Plots don't come much huger than this one. The EARTH has been INVADED by DEMONS and ANGELS! It's the FINAL DAYS! Everything's going to HELL IN A HANDBASKET! I don't think it's overstating things to add that it's the BLOODY APOCALYPSE!
Apologies for the all-caps OMGing, but this is as big as it gets. For any of you with a taste for web comics, you may have come across the minor miracle that is Axe Cop; the hyperactive product of a six-year-old's imagination, full of guns, dinosaurs and ninjas. Darksiders felt to me like the kind of thing that the Axe Cop author might come up with as an adult*.
So it's the apocalypse. Angels and Demons are crashing into the Earth in the form of fiery meteors, from which they emerge and start tearing the place (and each other) to bits. You play the part of War. No, not a warrior. War. As in, the Horseman of the Apocalypse, the very embodiment of the concept of conflict. So, obviously, given the circumstances, you couldn't be happier, dashing around the place beating up the demonic forces and the angelic host alike. Because you're not a good guy, nor are you a bad guy. You serve the Charred Council, an otherworldly authority whose job it is to keep the forces of good and the forces of evil in balance. And, as it turns out, this whole apocalypse thing is kinda your fault.
Cue a third-person platform slay ‘em up across the devastated earth in search of who it was who tricked you into causing the end of life on the earth as we know it. If this whole ‘powerful war-god takes on all-comers from mythology in a third-person melee-heavy platformer' scenario sounds eerily familiar, you'd probably be on the right lines, as there's a lot of similarity in gameplay between Darksiders and, well, you know. The other war god game. It also has a lot of similarity with The Force Unleashed. Minus the stormtroopers. Naturally.
NOW! On to the bit of the review where I tell you about the little gameplay innovations that make Darksiders stand out from the rest.
OK, good. Now we've got that bit over with, let's talk about the setting.
This is perhaps the highlight of the game. Set at first in New York City gone crazy, with Biblical forces crashing into Midtown in flaming meteors then chucking cars at each other, the game starts with OMG OTT WTF in wild abandon. As the game progresses the theme of an abandoned, demon-infested cityscape is used to excellent, dark effect. Buildings have become corrupted by demonic influence and the divide between urban warzone and diabolic underworld is sometimes so subtle as to be seamless. War might descend into a typical New York City subway entrance only to find himself in a subterranean grotto infested with ghouls and lit by glowing crystals... or he might just be in a subway passage. The characters you meet on your journey are well-characterised and intriguing, and the comic book influence is heavy and ever-present. The environment is as interactive as you'd expect - chucking cars and police vans, or clouting villains with uprooted lampposts are simple tasks for War, but the essential structure of the levels isn't really all that mutable.
Oh, and of course, as a horseman (of the apocalypse), you'd not get very far without your horse (of the apocalypse). Named Ruin, this dinky little chap can pop up out of the ground to catch you when you're falling, or help you get to those hard-to-reach platforms... or maybe just to help you ride through a bunch of enemies with your sword whirling. Combos abound in Darksiders, and War can combine summoning Ruin in mid-scrap to create some pretty awesome chains.
Darksiders doesn't really bring anything new to the table in terms of gameplay. It's quite clearly a game conceptualised, designed and developed for console play, but this isn't to say it isn't fun on the PC. The huge plot - arguably the hugest plot imaginable - certainly adds something to the experience, but essentially it's all about killing baddies to get money to level up weapons, combos and abilities. Familiar terrain for the modern platformer. Bosses, sub-bosses and special whatsits abound, and War brings meaty new finishing moves to each and every one. Demons are pretty much as you'd expect (horns, fire, hooves), but the angels have a kind of ‘mecha battlesuit' look that helps add to the already strong visual impact.
Essentially, It's a reskin of God of War, Force Unleashed and their kin. But it's fun to play, and isn't that really the point at the end of the day? Well, isn't it?
* - Actually war in heaven is a theme upon which Axe Cop has touched before: http://axecop.com/index.php/acepisodes/read/episode_20/
Written By: Stuart Thomas