PAX ’09 – Darksiders
When I approached Darksiders I didn’t really know a whole lot about the title, other than it being a post-apocalyptic quasi-religious action game. What I did know was that you played as War, one of the legendary Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and that you needed to unravel the mystery of what or who caused the calamity. The good news about being one of the horsemen is that you’re a badass. Of course, there’s some bad news as well; you’re the protagonist of a video game, which means you’ve been stripped of almost all of your badass abilities.
The Darksiders demo starts War off at the bottom of a desolate, ruined parking garage. As I oriented myself to the controls and environment I began to work my way out of the pit via double jumps, wall hanging and a bit of shimmying. Immediately after crossing one of the many gaps found in the garage, the first batch of foes arrived. War has a number of easy to execute attacks and combos and in no time I’d cleared the area of the ghoulish enemies. Following the skirmish I reached an elevator shaft, pried the doors open and was greeted by a car careening past on its last trip. With the elevator no longer an option, I used some peculiar growths to climb the shaft the old fashioned way.
After leaving the parking garage, I found myself in a large room fighting a greater number of the ghoul-type enemies. Not too long into the fight a brief cut scene sealed me into the room with a good ole’ magic barrier and a bigger fiery enemy to play with. Working in some dashes and quick strikes, my new friend didn’t last terribly long before I had War put him down for good with one of Darksiders’ vicious scripted finishers. Afterwards the barrier was politely lifted and I soon found myself topside, greeted with a cut-scene.
Once I was back in control of War, I found myself able to wander non-linearly through a few blocks of a former city. I’d been tasked with tracking down four-hundred souls, which are conveniently found in treasure chests or collected after slaying the various creatures found in the city. Having a little more space to experiment in combat, I picked up the nearest car and proceeded to swing it wildly at enemies before hurling it at a group, watching it explode and deal heavy damage to the bunch. While I wasn’t actively brawling I was exploring as much of the area as I could, uncovering many more souls than I actually needed to finish my quest and complete the demo.
Before delivering the fresh souls I did notice a path that was blocked with what appeared to have been ice. At the time, none of the available powers I had were appropriate for ice removal but Craig Mitchell of THQ assured me that later in the game you’d find the tool to explore that path. In addition to the combat centric nature of the demo I was told that a significant portion of Darksiders would be spent solving puzzles scattered across the game’s different dungeon areas. Solving the puzzles will often hinge on a key item or object much like those found in a Zelda dungeon. Craig also spoke at length about riding War’s steed, Ruin, who unfortunately was also MIA from the demo. I was told Ruin will play a large role in the game once War has recovered him and can be summoned at any time in non dungeon environments, even mid-fight.
Overall I was a bit disappointed with the Darksiders demo, and not because it was bad but because the rest of the game sounded rather awesome. What’s there for players now is a good indication of the solid action foundation that the game is built on but the overall potential of the title appears to be much greater. If Darksiders’ dungeons, puzzles and mounted action can live up to the claims it’ll certainly be a game to watch in early 2010.