Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Darksiders - 360/PS3

The new year kicks off with Darksiders - a solid hack and slash adventure that isn't afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve. 

Elements from God Of War, Devil May Cry, Prince of Persia and Panzer Dragoon are immediately apparent, while the game also doffs its cap to Nintendo's Zelda series. A strange and varied mix, then, but while this smorgasbord of ideas and influences could easy fall apart, the team at Vigil Games have fused them together to create a cohesive and enjoyable action adventure.

The player stomps around in the iron-clad boots of War - one of the four horsemen - who has been blamed for the premature start of the apocalypse. It's a stitch up, of course, and War sets out to clear his name and bring to justice those responsible for the fall of mankind.

The game is primarily a hack and slasher although a heavy dose of puzzling solving and item collecting has been thrown in for good measure. The combat system is robust with quick jabs of the attack button unleashing a flurry of satisfying combos. However, experimenting with secondary weapons and transforming into War's fiery Chaos Form unveils a surprisingly deep and fluid fighting mechanic. The excellent lock on feature helps enormously and gives a cinematic view of the battles, making camera issues during large scale skirmishes largely redundant.

New weapons and special moves can also be purchased, adding to the horseman's already impressive arsenal, while War's existing items can be levelled up through use.

Following Zelda's template for rewarding the player with new items and weapons is a stroke of genius as the player is constantly spurred on to discover what new trinket lies at the end of a particular dungeon. The puzzle solving aspect of Darksiders also owes a great deal to the Nintendo favourite, with the Crossblade bearing an uncanny resemblance to Link's famous boomerang.

It's easy to be unimpressed with the game's visuals during the first hour or so, with the player free to roam about a drab, uninspired cityscape. However, give it a few hours and you'll encounter stunning gothic temples, water-filled valleys and light dappled forests.

With his steely glare and chunky armour, War, too, looks the part - appearing like a beefed-up World of Warcraft Blood Elf with a bad attitude.

Darksiders is let down by a couple of niggles, though. The gladiatorial tutorials peppered throughout are awkwardly placed, stopping the flow of an otherwise well-paced game, while some of the boss battles are an over elaborate slog.

However, as a package, Darksiders is a towering success. It might be completely unoriginal, but Vigil Games have delivered a highly polished and visceral experience. A great start to 2010.

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