Recently, I finished my play through of Darksiders Warmastered Edition for the Xbox One. The Darksiders series brought us to a post-apocalyptic setting where the end of the world has come and gone, humans are dried up prunes in the street and the armies of heaven and hell wander unchecked.
You play as “War” who is one of the fabled four horsemen. The biblical figures are spun as a squad of enforcers for a group of low-voiced, rumbly stone heads somewhere underground called “the charred council” who have become revered by both the armies of heaven and hell. War was sent forth to deal judgement in the end times to the wicked, being spurred on by the breaking of the Seventh Seal, one of many that were forged during the truce between both armies. Alas, War was tricked and high figure heads fell because of it. After being brought before the council to atone for his crimes, War proposes the solution of sending him back to Earth in order to find out who is responsible, or die trying.
As in most games, your character is a shadow of his former self power-wise as opposed to when you play him right out of the gate during the apocalypse itself. You set out to find “The Destroyer” who is the perpetual lord of the new broken world. Along the way, you meet Samael, a demon imprisoned and sapped of his power who offers to help you to get to your end goal, the Destroyer, and his spire of forebodingness, always looming in the distance.
He, of course, needs something from you first: Four hearts of beings called the Chosen, who are set in place to guard the spire. One by one, you track them down in dungeons with both combat and puzzle solving aspects. Some are elaborate, taking a few tries and choice cusses to get through. Others are simpler. The combat definitely has a God of War feel to it, both in the combos used to dispatch your foes and in the hit counter itself. Though there are no actual quick time events like in God of War, there is a much more simplistic pushing of the B button to launch into a boss-killing animation.
The combos themselves seem almost needless other than the fact that they mix up combat slightly. You are given a few moves right away and have the ability to spend souls that you collect (as a form of currency) with a demon named Vulgrim to level them up and make them stronger. To purchase other moves, however, seems useless as you can certainly get by with the few given to you. It may serve the player better to save those souls and use them to purchase more powerful moves that use the wrath system.
An added part of combat that gives you an extra edge while fighting is the wrath system. Attacks that use wrath vary from summoning groups of blades used to expel enemies closing in on you to surrounding yourself with plague gas that harms close range enemies. Vulgrim doesn’t just sell moves and weapons, he also sells more useful items such as health, wrath power-ups if you find yourself in a pinch, and offers a faster way to travel throughout the world.
The power-ups themselves, I feel, shouldn’t have to be purchased. It would be better if they were rewards in chests scattered in the game or rewards for beating waves of enemies or a boss. The amount of souls needed to buy these far outweighs the amount of souls that you usually walk away with after a dungeon, often costing in the range of 5000-7000 souls for a smaller to higher end power-up.
Vulgrim’s last bit of “help” comes in the form of the serpent holes. In each level, Vulgrim lurks, and it’s your job to seek him out. His area is marked by hanging symbols and is typically quite hard to miss as most areas are fairly straight forward. The serpent holes offer a sort of fast travel as to avoid having to backtrack completely to an area. This, to me, seems also unnecessary. Each time you enter a serpent hole, you then walk along a magically appearing path to get to where you want to be. Granted, it is faster, but also seems pointless when the developers could’ve just as easily set in place an actual fast travel system.
The mechanics for the Dungeons are usually based around one specific tool that you find early on. For example, the first dungeon has obstacles and puzzles based around an item call the crossblade. a Zelda-esque, four pointed, bladed boomerang that you can tag multiple enemies with and either throw it right out, or charge it up for a more sustained attack. While the mechanics for the item are fairly sound, there are points where frustration takes over when calm boss fighting should be king.
During the first boss fight, against a giant bat, you are to throw inactive bombs at her using the crossblade and surrounding sconces to imbue the bomb with fire and set it off, knocking her out of the sky. The strategy is sound in theory, yet the lock-on mechanic failed many a time while fighting, choosing instead to lock onto the boss proper, rather than the bomb, allowing her to come and just ruin my day. Unsound mechanics don’t just stop there, regrettably. Other boss fights are not immune to poor mechanics. Another boss has issues with movement and the final blow not making any sense at first.
Your goal is to use another item gained earlier in the level, the abyssal chain which is used to swing from certain points, pull yourself closer to climbable walls, and pull smaller enemies close for attacks. At first, you pull yourself closer to her in order to to deal damage, yet War moves so slowly that by the time you are within range to actually hurt her, you only have a few seconds to do so before she launches into a series of BAMF-ing around the room, trying to squish you with her giant ass. More often than not, she succeeded as, once again, the movement speed for War gets in the way. You do have the ability to dash, yet with a several-second pause after doing so, if you guess wrong or do it to soon she will have her way with you.
The mechanic for the end of the fight was slightly confusing as well. Several orbs drop from the ceiling and your job is to use the chain to shoot up to them then shoot over to her to deliver the final blow. With nothing saying what they’re there for, it is rather confusing at first and, with the previous errors having taken their toll, frustration at this point has set in and I grew even more frustrated with not knowing what the deal was.
To their credit, the developers did give you an aid, or at least that was their intention in the form of “The Watcher,” a six eyed, raspy-voiced annoyance there to keep an eye on you for the charred council to make sure you don’t go off the rails. Instead of offering help, he yells “over here!” with no icon on the mini map. If you don’t see where he goes, he’ll continue to shout the same thing over and over until you eventually find him. If you get lost or confused during a dungeon, you can summon him… Yet all he will offer is commentary on the previous boss you fought and not the assistance you were looking for.
All in all, even with the shortcomings of the mechanics and the needless currency system, Darksiders was and still is a good solo-player game for those aching for a mashup between the Legend of Zelda and God of War. The puzzles can be challenging, but not overly difficult, and the story is at least compelling enough to keep you wanting to play for a few hours. In a scale of 1-10 I would have to give Darksiders Warmastered Edition a 6.5.
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