Darksiders: Wrath of War
Freakishly brutal and beautiful.
Preview by Aaron Drewniak (Email)
July 21st 2008
The Four Horsemen have been framed for an apocalypse they didn't commit, stripped of their powers and deposited on this ruined Earth while angels and demons squabble over the crumbled remains. Naturally, War isn't going to take this lying down, and rages across this charred landscape to regain his powers and take revenge against those who dared to challenge his wrath.
One glance at screens, or maybe just the name, might leave you screaming, "God of War clone," but Darksiders is far more hero of Hyrule than ancient Greek psychopath. From a hub world, you progress through various dungeons, facing bosses and gaining items and power-ups that allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas, such as a throwing blade to trigger distant switches and a demonic horse to brave the harsh desert. Gameplay is a mix of combat, platforming, and light puzzle solving, with each element paced out to keep any one from wearing out its welcome. Even though War is a buff spirit of destruction, he's quick on his feet, and capable of double jumping with the best of ninja. Combat is quick and brutal, with your main weapon a customizable sword and various sub-weapons earned through the game, such as a spinning blade that can keep an enemy off your back as you slaughter his allies. A number of abilities are also gained and upgraded throughout the game, insuring a persistent sense of growth to face the trails ahead.
With Joe Madureira in charge of design, Darksiders resembled nothing else appearing at E3. The antihero was grim and his enemies freakish, given life through detailed animations that cause their great arms to sway and smash into War with an act that's nearly graceful. From the way the Ruin rises from the ground spewing fire to the stark horizon, the game seems worth exploring just to see what new fiend or ruined monument lies in wait. This is all easy to behold with the best third-person camera I've ever seen in an action game. It pulls away to provide you a clear view of your enemies and surroundings when needed, but slowly pulls in and shifts as the action dictates. There was no time during the demo where the player was blindsided or unable to observe the next ledge he needed to leap to. It was all right there on screen.
Not much of the actual story was shown. A well-crafted tale in the comic book spirit is promised, but the developers also made it clear that it won't interfere with the fun. Their focus is on the gameplay, providing the player with a satisfying challenge without too many cut scenes getting in the way. While the developers originally envisioned four-player co-op with the Four Horsemen, that idea proved too ambitious for their first title. So Darksiders: Wrath of War is strictly a single-player experience, but if it's successful we might see the Four ride together again.