Posted: November 14
Before I go into depth I want to specify that I did use a gamepad for this game - I strongly recommend using one and would go so far as to say to skip this title if you don't have one. It's a console port, guys.
Darksiders is a game that wears its inspirations on its sleeve famously, and to a ridiculous degree. When you're traveling through a Legend of Zelda-style dungeon solving puzzles with a Portal Device, you know you're not playing a game that's focusing on being particularly innovative.
That's fine, it doesn't do it does particularly well though.
The dungeons, level design wise, are all threadbare. Puzzles never get more complicated than "get past the obstruction using the item you got in that dungeon", platforming reaches its maximum amount of complexity 20 minutes into the game, and exploration is limited because despite the expansive levels, there's very few optional areas. You're taken in a very roundabout, but ultimately linear, path and led by the nose from start to finish.
Combat doesn't fair any better - it has all the tools to play well, but the way it's executed is an absolute mess. Even the Counter, the quintessential "up yours" high-risk high-reward move that's been a staple of decent hack n slash games for over a decade, will often be cancelled and interrupted because it doesn't interrupt a good deal of enemy attacks - seemingly at random.
The moveset cops a lot of flak for its simplicity, but once you unlock the full movesets for each weapon and supplement each weapon's combos with another weapon (you can even switch out your sidearm and combo them into each other) you can get a nice amount of combat variation going on.
Design doesn't support that, though, since the game has the a conceptually moronic weapon leveling system that strongly discourages using more than one weapon - the difference between weapon levels is more than just palpable. Add to that that combos have no impact on anything whatsoever.
At its best, it plays like a more forgiving Devil May Cry, but mostly it plays like a more brainless God of War and it suffers for that heavily.
The whole lack of finesse seeps into every corner of the game. They're terrified you'll play it wrong, or will look in the wrong direction for more than a second - puzzles will constantly be interrupted by those infuriating drawn-out mini-cutscenes which point out what you're meant to do, the Watcher is used as a device to call your attention to something that's already flashing, and many more examples. One particularly egregious example has you explore a small environment for four challenge portals, that as well as having icons on the map and having giant beams shoot up into the sky, even have Eye of Sauron-like icons on top of the beams just to be extra sure that you don't actually have to explore.
Darksiders has all the tools and capability to play well, but it adamantly refuses to.
On a more positive note, the environments are absolutely fantastic, I was personally fond of the character design - despite my usual complete distaste for giant pauldrons - due to just how well done it is, and it has some of the best flashy particle use I've ever seen.
War as a lead is bland, but he isn't antagonizing or unlikeable. The supporting cast is similarly lacking in character but inoffensive (with the exception of Samael and the Watcher, who were both pretty enjoyable). The story isn't particularly interesting, but isn't grating.
It's an incredibly pretty game (despite the very noticeable lack of anti-aliasing in a game with so many sharp edges), and if you're looking for a stylish hack n slash and are willing to overlook a few design issues that drag it down, then check it out.
I wouldn't outright recommend it to anybody that isn't looking for that particular type of game, though.