Reviews: Darksiders

It's only called "derivative" if you don't like it, otherwise it's an homage

A lot of the criticism leveled at Darksiders is that is derivative: it apes other successful games in both form and function in order to cash in on what they did right. Partially this is true, Darksiders is like the child of Kratos and Link, in a completely non-gay way. However, when people usually say "It's derivative", they mean that it is bad; well this is decidedly untrue. Darksiders is good, very good. Not only that, it is incredibly addictive, both in the gameplay and the story, despite the fact that the story is, again, 'derivative'. The reason that it is so good, despite that fact that we've seen it all before? It does it all well.

The action is fluid, the controls are tight, War is a total badass, color and barrenness are rolled together in just the right amounts in the right places to make the visuals stand out, riding Ruin is blast (however I don't think that there is enough time and action devoted to him, you are the HORSEMAN of the Apocalypse) and even though we've seen it all before, those realizations hit us as "Oh yeah, I remember that! Damn it was cool then, and it's cool now." rather than "Oh this again..."

The criticism I do have however is that sometimes there is a very big sense of cheapness to it (not to truly spoil it, but there is a certain secret, bonus enemy who can only be defeated through block/counter movements, and he's a pain in the ass) and some big-time Fridge Logic things (Why does the Ancient who is older than the universe have a Glaswegian accent?) but they are few and far between.

tl;dr If you liked 75% of the games of the last two decades, you need to play Darksiders.

What You Get When You Tape Two Good Things Together

Darksiders was fun. Right out of the gate, I'll give the game that. It was decently fun to play and I'm happy I picked it up, but homage, derivative, whatever you call it... They did it too well. This is what you would get if you put Zelda and God of War in a blender and there's nothing new on offer. First things first... As far as the Zelda half of the equation goes, they nailed it. Exploring the world After The End is a treat and the "dungeons" on offer are large enough to engross but not so large as to be tedius. Puzzles are a blast and the various items are a treat to use.

The problem with the game is... Combat. War controls fine for the first few bits of the game. The ability to combo was welcome, and once you get the scythe you really open up your ability to hurt enemies. The problem is that they can really hurt you back, almost with impunity. Larger enemies have no hit stun whatsoever. Which I'd be fine with, if I had a functioning "Get The Hell Away From Here" button. War moves slowly and his Dash just freaking blows. Back dash to get out of the way of that hit? Sorry, he doesn't dash back far enough. Jump out of the way? Too bad, War can't jump high enough to escape that slash. Dash to the side? Oops, you still got hit! Combat quickly becomes frustrating because it tries to pretend it's God Of War, but it's really not. It's Zelda with combos and a few moves stolen.

You've got to be slow, methodical, and patient. Which would work, except for the fact that enemies are very, very fast and strike very, very hard. You can't take your attention off of one foe for a moment or he'll smack you one. You essentially have to run in and hope you get out before it's too late. A lot of the time, enemies have no pattern to learn or weakness to exploit. They are a challenge by themselves, and when mooks are about they're going to take large chunks off your health no matter how well you play. The enemies are designed for Dante or Bayonetta, and those two aren't here to face them. The game apes God Of War's combat but the designers apparently forgot that quick movement speed and flicking the right-stick to dodge was as integral to Kratos' ability to survive in combat as holding the attack button to smack dudes into the air and holding it again to smack 'em back down.

It's a good game, but had they fine-tuned things, it could have been great.