyboard and mouse. This is something that could easily have been fixed before release or fixed with a patch, but I can’t accuse the programmers of a lazy port (unlike the team that ported Bionic Commando to the PC, one of the laziest console ports ever.)
Darksiders is a derivative but fun romp through post-apocalyptic Earth, with great graphics and sound and a cool story. A sequel has already been announced for 2013 that will feature multiplayer (all four Horsemen – well, three Horsemen and one Horsewoman – will be present). If it lives up to the standards set by Darksiders, I will definitely be looking forward to playing it.