Darksiders is turning 14 today, which is messed up! I remember crashing at a friend’s house while he was playing it when I was 13, back before live services, Deliveroo, and self-assessment tax returns ruined my life. Sitting here now, a sizable serving of whatever Vigil Games was cooking is exactly what I’m craving.
Calling Darksiders AA is apt, especially these days, as budgets have ballooned to ridiculous (and probably unsustainable) levels. The game was published by THQ – a company renowned for its shotgun-style approach of shooting out a higher quantity of quirky titles. But even as games have gotten vaster and far nicer to look at, Darksiders retains some charm that in my mind is timeless.
Sitting down and really looking at Darksiders, you’ve got to separate nostalgia from its long-lasting qualities. Like Metallica or Avenged Sevenfold, it does have an edge to it that I’m not so keen on these days. War mounted on his horse, brandishing his big ‘ol sword, on the box art isn’t quite as cool as it once was to 13-year-old Connor. But the art style remains dope. Even today, if you slap heavy religious imagery over a modern setting and I’ll lap it up. It’s a real weak point.
A lot of that appeal world-wise and character design wise comes from Joe Madureira, who was the creative director for the game. Obviously it’s a team effort. You’ve got all manner of great people in the credits here – like art director Han Randhawa, lead environment artist John N. Pearl, and a handful of others who made Darksiders an interesting universe to wonder around in. The game does suffer from a touch from 7th generation brown murkiness syndrome, like many a game from that era, but interestingly enough the elements from heaven and hell – those rich crimson and shiny golden trims – cut through it all.
I remember loving the enemy design at the time – and there are still some absolute winners in there. Hefty, hulking monsters you need to slam yourself against, interesting clashes between swords and shields with a very modern setting. This would ultimately become a real strength of the Darksiders series as a whole, but as an opening statement, Darksiders 1 really did a damn good job of separating itself from plaining depictions of a biblical apocalypse.
The gameplay itself is repetitive – this is probably the biggest fault with the game. But, the combat holds up well if you like the feeling of a bulkier character, rather than an agile one. Darksiders 2 attempted to go for a faster approach, while the original stayed true to making War this weighty guy devastating the things he wobbled towards. I do think time has only hurt the game in this regard. Slap on a podcast – we didn’t have those back then. I still had an iPod Nano and a CD collection.
Darksiders is firmly in the back pocket now, having shifted around considerably in its life from a Zelda-esque action game, to a top-down hack and slash. For my money it’s probably dead – but it had a good run. Even so, it’s still a proper solid action romp for those of us in the mood for one. Give it a go. Give the whole series a go! See a franchise start and end, see how the trends of the console generations and the tastes of players affected the design of it all.
Because right now, the chances of a brand-new cheapish IP being thrown out there and garnering enough of an audience to warrant such a run is rare. Hi-Fi Rush may roll on into the future, but maybe it’s a one off! Who knows? Darksiders is a grand monument to its time, and while it has rusted a bit around the edges, it’s well worth looking at.