E3 2008: Darksiders: Wrath of War Hands-On Preview

"I remember one preview saying something like I said ‘Darksiders is like Zelda with balls.’ Man, I was afraid Miyamoto would have me killed over that one."

Vigil Games’ Joe Madureira isn’t your average videogame creative director. With a background in comics ranging from the X-Men to his own private creations, he’s earned his stripes in the paneled arena. When it comes to games, Joe has few to his credit; he worked on most of the original art for NCSoft’s Dungeon Runners. So what makes him and the rest of Vigil Games qualified to have a game some are comparing to Zelda? A lot of talent, and a lot of ideas generated from playing the games they love.

Some people consider it a bad thing to be compared to other games. "Oh, this is just like so-and-so." But would you consider it bad if I said Darksiders is just like Zelda-meets-Metroid-meets-God of War-meets-Shadow of the Colossus? I didn’t think so.

The basic combat and general feel of Darksiders is reminiscent of God of War. Like the God of War series, you play a mythical being: War, one of the Four Horsemen. The Apocalypse has come early, and both sides are blaming War on the events which transpired. He’s innocent, but no one believes him. He is War, after all. So what’s War to do? Take the fight to both sides in order to clear his name and prove his innocence, of course!

War starts the game with his Chaoseater sword, a big hulking piece of metal. Pressing X performs a melee attack, which you can chain for combos. If you hold X the Chaoseater performs a stronger attack, followed by a simple toss of it which causes it to spin around and attack various enemies. B grabs, while locking on with LT and quickly tapping the left analog stick causes War to roll dodge. A jumps, and tapping twice will double jump; hold it at the top of the double jump will cause War to sprout translucent black wings which let him glide to the ground.

Sounds familiar, right? It is. Darksiders uses a tested and proven action game combat scheme. So that covers the God of War influences.

As for Zelda and Metroid references, the game utilizes several of the ideas of the popular Nintendo franchises. For example, in a nod to Zelda, War must find equipment and items to help him complete puzzles and advance in dungeons. In the half hour I played in Vigil’s room, the dungeon I was in required several item-gatherings to get past events. Whether it was keys, swords to plant in statues to unlock areas, or bombs to blow up walls, there were lots of options. In an even bigger nod to Zelda, Darksiders features items such as the cross blade which are utilized in many long-distance puzzle solving encounters, serving a function similar to the boomerang in the Zelda series.

Items like the cross b lade lead to one of Darksiders’s other homages, Metroid’s unlockable backtracking. After you’ve unlocked some items, you can go back to areas you’ve seen earlier in dungeons and gain entry to side passages. Coupled with achievements, going back and uncovering these previously sealed off areas will be perfect for any completionists.

One area of the demo I saw in action but didn’t get a chance to try involved War’s horse, Ruin. Riding in a desert area outside of a city known as the Ashlands, War encountered a giant worm. Riding around on Ruin, you’ll need to dodge the worm’s attacks, all while hurting it in hopes of taking it down. Boss fights and cinematic experiences are integral to all the dungeons in the game, and the worm fight in the Ashlands was very reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus.

Visually, Darksiders looks good even if it’s still quite a ways from release. The game features locations both fantasy-based and realistic, creating a clash of styles which blend perfectly with War’s blend of past and modern weaponry. You can also expect a lot of chains in Darksiders, as Joe and the rest of the team just love the way chains sound.

Even though Darksiders seems to borrow many of its main ideas, it pulls them off so well at such an early stage that I can’t fault the developers for that. They’re gamers too, so why shouldn’t they utilize aspects of games they’ve loved in the game they’re making?


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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