It’s Not Death That You Should Fear
Recently, I’ve been trying to think of ways to make it easier to accomplish these reviews; things to make my reviews easier. It’s occurred to me that most critics review one episode of a TV show at a time, whereas I review entire seasons in each review. Well I put out a lot of reviews, and should spread those out so I can get more reviews out of one DVD set. …That being said, today I’m reviewing two games in the same review. I don’t know why, but even as I already own Tomb Raider and know of the existence of Bioshock Infinite, I decided now was the time to play two games in the same series that only ever vaguely interested me. I own the first one because I bought it used for $20, and I could borrow the second one from my friend Hookah, but there was clearly no reason to be playing this instead of Tomb Raider. Either way, I felt like I had to, so I did. Here is my review for the Darksiders series. Darksiders was developed by Vigil Games, published by THQ, with designs by Joe Madureira, and with the voices of Liam O’Brien, Mark Hamill, Phil LaMarr, Troy Baker, Moon Bloodgood, Lani Minella, Vernon Wells, Keith Szarabajka, J.B. Blanc, and Fred Tatasciore. Darksiders II includes the voices of Michael Wincott, Simon Templeman, André Sogliuzzo, Claudia Christian, Phil Proctor, Barry Dennen, Jamieson Price, Jessica Straus, and Nick Jameson.
For all my atheist readers, Heaven and Hell do not get along. In fact, one could say that they are at war. And Earth is often caught in the middle of that war. A balance is maintained by a group called “The Charred Council (Fred Tatasciore)” using the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – War (Liam O’Brien), Death (Michael Wincott), and for some reason Strife and Fury instead of Conquest and Famine. The balance is broken and war breaks out on Earth, and War awakens to restore the balance, but alone and depowered because the necessary paperwork was not filed to summon the Horsemen, so he is defeated by a demon called Straga (Troy Baker). The Charred Council accuses War of jumping the gun and bringing on the destruction of humanity, but War demands a chance to prove his innocence. They agree to send him back to Earth, bound to an annoyance known as The Watcher (Mark Hamill) and still depowered, to give him the chance to find out who was behind his premature evacuation.
In a fairly chronologically confusing setup, we now play as Death, who has set his sights on clearing his brother’s name by reviving humanity using the Well of Souls. I guess this part takes place just after War goes to Earth and gets defeated, so we’re playing this part in the several hundred years while War is talking to the Charred Council. Death first goes to the Crowfather (Keith Szarabajka) – who is NOT Bruce Lee – to find out what he must do, but Crowfather is all bitchy because Death made him carry around an amulet filled with the souls of the Nephilim who didn’t turn out to be Horsemen material and were then killed by the Horsemen. Death then goes to the Forge Lands, and finds that a lot of the realms are being taken over by this Corruption stuff that is kind of Death’s fault because it’s all caused by this guy named Absalom (Simon Templeman) that Death killed a while ago.
These games were fine for what they were, but there were issues to be had with them. None of these problems were really with the story … because I wasn’t paying that much attention to it. Well, I was paying attention to it, and I even played the game twice, but it was fairly inconsequential. I like a game that incorporates the Four Horseman. I’ve had a fascination with them ever since I first learned about them … in Marvel comic books. Of course it wasn’t in the Bible! I ain’t reading that thing! But that also means that I was thrown off because the Four Horsemen in this game didn’t include Pestilence and Famine, which wasn’t even accurate to the Bible that says it was Conquest and Famine they changed for their game. But Conquest doesn’t even seem to fit into the group, so I’m okay with him being gone. And Famine and Pestilence would just be sickly and frail, so they probably wouldn’t fit this game either. But the biggest problem of all is how little sense Death makes in Darksiders 2. How the hell is Death’s ultimate goal in the game to bring all of the humans back to life? Someone needs to change his fuckin’ name before trying that bullshit.
I really appreciated the look of this game, and mostly because the creative direction was left in the hands of my favorite comic book artist: Joe Madureira. This guy’s art is the bomb! I literally have one of his pictures as a poster on my wall AND as the desktop of my computer. So I love the artwork that created the game, but I did feel that the atmosphere of the first game didn’t really fit the theme of the game. It seemed a little too bright and almost cartoony while they were going for a darker theme. There were levels that seemed to reflect it better – such as the spider level – but the greater majority felt like they should’ve been darker. War definitely benefited from Madureira’s artwork because he loves to make heavily armored and intricate characters, and that fit the look of War really well. But then Darksiders 2 comes around and Death feels like a topless member of Slipknot. But aspects of Death can be changed, which is something that’s a little problematic for me. Part of me appreciates it when the gear I change actually changes the gear being carried by my character, but another part of me hates that my logical side needs to have the best equipment on while the artistic side of me wants my character’s gear to match and look badass.
Okay, the biggest annoyance I had with the game all came from the gameplay. The gameplay itself could be boiled down to your basic hack-and-slash game, which is fine by me. It’s a solid stress relief to hop into a mindless game and beat the shit out of your X button. The problem I had with both games was how much they flat out stole from other games. I had heard a little about this stuff before I even played the game. I was told that it was very similar to God of War meets Zelda, which is definitely true. Hack-and-slash games all kind of feel like God of War, and some of the music in the first game felt like it was taken right off the soundtrack. And the puzzles were vaguely Zelda, but the maps were EXACTLY Zelda. They even have the skull to indicate where the boss is located. But the thievery does not stop there. They have a portal gun in the game! It’s not a gun, but it is stolen straight out of Portal. The portals are even blue and orange! You can’t just call it a Voidwalker and fool me, Darksiders! And the Abyssal Chain is straight up the hookshot from Zelda. At least for Darksiders 2 they changed it enough by making it a spectral hand that Death reached out with. They have an aerial battle where War rides a griffin that feels very Starfox as well. Darksiders 2 changed the gameplay a lot, but they did not change the amount that it was all stolen. Instead of your basic hack-and-slash, it became more of a Diablo-esque dungeon crawler, where you were rewarded with loot and gold instead of the God of War-style soul orbs. This was also a bummer because you could often get better gear from fighting random weak creatures than you could from surviving 100 levels of the Crucible, or 10 levels of the Soul Arbiter’s Maze. Then, they decided they needed to get some quality platforming in their game. What better place than Prince of Persia? They had all the wall running that helped the Prince of Persia games be so good, but lacked the polish that made them great. And the big colossus boss battle was pretty reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, appropriately. I actually got to the point with these games that I was thinking that I had not played enough games to accurately pick out every game that they were stealing from. The biggest annoying power wasn’t actually stolen from anything, but it was annoying for an entirely different reason. You’re not able to enter the realm of the spider people until you get the ability to make your horse – Ruin – run between two pillars to cross a chasm. The reason I found this annoying was that this was the ONLY TIME YOU EVER USE THIS POWER! What a fuckin’ waste!
The achievements in these games weren’t that bad. I was able to get all of them in both games. They weren’t easy, but plenty were annoying. They both did a lot with collectables which means you’ll be wandering around the maps over and over. Darksiders 1 even had one that was for riding a certain amount on horseback, which meant I spent a lot of time running around in circles on horseback since I didn’t do nearly enough normally. You’ll also probably want to play the game twice to get all the achievements, which makes it much easier while also making it take more time. But the most annoying achievement is the one you get for just getting the portal ability in Darksiders 2, because they called it “I can has cake.” Come on! You’re not even trying to mask that you steal from other games!
Darksiders and Darksiders 2 were decent enough games with next to no story, fantastic art design by Joe Madureira, and some fun and mindless hack-and-slash action. The biggest problem I took with the game was how clearly and blatantly they assembled their game with the cobbled parts of better games. I just don’t know if I can call this game worth buying. It’s okay, but there are better ways to spend your money. If you can get them super cheap, or if you can rent or borrow them, they’re decent enough to play if you have nothing else to play. Darksiders and Darksiders 2 gets “You would fight this war alone?” out of “The greater risk is to do nothing.”
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