Mar 20, 2011

Review: Darksiders

Darksiders: Released 2009 for Xbox and Playstation 3, Released Sept. 2010 for PC

I picked up the PC version of Darksiders from Steam this weekend at 75% discount. If my review sounds like something you might enjoy then I strongly recommend hurrying over to Steam to get this title while the discount lasts, it currently goes for $10. This review is also somewhat hastily written as I wanted to get it posted while the title is still offered at a discount.

My first encounter with this game was the demo released for the consoles a good while ago, and I admit I dismissed the game very quickly as just another God of War clone. This weekend though, it was on sale at 75% discount on Steam, and the combination of a pretty sweet price and the fact this was something as rare as a God of War'ish game on the PC triggered a buy for me. I should also point out again that this review is based on the PC version of the game. Without more delay then, on to the review!


In Darksiders, you take the role of War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The horsemen are part of  a neutral force called the Council in the eternal battle between heaven and hell, and they step in when needed to make sure neither side gain too much ground. The war between heaven and hell has raged for ever, but a truce was signed when the race of Man emerged. While a puny race, they also seemed cunning and could have a major role to play in the war. And so, both forces agreed to stay their assaults while the race of Man developed until they were prepared to play their part, the uneasy truce bound by seven sigils that when broken would signal the beginning of the final war.

As the game begins, the battle has seemingly begun again with the forces of heaven and hell duking it out on a modern time Earth, and War enters the fray to oversee, and make adjustments here and there where needed. However it becomes soon becomes evident that the sigils are still intact, and War is thus placed on trial before the Council for misconduct. By misconduct we mean triggering events that led to extinction of mankind. War is victim in a divine conspiracy plot, and has to make things right again on an Earth ravaged by the forces of Hell where mankind no longer exists, or accept death in failure as his punishment for his crime.

Bad Steam screenshot, 1280*720 with weird scaling by Steam uploader. But I least I got a scythe!


Darksiders is a pure hack and slash action game with some light puzzle elements, very similar in style of gameplay to the God of War series and all its clones. To be fair, I feel the game is closer to Dante's Inferno than God of War, in parts both for the somewhat simpler combat than God of War, and more focus on story and lore.

There are some differences though. Where in God of War and Dante's Inferno you have light and heavy attacks, your main attack and secondary attacks in Darksiders use different weapons, leading to some fairly interesting combination options. War also has powers and spells he can use, such as different kinds of attacks and abilities to heal himself or briefly become resistant to damage.

The main focus of the game is battles which are fast paced and typically involve any number of fairly weak enemies, 2-3 medium strength ones or a strong enemy. There are also of course a good variety of boss battles, and some light puzzle elements. You are also rewarded for exploring the enviroment as expected of games like these, with a number of secret areas or places that require pixel perfect timing or positioning to reach.

I have to admit, a large part of the reason I went and bought this game was a firm disbelief that this kind of game could work well on the PC at all. To put it to the ultimate test I also played it with keyboard and mouse controls instead of a gamepad. And boy was I mistaken! I really couldn't believe it, but Darksiders has showed me that action games like God of War CAN actually work on a PC. With my keyboard and mouse setup, the mouse constrols the camera from a 3rd person view behind the character like any typical action game of its ilk, and left and right mouse buttons are used for primary and secondary attacks. In addition the middle mouse button triggers item use, and Caps Lock+numbers 1-4 is used for spells and abilites. Shift is used for locking on enemies and modifier for certain attacks, Alt is used for block, dash and also attack modifier. E uses stuff in the enviroment, and space jumps. And it works, really, really well. It would be better to have a gamepad still, as the capslock abilities in particular can be somewhat uncomfortable to use as quickly as you need to, but still, I was very surprised with how well it works!

Woops. My bad.


So the control scheme is wildly reworked from the consoles, but what about the rest of the game ? Graphics wise, there are literally no video options. You can set the video resolution, and thats it. No low-medium-high sliders, nothing. But! The game is actually well ported for the PC, believe it or not. I tested this on a rig with a puny Geforce 220 (lowest end of graphics cards really) but still it plays pretty darn well at 1440*900. I had low framerates and a game crash at 1920*1080, but really, I can thank myself for that. At 1440*900 and lower the framerates were very smooth, and pretty good quality as well. On the whole, despite the complete lack of customization I was impressed with the performance of the game. The graphics are through and through good quality, and it doesnt look overly jaggy at lower resolutions. Even going down to 1280*720 everything still looks pretty decent.

The battles are fluid, gory and feel 'meaty'. War has a lot of devastating attacks, combos and finishers that all feel crunchy. I will however point out that the sound work is only decent, nothing out of the ordinary there. I would also sometimes have the audio wildly out of sync with the video on the ingame cutscenes. This could very well be a problem with my system only, though.

The game UI is what you would expect from a game like this, non intrusive and minimalistic. Menues however are actually a bit poor, they can be confusing to navigate and dont respond well to mouse input, I really had to use shift and ctrl+arrows to navigate. This is poor for a PC game but not only that, many console games have far cleaner and easier to understand menues. This is however the only drawback I can point to that shows its console origin.


For a PC game, this title is almost a must have especially if you can get it at a low price like this weekend's Steam discount! I was hugely impressed with how damn well this game actually works, being what it is, and being on the PC, especially when using standard mouse and keys controls. This game is fun, good looking, and pretty long. I havent been through the whole thing yet but can already tell its longer than Dante's Inferno which gave me many hours of entertainment. If you're thinking of getting it for a console instead, you probably wont feel disappointed either, it really is a good game, but there are already other really good games of its kind out there as well, so it would be down to which game you prefer among the myriad of good games out there. On the PC, this is the best action game since Tomb Raider, and thats no small accomplishment. It has way tougher competition on the console market.

I must also mention the story of the game which sucked me in right away once I started playing the retail game, it is pretty much 100% bad ass. Never understood much of what was going on when I played the console demo, I bet I'd have bought this game a lot sooner if I had any idea how interesting the story and concept was.

All in all, I give this game a good 8/10.

If you have thoughts on the review or the game, feel free to leave comments below as I'd love to hear them.

Official trailer:

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