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Discussion The Patient Gamer: Darksiders - A Classic 7/10

GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
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As I play through my backlog of games, I've often wondered why I always end up feeling so strongly about the games I play. I either really love them, instant classics, hidden gems, wow where has this been all my life. Or they don't really do anything for me, and I drop them after playing for a few hours.

Darksiders was weird. I played, and ultimately completed the game, clocked about 20 hours in the game all told. 70% achievement completion on one run through. No idea if I had fun or not. Wasn't deeply engaged with the story. Gameplay was just sort of... there. But I didn't stop and I didn't go find something else to play. I kept pushing forward.

Quick premise: You're War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Somehow, the apocalypse was triggered outside of its prophesied time and armagedon has been unleashed on Earth, heaven and hell engage in the ultimate battle. You are implicated in this colossal screw-up, stripped of your powers as punishment, and then sent back to Earth hundreds of years after the apocalypse and the extinction of the human race to discover what went wrong. How a game can start with such an awesome concept and then do basically nothing with it, well, anyhow...

The game is a kind of genre mash-up between a hack n' slash and a Metriodvania, but in my opinion kind of falls short everywhere, although everything is executed competently.

As a hack n' slash, the game is just feels too cooped up and slow, with too many rules and buttons and combos and weapons and etc etc etc piled on top of each other to the point where you eventually just keep pushing the standard attack and the dodge button to essentially win the entire game. Most of the standard combat encounters get absurdly dull after a while, which must be why War's "Chaos form" become invulnerable and get out of combat free ability was included in the game. The boss battles are actually entertaining and reasonably well designed, requiring some thought and movement, and typically requiring you to use the new weapon or ability acquired in their respective dungeon to beat them.

As a Metroidvania, the game is another mixed bag. Some items and abilities very obviously call back to previous sections of the game that make you think "hey now I can go back and access that area" and are reasonably well designed staples of the genre (like the hookshot), while others are absurdly scenario specific and could have really been replaced with just a cutscene (the horn to move the giant stone guys who sadly disappear after the first 3rd of the game, or the ridiculous "soul bridge" that is literally used once in the game to access a mandatory area are two that immediately jump to mind). The game's visual design is extremely cluttered, there are plenty of invisible walls all over the place, and the "treasure hunt" portion of the game is either fairly obvious or obscured beyond reason which makes the "go back and actually find secrets" part of the gameplay tedious and unrewarding.

The game did have some bright moments in terms of some of its staging, showing War wheeling and dealing with both the forces of hell and heaven to try to get to the bottom of the mystery. Unfortunately, however, even many of the side characters were sort of one note and stereotypical with some notable exceptions (Ulfric the Scottish Demon Forgemaster and Samael the demon plotting against the main boss character were better written than most). War himself had all the personality of a brick, there must have been some better way of doing the whole stoic-murder-machine thing than the whole speak in one word sentences kinda thing.

At the end of it all, Darksiders is really a 7/10. Its a well made game, looks good, runs well. The controls work. There is a ton of stuff crammed in there. Someone clearly tried for a plot and story and the whole thing sort of flows logically forward. Collectathon folks should be happy. DmC folks should be happy. Metriodvania people should be happy. But at the end of the day, it was kinda just... meh. Like they had three different teams working on the game and they're all good at what they do, but they just couldn't instill the individual parts that were sewn together to make this game wake up with the spark of life.

As a final note, the game ran well on my laptop (i7 8th gen + GTX 1050) and naturally held up at 1440p144hz on my sig rig with no problems. Only had one minor crash (this was the "Warmastered Edition") but otherwise the game was stable as a rock.

I have DS2 in my library and will get around to it eventually as the game ends on the verge of discovering some sort of larger mystery, but I'm in no rush to fire it right up.
 

rivethead

Platinum Member
Jan 16, 2005
2,635
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That's a fair rating. I enjoy your game reviews!

The only thing I would say missing is the mention of a VERY memorable character. I would agree with your mention of Samael and Ulfric. But there's an optional boss who kind of steals the show when it comes to being memorable. I don't want to mention his name to avoid spoiling it for you. But based on your 70% completion comment, I'm guessing you didn't do what's needed to find and meet him (you have to attain 100% completion on a certain thing).

He reappears in the other Darksider games. He's become sort of a fan-favorite.

Here's an internet description with the name removed:

"is a secret mini boss who you can fight after certain areas. He is easily missable since there are no clues or hints where and when he will show up. You can fight him 4 times, upon defeat he will give 1000 souls the first two times you beat him and 2000 for the last two times but the fight will be harder compared to the first two fights. "

I love it when devs take the time to put secret stuff like this into games.
 

GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
3,195
1,713
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That's a fair rating. I enjoy your game reviews!

The only thing I would say missing is the mention of a VERY memorable character. I would agree with your mention of Samael and Ulfric. But there's an optional boss who kind of steals the show when it comes to being memorable. I don't want to mention his name to avoid spoiling it for you. But based on your 70% completion comment, I'm guessing you didn't do what's needed to find and meet him (you have to attain 100% completion on a certain thing).

He reappears in the other Darksider games. He's become sort of a fan-favorite.

Here's an internet description with the name removed:

"is a secret mini boss who you can fight after certain areas. He is easily missable since there are no clues or hints where and when he will show up. You can fight him 4 times, upon defeat he will give 1000 souls the first two times you beat him and 2000 for the last two times but the fight will be harder compared to the first two fights. "

I love it when devs take the time to put secret stuff like this into games.
-Much appreciated @rivethead! I think I know who you're talking about and I did encounter him once, leaving me very confused. A certain gentleman with a cane and top-hat?

I guess one thing I missed in my review is the sheer amount of puzzle solving in this game, especially the last 3rd basically turns into Portal: Darksider's edition. Unfortunately the puzzles aren't actually physics based, and are really more platforming centric.

I did appreciate that by and large, when the game has you backtrack, it doesn't completely stuff old areas up with hordes of enemies to slow you down and just lets you get back to your objective.
 

Aikouka

Lifer
Nov 27, 2001
29,937
596
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I've always seen the game referred to as more of a dark and gritty Zelda rather than Metroidvania. Maybe looking at it from that point of view would change your mind on it not meeting aspects of Metroidvania, etc. as well as it should. (Zelda doesn't really either.)
 

Stg-Flame

Diamond Member
Mar 10, 2007
3,010
255
126
I have DS2 in my library and will get around to it eventually as the game ends on the verge of discovering some sort of larger mystery, but I'm in no rush to fire it right up.
I actually just finished Darksiders a few weeks ago and jumped straight into Darksiders 2. It's definitely an improvement on the first game and they changed a few things in a good way (QoL improvements). The dodging is still really irritating since locking on to an enemy changes your direction for dodging. The only other thing I really hated about the first game was the amount of backtracking the game forced on the players. Sure, you don't need to go back to all the places to find all the wrath and life upgrades or the Abyssal Armor, but I love exploring and when I take extra time to explore only to find an obstacle that I won't be able to overcome for another 15+ hours, it makes me not want to come back just for that item buried deep inside a dungeon. This aspect still exists in the second game, but to a lesser degree (so far).

I feel like the developers were really into the older NES/SNES games where you were required to write things down that were important for later and thought that would still be fun today. Just trying to remember where I saw all those little (insert new item gimmick) spots was pretty annoying. Still, it's a fun series so far and I've been trying to get through all three games before I continue with my backlog, but I'm not entirely sure if I'll be able to stomach more of the same if there aren't some drastic changes made to Darksiders 3.
 
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GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
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The only other thing I really hated about the first game was the amount of backtracking the game forced on the players. Sure, you don't need to go back to all the places to find all the wrath and life upgrades or the Abyssal Armor, but I love exploring and when I take extra time to explore only to find an obstacle that I won't be able to overcome for another 15+ hours, it makes me not want to come back just for that item buried deep inside a dungeon. This aspect still exists in the second game, but to a lesser degree (so far).
- I think this is a perfectly fine element in games if the world is intelligently designed to make multiple interconnected paths between zones, so you're never too far away from anywhere else (The first Arkham Batman game, and even the Prince of Persia reboot immediately leap to mind).

DS' world is sprawling, but there is no smart way to travel between the dungeons and zones outside of using the (frankly annoying) serpent holes or making outrageously long journeys on foot back to the main hub and following another spoke. If each "spoke" off each hub at a small connection with some rewards hidden for taking it (making a "wheel"), it would make navigating the world far less tedious.

Never hurts to add map markers for hidden caches that have been located/spotted but not accessed yet, or a NG+ or purchasable "all hidden items" map.
 

Stg-Flame

Diamond Member
Mar 10, 2007
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- I think this is a perfectly fine element in games if the world is intelligently designed to make multiple interconnected paths between zones, so you're never too far away from anywhere else
As do I if it's done correctly (as you stated). The problem with DS1 is how slow War moves and how long it takes to re-enter a dungeon, despite having already completed it and obtaining alternate modes of travel. DS2 has improved upon this aspect as Death moves faster and there's a lot more places for the horse (Despair) to be used.

DS' world is sprawling, but there is no smart way to travel between the dungeons and zones outside of using the (frankly annoying) serpent holes or making outrageously long journeys on foot back to the main hub and following another spoke.
Those serpent holes made fast traveling even more annoying. In theory it sounds like a really cool idea, but in practice, it was just beyond tedious. I'm so glad they got rid of that in DS2. It's just fast travel, short loading screen, then you're there.

Never hurts to add map markers for hidden caches that have been located/spotted but not accessed yet, or a NG+ or purchasable "all hidden items" map.
In DS1, you get a legendary boon that shows you every chest and collectible on the map. I don't remember where I found it, but it also grants more souls if added to the Scythe and I believe it was the first legendary boon I found. It did make going back and finding all the little hidden spots a lot easier, but in the end, I was still missing one health shard and one wrath core (which I was told was a glitch since I found all the wrath cores before the health and I guess you're not supposed to do that).

I was really hoping DS2 would have at least a checklist for areas to see what all you've missed or the ability to add map markers, but they somehow made the map less intuitive and less user friendly which I didn't think was possible. It's not bad since all the chests are marked, but the hidden collectibles are not shown (and there's a LOT of hidden collectibles in the second game). I'm actually having a lot more fun with the second game than the first, so I would definitely give it a try if you feel like you'd like to see the continuation of what happens to War after the first game. I think I'm about a third of the way through the second game right now and I can already tell there's a lot of extra hidden content given how many different hidden clues I'm finding that all allude to various secrets later down the line.
 
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