Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: Out Now
Players: One
Words By:

Revenge, it is said, is a dish best served cold. For Horseman of the Apocalypse War your chance for revenge is well and truly icy, as you are caught up in a conspiracy to end the world and only get the chance to serve up punishment 100 years after the fall of mankind. But with the chance to beat down both the minions of Hell and the servants of Heaven, I think it's worth the wait...

As a hack 'n’ slash action puzzler based on powerful mythical figures wreaking revenge it's hard to avoid comparisons to the fantastic God of War series, especially since the opening scenes of Darksiders play very similarly to the opening of GoW II. The menus and inventory look suspiciously similar but aside from that Darksiders carves its own path, aided in no small measure by the impressive visuals created by comic book writer and artist Joe Madureira.

Joe and the team really have created a beautiful chaos with Darksiders, and manage to portray post-apocalyptic Earth with a certain flair and style that avoids the drab greys and browns that many games use. The environments are full of detail and sometimes you have to stop and look around to appreciate the scale of some of the levels - down the sides of a destroyed highway I looked down to see flowing rivers of magma, glowing and churning all colours of red and orange. War himself is an anti-hero of the Gears of War generation - a dark hooded figure whose stature consists of ridiculously bulging muscles and chunky armour, topped off with a tattered red cape.

Like quite a few recent games you get to play through the prologue with all of your powers but start the game proper back at square one, with only your sword, limited combos and some anger issues. The combat is pretty fluid—moves flow from each other with very little delay in recognising your frantic button-mashing.

Things start off very simple, with small enemies that are stunned easily, prompting a simple one-button finishing move. Some of these are satisfyingly gory, ranging from splitting smaller beasts in half to ripping off angels' wings and stuffing your sword down their windpipes. What would have been nice is the option for multiple finishers, as you'll face hundreds of the bog-standard enemies and the initially impressive finishers do get stale very quickly.

As you play through the game the fights get more complex and different types of enemies take you on. These range from melee brawlers to flying seraphs, and also toxic or flaming enemies which required you to take them out from distance. You harvest 'souls' (similar to the orbs in most action games) and use those to upgrade weapons or unlock new combos in order to take on the larger waves of enemies.

Some new techniques, such as counters, do help tackle the larger sub-bosses but unfortunately you can roll through the game by maxing out a few easy combos and blocking at the right times, especially since early in the game you can transform into a fire-clad Demon for a short time, which demolishes everything in sight! The combat, even towards the end of the game, never really moves beyond an early plateau and even though the boss battles are good fun they feel more like clever puzzles with dangers thrown in rather than actual battles.

In Darksiders you get to play with an array of weapons, from heavenly beam guns to a Krull-style throwing weapon, called the Crossblade, or a gauntlet that creates shockwaves. Some of these, like the pistol, are really there to fill the gaps but some of them not only change the way you clear the enemies but also open up the puzzle sections of the game with some inventive solutions.

The puzzles are really where the game comes into its own, as it seems to match the perfect balance between challenging and simple and never seem to slow the pace in the transition between them and combat. Each puzzle you come across is simple logic based on what tools and skills you have to hand at the time, and they follow a very logical pattern. One such puzzle has a door blocked by some weird red ice. This can be shifted with a handy nearby bomb, but it needs to be ignited. There's a torch on the other side of the room so use your Krull Crossblade to ignite all the torches down the corridor until it reaches the bomb; and Bob's your uncle—no more funny ice.

If you don't have the skills at the time the game will move you on from the puzzle, round the corner and you'll find what you need to solve it. Sometimes this is a new weapon but it can also be something that changes the environment to create a whole new level. In one part you solve a puzzle and afterwards you flood the chamber in order to rise up to the level above and solve another puzzle in the same room. This fits in with the game's open-world setup; you’ll notice as you run through the game areas which you can't be entered and will only be accessible later. However there's little back- tracking as when you get to the end of a stretch there's always a new route back to the start, or even quick shortcuts with the 'wormholes' that enable you to quick travel all over the place.

In addition the platforming elements are also very solid—you traverse walls and ceilings with ease and there seem to be few 'leaps of faith' to annoy. Even where you have to jump across gaps or between walls War seems to be as adept as Spider-Man at sticking to the walls. A couple of minor niggles are the lack of clarity over what surfaces you can grab the edges of, which leads to a few problems, usually when you're stretching to get to those hard-to-get bonus crates. Also, War seems to have issues when jumping from the edges of platforms, as he seems not to recognise that I won't jump until the last inch, and just falls to his death. Luckily most jumps don't require Tomb Raider inch-perfect accuracy, but it is a bit of a pain.

Darksiders is a very good game with a mix of action, puzzles and platforming, so has a very broad appeal. The visual style is unique and offers some interesting characters, even if a lot of the dialogue sounds a bit stale. The puzzles and platforming work really well, if not challenging the player too much, but the combat is only really a bit-player and never really lives up to the standard of the rest of the game. But nonetheless if you want to split hell demons in half while tackling puzzles that don't feel like taking exams then this is the game for you.

Best Bits

- Great Visuals
- Logical Puzzles
- Fun Platforming
- Nice Weapons
- You Play as a Horseman of the Apocalypse!
Worst Bits

- Shallow combat
- Disappointing boss battles
- Characters and story are a little stale
- A little bit of back- tracking in places
- No replay value

by: Crazypunk

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