HEAR YE!!! HEAR YE!!! MY FOLLOWERS, I STAND HERE A FRUSTRATED DOOMSAYER. We have reached that famous point of the year where all the big budget games come out to demand our attention. With all the reports of these games being riddled with microtransactions, my desire to play them has completely evaporated. I DID NOT START STANDING ON THIS SOAPBOX TO ONLY DISCUSS NEW RELEASES. I do enjoy playing new games, but I have an overwhelming backlog that I have been meaning to chip away at. With that in mind, I have come to talk to you about the third person action game, Darksiders. With Darksiders 3 set for release at the end of November, it seems like the best time to dive head first into the series.
The star of our show is War, the first of the Four Horsemen. In a world where Heaven and Hell are constantly at war, the Four Horsemen are tasked by the Charred Council to keep the peace between angels and demons. When a world-ending fight between Heaven and Hell kicks off, War is wrongly summoned to the battlefield. Just before War is able to take down a demon general, the Council whisks him away to punish him for jumping the gun. War claims he is innocent saying someone summoned him to the battlefield. He is able to barter for his freedom to prove his innocence. Agreeing to his terms, War must venture through the war-torn Earth to find who wrongly summoned him. Though the lore of Darksiders can be indigestible at times, I found this to be a fresh take on the Four Horsemen since it is a story that you don’t see many adaptations of.
Equipped with his massive sword known as Chaoseater, War does the one thing he knows how to do: fight. War’s fighting style seems to have taken a few cues from Kratos’s old spartan days. One could almost accuse Darksiders of being a God of War clone, but I don’t think that’s accurate on the account of Darksiders’s combat being more a dumbed down version of God of War’s.
For starters, you’re going from Kratos iconic Blades of Chaos, which are two swords at the ends of chains to one gigantic sword. I can imagine a wider variety of attacks with the Blades of Chaos than I can with a basic sword. Also, all the attacks with the Chaoseater can be performed with one button with the other buttons controlling secondary weapons, again boiling down the combat; this didn’t turn me away from Darksiders though. I had great fun sending enemies flying into the air to have War somersault in front of them, a move a coined “The Buzz Saw”. I could almost picture War being a professional wrestler with a massive crowd behind him chanting “BUZZ SAW!!! BUZZ SAW!!! BUZZ SAW!!!”
Throughout War’s adventure, War must traverse through various dungeons connected within a big open world similar to Dark Souls or Legend of Zelda games. For me, I prefer this style of level design as it combines the massive, expansive, immersive world with the smart level design that comes with having specific stages. Each dungeon consists of various puzzles, enemies, sub-bosses and a final boss. I found these dungeons appealing from an art direction; depicting post-apocalyptic citadel, subway system, and hospitals over-run by the bosses and their minions. I found a couple of these dungeons quite enjoyable; particularly the one where War with his horse, Ruin, are reunited and the two of them work together to take down the massive worm known as the Stygian.
Some dungeons, unfortunately, dragged on too long. These dungeons without fail would ask you to do something three times. I understand the “Rule of Three” is used to make sure a player is aware of the mechanics. But if you ask me to venture through a wing of the dungeon, defeat a sub-boss, and then venture back through the level guiding a beam of light back to the start of the level THREE TIMES, I will accuse you of padding out your dungeons. It wasn’t the level design that seemed to be used to pad out the game; numerous times the game locks you in a room and will send endless waves of enemies that only seem to test your endurance. The most arduous of levels were guilty of pulling this move way too many times, causing me to cry out in agony for the end of the dungeon.
Usually, throughout the dungeons, you would be given a secondary weapon that could assist you in combat and puzzles similar to Legend of Zelda games. Some of the weapons included a glaive that you can use to hit multiple enemies similar to Link’s boomerang, a chain that you can use pull enemies or pull yourself onto walls similar to Link’s hook-shot and mask that lets you see into a shadow realm. Wait, don’t Zelda games usually have something similar to that too? I do remember War having to fight a shadow version of himself similar to that one Zelda dungeon. War does have a glove that can smash barriers, but that is similar to Link’s bombs. Link also had a horse too. Darksiders, is there anything that you didn’t rip off from the Legend of Zelda? A glove that opens orange and blue portals? That just makes it more apparent how much you ripped off from Zelda because you're trying to hide it behind this Portal rip off. Darksiders, I am going to need to see you after class.
The creativity of the characters, world and story drew me in, but the unsubtle homages to other games along with the padding of the combat and puzzles snap me back out. Yes, Darksiders is quite a confident Zelda clone, but Darksiders should be Darksiders, not Zelda. There is a distinct difference between paying homage and blatant copying. Shovel Knight is a great example of paying homage to 8-bit games while never being guilty of being a clone. Dark Souls is often described as being a more mature version of Legend of Zelda but is never accused of being a clone. Even though Dark Souls does use dungeons and interconnecting worlds similar to Legend of Zelda games, they trade away gadgets for a stamina-based combat system based around methodical and precise moves. This leads to other games, known as Souls clones, copying this combat system.
The only thing Darksiders adds is the Horsemen setting which while uncommon in games, isn’t all that unique. Darksiders, fortunately, doesn’t diminish my excitement for Darksiders 3. I am still interested in the saga of War and his siblings Death, Fury, and Strife; I just hope the developers were successful in a fresh game that could lead other games copying Darksiders 3 rather than the other way around.