I stroll through the remnants of the city I gaze upon the buildings all decayed and in ruin, once bustling with life they lay baron now. It was the same all over the world. The once thriving bastions of humanity now nothing but dust collecting reminders of what could have been. I think about the destroyer, about all the havoc he’s wreaked and all of it pinned squarely on my shoulders! I mean … I was there … sure I killed a few people … but it was the end of the world, the apocalypse! It was my job as a Horseman to show up and kick all the ass! Instead though, I got killed by a goliath with a wit problem and blamed for the entire thing… the council were so mad …
I want to start by saying that I never actually expected this remaster to make it out of development live. Those that have been gaming for a while are well aware that the original game (a personal favourite of mine) was made by the now infamous THQ (the original one) who famously went under after releasing some really well performing titles a while back. So, when THQ Nordic (these are the new guys) rocked up with the license to the game and said, “we are making a shinier version” with the guys at Vigil games who Developed the original title and the guys and girls at Kaiko … I had to take that with a pinch of salt but in the end, they did it. We got the game and frankly I think it was a bang-up job too!
For those who didn’t play the original version way back when in 2010 the game follows the trials and adventures of WAR! A mighty horseman of the apocalypse who has been accused of bringing about the end of humanity by kick starting the apocalypse a little bit too early and generally ruining everything for everyone involved. In this version of the horseman’s tale the horseman are the mighty enforcers of the charred council, a mighty group who keep the balance of power between the armies of heaven and the dregs of hell. As the story goes when humanity, heaven and hell are ready for the end of days the seven mystical seals will be broken and the horseman shall ride forth to deliver judgement to all involved regardless of their side. When war is caught taking part solo in the premature apocalypse he is captured and imprisoned by the charred council and after over a century given what is essentially a trial by combat. He is told that to redeem himself he must venture back to earth, slay the mighty destroyer, the leader of the armies of hell and clear his name in the process. BUT. He must not go alone! To ensure he does not slack off or defect to the armies of hell the mighty horseman is stripped of his powers and essentially leashed to a being known only as the watcher. The watcher is a spectre like entity who is tasked to supervise WAR and make sure he gets the job done. Spectacularly voiced by the almighty Mark Hamill the watcher becomes the most lovable thorn in your side I’ve encountered to date in the series.
As you adventure through the ruins of earth, or at least the ruins of the singular city on earth that the hierarchy of the armies of earth have decided to call base camp conveniently you will come across a variety of characters and trials from the angels of hell who for some reason are far less about the mercy part than you’d have thought, an ‘old one’ who is so Scottish that Sean Connery has to take a second listen to him, the armies of hell who are …dicks… and Samael the demon Prince/ former Prince/ Enslaved dude? I’m not quite sure what he was before the end of days to be honest.
Samael and the armies of hell are probably the bulk of this game to be honest and that isn’t to say the other characters aren’t done as well, they just seem to get less air time than these guys. Pretty early on in the adventure you encounter the former commander of the legions of hell (or at least its insinuated this was his position) imprisoned in the centre of the ruins of earth, after rescuing him form a prison that he conveniently goes back into for most of the game (never explained) he sets you upon the road of the games core task. You are required to eliminate the CHOSEN! (not inventive as names go I must admit) of the Destroyer, five almighty beasts of intense power and skill. Now not only are we required to kill them but we must also take their hearts! Thus begins the core gameplay, essentially you must adventure down one of five linear area paths to reach the location of the chosen CHOSEN and slay them for no other reason than … this one demon guy said you had to for his help! Now I say linear, this isn’t as bad as you’d think, levels are actually laid out rather well in this game, each area has a very unique and distinct style and feel. For example, when adventuring to seek the heart of the first chosen Tiamat the bat queen you have to go through a very dark and dingy location, the buildings look eerie, you see a lot of overpasses and raised roads and even get a shot at a flying sequence which despite its flaws I rather enjoyed. The harder difficulties are a bit punishing in this section to the stage that I found it to be tedious more than enjoyably challenging. Comparing this with the levels for a later boss like The Stygian (this was my favourite boss and I’ll come to that later) which has a very desert orientated vibe going for it. You spend a LOT of time playing in the sand here and the enemy threats are also very different to the first level avenue too with you facing off against horseback enemies and giant carnivorous sand worms who will show you no mercy. Each area feels new and interesting and helps the game from feeling too tiresome in the later stages which is good because the game gets fairly backtrack heavy late on. Darksiders hails itself as an RPG but I really feel it’s a bit of a spectacle fighter with RPG elements tacked onto it. What I mean by that is that the combat is the primary focus and although you have various items and a few weapons to use you aren’t really playing with stats and micro managing as you would with a more RPG heavy focus, which is good because combat is what this game is all about in the gameplay department.
War throughout his travels will acquire a small variety of weapons that include the main sword Chaoseater, a scythe, tremor gauntlets and in the later stages of the game you are even granted access to a small pistol (unfortunately thought the pistol uses the same ammunition as Dante from Devil May Cry and shoots spit balls for bullets basically) with this small variety of weapons comes a large variety of moves all of which are rather stylish and look pretty cool when you pull them off but unfortunately you don’t really use a large number of them. Combat for this game is solid, no real bugs, moves carry a great weight to them and when you strike an enemy aside from some of the heavier guys they all look as if they’ve been hit with real intent. The problem I have with the combat though is that I rarely found myself using a lot of the more later game or advanced moves. The first few combos seemed to really do the trick in almost every fight so I just stuck with them. As result I found myself buying none of the tremor gauntlet moves and almost none of the Scythe moves and just mashing it out with my sword. I feel the developers really wanted to have a high degree of depth to the combat itself but I didn’t find a real reason to do anything special with it or to use any of the more complex moves. Sticking with the combat one of the things the game does get right in this department is enemy variety, there are a lot of enemies in this game that take various forms and each with their own unique feel. The range from small ground crawlers, regular size fighter, big bulky dudes that will explode and even throwing in a few flying enemies and of course, spiders. I hate spiders so the ones in this kind of creeped me out a little when I played it and saw the revamped textures, Creepy little buggers. The variety in enemy helps to keep the areas unique and as you progress through the game it definitely helps to stay off the tediousness that would normally set in with a game like this.
Arguably the best part of this game though is its boss battles. Each area before the final showdown with the destroyer is as stated inhabited by a member of the destroyers chosen. A mighty being that has intense power and funnily enough they all seem to know you’re coming. The first of these is Tiamat the bat queen who by nature of her name is a flying battle and one I felt really kicked off the grandiose nature of the boss fights rather well. Each battle is unique in setting, style and play. The battles each require a new approach and often a new weapon which is funnily enough almost always handed to you in the level used to approach the fight. There are five in all prior to the big hoedown with the destroyer. Tiamat the bat queen, the Griever, the Stygian (my personal favourite), Silitha the Spider Queen and Straga (you’ll be extra fond of this one as he is the giant freak that mauls you in the intro) aside from Straga who actually is kind of boring as fights go each boss is pretty enjoyable, Tiamat reminded me when I replayed it of the Witcher. Fighting the Griffins and Wyverns but I feel the Stygian was the most unique experience. Unlike the other bosses the Stygian doesn’t control the area that it resides in, in fact when you reach it the demons are hell bent on catching it just like you. The beast is a monumental sand worm that has thick armour plating on its exterior. I liked this the most as it involved the most fun. Galloping all over the place on my horse shooting away with the pistol it felt more like red dead redemption than anything else but it had the right balance of varied combat and mechanics that made it fun, also as the largest of the battles it had the scale feel right. As if you were battling a huge monster from games such as shadow of the colossus
Overall, I have a soft spot for this game because it does a lot right that a lot of games get wrong. Its linear but the world feels open, the story is interesting and the characters for the most part are done well and drive the plot. The twists that the game has are not ground breaking but I really liked them, especially those later into the game. The combat despite being semi deep falls down on its ease of relying on the same basic moves to crush the game, environments and textures are revamped very well from the original for the warmastered edition of the game. WAR isn’t the most likeable character, his brooding nature comes across as a bit annoying sometimes as if he’s internally screaming to himself “I’M BATMAN”, the ending leaves it wide open for a sequel for which they did produce. Overall this is a game that nots flawless but it shines regardless for its merits. I’d pick this up easily for the £20 it’s on steam for, not only because it’s a steal or because you get the original version for free too but because this is a genuinely good game. Helps that there is a third one coming to hopefully get the tale going again 😃