War's epic journey to do battle against a rather perky entity known as The Destroyer sees him start out small, for a lesser deity at least. He's put on trial by his employers - The Charred Council and blamed for a rather large fubar'd mess which essentially saw The Destroyer wipe the planet clean of humanity. It's now up to War to travel through various demon-infested locales, gathering new abilities, the all-important souls which fund his journey and of course, lots of cool, devastating sharp pointy bits of metal with which to gut and rend flesh. You've got to make amends.
Your employers strangle your ability to rebel by installing a rather sarcastic demon guide inside an immovable gauntlet strapped to your forearm. You are coerced from point A to point B and beyond as you attempt to track down The Destroyer. Having been severely crippled after the apocalypse, a big driving factor of the gameplay is to chop and hack your way through droves of enemies acquiring souls as you go. Blue souls are used as currency which allows you to unlock more powerful moves, extra secondary weapons such as a wicked scythe, and even extra health and wrath bars. One-shot potions for health and wrath can also be snapped up and really come in handy during the more tricky boss battles.
Between a rock and a hard place
As you progress further and kill more and more critters, you weapon skills will advance in levels. This allows more powerful moves to be learned and more damage to be dealt. Darksiders' combat system is a very satisfying, gory one and gives up a sense of precise technique and awesome power. War can string melee (both ground and air-based) attacks together to devastating effect. A combo system allows ludicrously stylish and long combos to be strung together and the on-the-fly finishing move system adds a touch of rancid flair to most situations. Darksiders doesn't shy away from its Monty Python and the Holy Grail-style gore, but it does it in a way that's not tedious and repetitive.
Like any Zelda-style adventure that's worth its salt, Darksiders manages to blend raw action encounters with more subtle puzzle-solving elements. There's a certain amount of shoving big concrete blocks around in just the right order, and stepping carefully on the right platforms to unlock the next area, in other words. Luckily, Darksiders' developers put this side of the gameplay mechanic to good use and rarely do you find yourself scratching your simple foreheads for more than a few minutes before the penny finally drops on the solutions.
War's vast array of moves leave little room for boredom, but one of the most engaging elements of games of this ilk has to be the egg-hunt factor. Taking a critical path through the game's storyline will only get you 70 per cent or so of the entire experience. As any good Zelda fan will tell you, there's a lot more to things than simply going from plotline trigger to plotline trigger. A vast web of red herring passageways, just-out-of-reach chests, platforms and so on tease and taunt you as you explore the different zones. And it's not until later in the game, when certain pieces of kit come into your possession, that you'll be able to backtrack and open previously unobtainable areas up for pillaging.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that game's story and voice acting. Darksiders does an admirable job of delivering an engaging yarn with better than average voice work. It's OK that most everyone's voice is around fifteen octaves too deep, but that's the underworld for you. The essence of big, powerful evil entities is captured perfectly, and while War is a little bit too prim and proper with his line delivery, I enjoyed this game's plot more than most of the usual average Hollywood C-level acting.
So, if you think that you're up for a challenge that might not be the most original in terms of gameplay mechanics, combat and the like, then you can certainly do a lot worse than Darksiders. It's technically very competent, and while at its heart it’s a prettier version of the console version, it's definitely a great distraction from some of this year's other PC fare. It's not too short, nor long, and it offers an excellent Zelda-esque romp albeit one that skinned (or should that be flayed) in sizzling, peeling human flesh.