I’m a big fan of the Darksiders series. Having beaten both games multiple times and enjoying their God of War meets The Legend of Zelda style of gameplay, I’m still holding out hope that someday we’ll get a third game that appropriately closes out the series and brings closure to the cliffhangers we were left with at the end of the first two games. Nordic Games, now known as THQ Nordic, acquired the Darksiders IP from THQ after they went bankrupt some years ago, and so far they’ve given us the cleverly named Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition (well, I think the name is clever) for current gen systems late last year, and it was one of the better definitive editions out there. Some gamers apparently had frame-rate and freezing issues, particularly for the Xbox One version of the game, but it worked for most. I was particularly grateful since the DLCs for my PS3 copy of Darksiders II caused game breaking freezing issues, which were fortunately corrected in the Deathinitive Edition (which I reviewed here, if you’re interested). Now that I have been given access to Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, I figured I could happily exist with both games on my beloved PS4. Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll have to keep my PS3 copy of the first Darksiders since the Warmastered Edition is a noticeable step back.
For the still uninformed, some background info on the game is required. Darksiders places you in the role of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who dramatically divebombs to Earth to take part in what is supposedly the Apocalypse. After slaying his fair share of angels and demons in the streets of New York City, War is stripped of his power and is himself slain by a large demon. He then finds himself kneeling before his superiors, the Charred Council, who are responsible for mediating the never ending war between the forces of Heaven and Hell. The Council accuses War for supposedly kickstarting the Apocalypse too early, so in order to prove his innocence, War has the Council send him back to Earth so he can track down (and, more importantly, slaughter) the ones truly responsible for initiating the Apocalypse and framing him for it. Upon being returned to Earth 100 years after the premature Apocalypse, War finds that the demons have won the End War, the angels are scattered, and all of humanity has been completely obliterated (though some do remain as zombies).
As I touched upon earlier, Darksiders possesses brutal and flashy combat reminiscent of God of War and combines it with the adventurous dungeon crawling elements of The Legend of Zelda. War gains access to quite the arsenal of weapons with which he can brutalize his enemies. There’s his oversized Chaoseater sword, a Scythe that can perform large, sweeping attacks, and a Tremor Gauntlet that lets him strike enemies with shockwave imbued punches and ground slams. He also gains magic abilities like creating a field of blades around him to skewer surrounding enemies and donning “stone skin” to both increase his attack damage and lessen the damage he takes from enemy attacks. And in the vein of the Zelda games, War comes across special item weapons and relics in the game’s dungeons that are not only necessary for dealing with many of the main bosses, but also for reaching the many collectibles and secrets hidden about the environments. Some of these items include the Crossblade, which is a giant shuriken that can strike multiple enemies in a single throw; the Abyssal Chain, which is a grappling hook item that lets War grapple onto grab points, climbable walls, and even distant enemies; and the Voidwalker, which lets War create portals on specific surfaces to reach normally inaccessible areas and solve some puzzles. And let’s not forget War’s fiery steed, Ruin, who can be ridden on in order to traverse certain areas and strike multiple enemies quickly and fiercely.
The enemies, like I mentioned before, consist of a bunch of demons, some angels, and undead creatures. The regular enemies can be challenging in large groups, but otherwise they aren’t too tough to deal with. The bosses are more fun to take on, especially those that feature puzzle-like qualities and can’t be dealt with simply by running up to them and smacking them around with your sword. However, it is worth noting that the boss battles kind of get easier as the game goes along (I personally found a couple of the earlier bosses to be more challenging than the rest, and the final boss was strangely easy), and some repetition does creep in as you continue through the game. Nevertheless, Darksiders has good, solid action throughout. The post-apocalyptic vision of Earth is also a sight to behold with its city ruins with bubbling pools of lava, an overgrown forest area, a desert of ash and soot, a gigantic demonic tower, etc.
So, why the puzzling score of 55? It’s okay, I know that’s what you all really wanted to know about. It’s simple, really. Darksiders: Warmastered Edition was plagued with basic but very frustrating technical issues. The first issue was the lip syncing; it was so off that it reminded me of a badly dubbed Godzilla movie. This occurred in nearly every cutscene in the game, especially the longer ones, and strangely it was only the dialogue in the cutscenes that was off, not any of the other sound effects. The other issue was that at least half the cutscenes in the game skipped themselves halfway through or sometimes even right after they started. When this first happened, I thought I had accidentally clicked a button on the controller and skipped through the cutscene myself, but I soon realized that it was the game itself, not me. What tipped me off was the fact that after a cutscene was skipped and I was in control of War again, I could still hear the dialogue from the rest of the cutscene playing in the background. As a gamer who never skips cutscenes, no matter how many times I’ve beaten a game (would you skip certain scenes in a movie?), I find these issues to be extraordinarily frustrating. I imagine these issues wouldn’t matter much at all to gamers who don’t care about stories; nevertheless, there’s no excuse for such simple yet noticeable flaws to be present in this game. The fact the story for Darksiders is one of the game’s best aspects makes these issues extra frustrating for me in particular, and I hope I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I want to be clear that this nonsense with the lip syncing and skipping cutscenes is not universal. Apparently, plenty of gamers have perfectly fine copies of Darksiders: Warmastered Edition that are issue free, but there are still a number of other unfortunate schmucks out there experiencing the exact same issues I did. Here’s hoping THQ Nordic know about these issues that are selectively plaguing some gamers and that they take steps to patch them up, for these problems certainly do leave a nasty splotch on an otherwise great and fun game. The visuals are richer and more vibrant, and the frame-rate (from what I can tell) has improved compared to the previous gen version of this game. Without the issues with the cutscenes, this game would easily get a score of 80 or so, but in its current condition, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition gets a mediocre score from me. Nordic’s “one step forward, two steps back” approach to releasing games with technical issues is really starting to make me worry about what problems Darksiders III might have, assuming it ever releases.
Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 22nd November 2016 (PS4/Xbox One), 29th November 2016 (PC)