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Xbox 360 Review: Darksiders

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It is a shame Darksiders decides to trudge through its final hours. The pace-killing puzzles, including a section of the game asking War (the player’s character) to ignite three lights to draw power to an ally is too much. Everything about it feels tacked on, including battles against the same mini-boss three times, needless platforming, and infuriating time-based puzzles that offer no challenge beyond manipulating cramped controls.

It is a shame because everything up to that point, from the demon slaying to sheer scale of its action, is (or was) spectacular. Clean, fluid, and simple combat drives the core, and most importantly, Darksiders is smart enough to only try something once for its initial 10 hours.

Every level-ending boss fight is unique, not to mention on that rare scale that not only challenges the player but allows them to feel overwhelmed. That is not easy, as War is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Anyone with those credentials should be able to slice through anything, but Darksiders makes War seem puny in comparison.

Spectacular set pieces, including a beautifully chaotic air battle and gun-laden brawl with angels are the type of gameplay Darksiders was created for. It makes little attempt to deviate from its proven formula, ripped directly from God of War with a hint of action-RPG elements.

This game that almost seems aware of its flaws. The copious amount of required backtracking is frustrating, but quick-travel areas and a hell-spawned horse make it marginally acceptable. Inhibiting controls, forcing multiple actions to the RB, make quick swapping, blocking, dashing, or item selection in combat more about frenzied luck than planning. For basic brawling, it sticks with X or Y, offering accessible, flashy combos with a single button press or hold.

Where things crumble, much like the Earth post-apocalypse, is past that 10-hour mark, beginning with the asinine “three lights” concept. Puzzles become redundant, repeating themselves in multiple locations in ways that can hardly be considered variations. It is not enough to simply beat the boss and turn on the light, but now the player must re-enter the same areas to guide it to the necessary location using a blatant Portal knock-off power.

Backtracking becomes integral to the story, at one point asking the player to revisit every location in the entirety of the land to find pieces of a sword. That type of design is shameless in its attempt to help marketing say, "15 hours of gameplay!" It gives the player nothing new to look at, and even making them re-visit easily accessible areas from earlier. In most cases, these pieces were not even hidden, but in plain view, blocked only because an item to see them was withheld. The Armageddon sword quest is simply tiring, losing any and all momentum Darksiders was well on its way to building.

Even worse, all of this leads to one thing: a sequel-building ending. Nothing feels resolved, and that mountain of work, not play, to get there is all for naught. The goofy, oddly colorful fiction was enjoyable, at least until everything ground to a halt.

Darksiders is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Suggestive Themes. This game can also be found on: PS3.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.