Monday, 7 January 2013

Darksiders: Game design review

Darksiders is an action adventure game that I recently purchased thanks to the THQ bundle. You play War who is tricked into accidentally appearing before he was suppose to. He is stripped of his powers and must seek revenge on those who have wronged him.

According to a developer interview, the game is designed to be similar to Legend of Zelda. You have an open world and travel between various areas and dungeons to collect items and unlock powers. The closest on the PC to this game is probably the Blood Omen and Soul Reaver series.

It is very solid well put together game and I quite enjoyed the combination of modern day buildings taken over by fantasy elements in a post-apocalyptic world. If you're an action gamer I would highly recommend playing it. I played this game with an Xbox 360 controller on the PC which I would highly recommend.

So here are my thoughts on some of the minor issues that annoy me about the game:

Camera doesn't work in small rooms- The usual problem of action games rears it ugly head. Fighting in a corner or near walls in small rooms  usually results in a camera focusing in the wrong place. The numerous enemies also make it very difficult to figure out where you are sometimes swamp you blocking your view of things.

Short Length and lacks replayability- According to my Steam account I've only been playing for about 15-18 hours. It actually felt a much longer epic game than that but some might find it lacking. There's isn't much replayability similar to other action games like this although for those who enjoy collecting there are various minor health and magic powerups you can collect.

More interesting bosses- I find the enemy bosses kind of ugly and boring. They all look very much like ugly insect-like demons and pretty much just scream and taunt you like any other comic book villain. I was hoping for some variation like in Soul Reaver where each bosses looks different based on their powers and some one like Kain with depth and a charisma.

Hard to empathise with characters and lack of characterisation- Most characters are really hard to empathise with in the game. War is pretty much angry and angst-driven all the time and most of the other characters fall into the archetypes of being 'too righteous' or 'too evil' declaring in loud tones their desire to defeat you. I appreciate this is a comic book style game but even a mediocrum of restraint would have been good.

I think the greatest misstep is probably the Watcher who accompanies you on the journey and who is plain out comically sadistic and evil always looking for opportunities to taunt War. He also acts as an in-game guide and I really didn't enjoy summoning him. I think that's a mistake. The helper character should be someone the player should want to converse with. Or if you have to make him/her a villain, make the character someone likeable, like a scoundrel.

In fact I would say that the character that I liked best was Samael, the former demon prince who assists you who has an agenda of his own. Right off the bat, The Watcher and everyone else expects Samael to betray War but surprisingly this doesn't happen in the game at all and Samael remains enigmatic on his true goals hinting about the bigger picture. Samael seems more developed than everyone else in the game including War and shows a level of restraint despite every thing. Unfortunately, he yells a lot and taunts War like all the other characters in loud brash tones which I think works against his favour.

Lack of horse-riding- You get a horse and can ride around the desert and even fight the boss with it but the horse section seems token unfortunately. I wish there was a bit more chances for horse riding to show off the vastness and landscape of the world.

Some items are just useless after a while- Like a lot of Zelda-like games, some of the early weapons and items become a bit useless. I've always found it puzzling frankly. I personally think a game should just upgrade existing weapons so they become more useful or simply replace them.

Portals- Late in the game you get a gun which fires orange and blue portals which allow you to teleport between them. That's out right copying of the portals from Portal! Its a minor detail but seriously, couldn't they colour them differently or something?

As mentioned above, I enjoyed Darksiders and its a very fun game despite its few quirks. It's somewhat derivative but we don't really have many games like this on the PC. I highly recommend it if you're an action adventure gamer. It's often on sale for just US$5so there's no excuse to enjoy this game.

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