Darksiders Warmastered Edition Review – PC


Originally released seven years ago, Darksiders has finally been given a next-gen facelift for the PC, allowing a new generation of gamers to experience this apocalyptic adventure with all the latest benefits of current technology. Graphics alone are seldom an excuse to replay a game of this magnitude, but in this case the results are pretty impressive, so veteran horsemen who either finished or maybe got stuck somewhere in the middle of the original are highly encouraged to revisit this Biblically epic remaster.

KAIKO took Vigil Games original material and doubled all the textures to support the new 4K resolution. They also re-rendered all the cutscenes to match the new level of quality. Framerate has been increased and with some tweaking you can enjoy smooth 60fps combat. For those who want pristine visuals the rendering engine has been reworked to render better lighting, shadows, and post effects, and all new graphics options are available in the options menu. They even added Steam Trading Cards and support for the Steam Controller.

Even by 2010 standards, Darksiders was an impressive game, but this turbo-charged version is one of the few remasters (in a sea of remasters) that truly improves upon an already-outstanding action-adventure/RPG. Darksiders is a twisted tale of deception, betrayal, and revenge on a Biblical scale, more specifically the Book of Revelation, as the opening movie and prologue level plunge us into the End Times. The Seven Seals are broken, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse gallop in to perform their ordained duties and heaven and hell begin a centuries-long war on Earth. The opening level is quite exciting with demons and angels engaged in brutal combat over a large city. Humans are mostly irrelevant, a tasty morsel for the demonic beast on the prowl, and even the angels don’t seem preoccupied with saving the human race.

But this Armageddon is far detached from the one you’ve probably learned about in Sunday school or other pop-culture entertainment. The writers have carefully crafted an engaging script to intentionally avoid using inflammatory labels such as God or Satan, so the game is surprisingly inoffensive to anybody of any particular religion. Key labels are color coded within the subtitles allowing the player to substitute their own personal beliefs into the story or simply dismiss the entire narrative as a clever fantasy romp with a spiritual subtext. The bottom line is that Heaven and Hell are at war and it’s up to you to make things right.

And just who are you in the world of Darksiders? As War, the first of the Four Horsemen, you quickly realize you have been tricked into instigating Armageddon, a fact you learn too late, just about the time you are crushed by the fist of Straga, a massive stone beast and agent of the Underworld. Stripped of your supernatural powers and plunged into Hell, you learn of your betrayal and manage to strike a bargain to set things right. You return to Earth more than a century later to find the cities in ruin and all sorts of demons running amuck. Time for some payback.

Darksiders is massive, both in the scale of the world that you explore, and in the 15+ hours it will take you to reach the end of the story, and that doesn’t take into consideration any extended replay for those who like to discover all the hidden items and collectibles. Near the end the game will have you revisit multiple locations to find hidden shards of a powerful sword, but that is the only fetch quest you are required to take. Along the way you will discover countless chests (coffins actually) that contain specific items or useful soul energy. Like the countless games that have come before this, Darksiders uses multi-colored soul energy, both in chests and from the dispatched bodies of your foes. This energy comes in yellow (magic), blue (money), and green (health) forms. Much like a certain other game that uses eyes and feathers, Darksiders uses multi-segmented medallions to enhance your total Wrath (magic) and health counters, allowing you to build up greater reserves of each.

Darksiders is loaded with substance, especially at the character development level which borderlines on becoming a full RPG. You can equip War with numerous weapons and abilities. A simple but stylish menu interface allows you to quickly slot these items for use within the game and there is an intuitive hotkey assignment system that allows you to switch abilities and weapons, even in mid-combo using the D-pad and LB.

The Weapons Forge allows you to equip and enhance your primary weapons. Each weapon has a slot for one of several modifiers that you will acquire during the game. This might increase your damage, reap more souls, earn you more experience, or add some protection to War. Some enhancements work better on specific weapons, so it pays to read the descriptions carefully to get the best results.

Wrath Abilities are magical attacks that draw on your yellow energy slots. These can range from blades springing from the ground to turning War’s skin to stone offering more damage resistance. There are also numerous passive abilities that you will acquire over time including the ability to sprout shadowy wings so you can glide, temporarily slow down time, summon a fiery steed, or even transform into a giant flaming demon.

And then you have Gear that can range from the grappling chain allowing you to zip around using glowing connection points to the Crossblade throwing weapon ripped straight from Dark Sector, even to the point where you can use the blade to relocate fire. You have a mystical horn used to summon giant guardians who block your path to other lands, a mask that allows you to see into the Shadow Realm, and a device that allows you to summon an entry and exit portal that will play a massive part near the end of the game, not only in navigating levels but also solving some intricate light beam puzzles.

The controls are excellent and the combat system is increasingly deep as you learn the basics then slowly build on them with more complex and deadly combos that you purchase from the demon merchant, Vulgrim. Vulgrim is your one-stop shopping for all sorts of upgrades and consumables for War and his weapons. He also operates a network of Serpent Holes that allow you quick transport around the massive world of Darksiders – very useful at the end when you are working on finding all those items you missed. But rather than simply warp you to a new level you must traverse a short, but stylish path of reverse-crumbling paths and stone steps in some crazy ethereal dimension.

The combat system is quite elaborate, often requiring the use of triggers, shoulder buttons, directional inputs, and one or more face buttons, all in various sequence or combos. While it certainly pays to master this vast library of attacks, the game is not entirely unapproachable by button mashers. My only minor complaint is that once you trigger some of the more impressive and lengthier animations you cannot break out of them, so you might find yourself locked into a long animation sequence that doesn’t always sync with a quick combo input. To the designers’ credit, I never had a single animation send me over a ledge or harm me in any environmental way. If my lunge attack (RB+X) sent me toward an abyss War would quickly turn at the last minute along with his target for the exciting finishing move triggered by the B button.

Darksiders avoids the use of QTE’s, at least in the conventional sense of stringing together a pattern of timed button presses. Instead, you will simply get a B button icon when you have beaten down an enemy to the point where you can deliver the fatal blow. Sadly, these animations get a bit repetitive after you have slain a few thousand demons. I also found the Shadow Guardian challenges a bit repetitive. These are arena based challenges in the mid-part of the game where you have a specific goal you must achieve before you can exit the arena. These are not optional, but at least they teach you valuable techniques like blocking and counters or using your Wrath abilities.

There are six main bosses in the game. The first four are guardians and surprisingly enough, the first (a fire-breathing dragon creature) is probably the toughest to beat. Once you have defeated those four and collected their still-beating hearts you will be granted access to the Tower. The puzzles get truly evil in this section of the game as the portal device comes into serious play and you must divert three beams of soul energy across vast distances. The final two bosses are more about figuring out the secret to beating them and once you do, they come down quite easily, but they are not cheap or unsatisfying victories by any means. It just seems a bit out of balance that I spent more time working on the first boss than all the rest combined.

Darksiders is a challenging game. The enemies don’t really get much tougher in design but they start coming at you in greater numbers and mixing up the types, forcing you to switch weapons and gear in mid-battle. There is also a complete lack of direction within the game. Your next objective is shown with a yellow circle, but if that goal is not on that map it merely points you towards the exit, so you never know your end goal until you at least reach the same map.

And then you have these huge “puzzle dungeons” where you might need to activate switches or light torches or push statues around. You are given very little advice or direction on where to go or what to do in these sections. I was stuck in a certain desert level for nearly an hour before I realized I was supposed to jump into a hole some giant drill had been digging. A cutscene revealing this potential exit would have made things a bit nicer, but I don’t mind thinking, and getting lost in Darksiders ended up being a lot of the fun.

Visually, Darksiders is more animated graphic novel created with next-gen visuals. War looks like he stepped out of the Warhammer 40K series, but the sheer level of detail on his character model is astounding. The textures and shadows and the intricate design patterns often go unnoticed until the camera zooms in for a remastered cinematic. The enemies, while repetitive at times, are given enough variety in type and groupings that each major encounter seems unique. The bosses are extremely original and very exciting, some of the best moments of the game.

There is some fantastic use of lighting and shadows, a plethora of next-gen special effects, and the first time you see your horse, Ruin, emerge from the sand and stand there with flames licking up from his hooves and smoke billowing from his nostrils, you will be in awe. The levels are massive in scope and intricate in design; a futuristic holocaust in some levels and a virtual paradise in others. Whether you are indoors or outside, the attention to detail in every facet of world construction is simply breathtaking; even the transition tunnels and pathways to reach each new “region” make sense.

The audio department will blow you away with its dynamic Dolby Surround mix that completely immerses you in this ultimate battle of good versus evil. The score is mysterious and energetic with exciting pulse-pounding action sequences and dramatic reveals and emotional beats to punch up the narrative. The dead world of Darksiders is brought to “life” with realistic environmental sounds, wind, water, fire, explosions, crumbling rock, and I was particularly impressed with the galloping sounds of Ruin that changed based on the surface he was running on. The script borrows just enough source material from the Bible then spins its own unique story with some of the best voice acting in the genre including excellent performances by Moon Bloodgood and Mark Hamill who channels his Batman Joker personality into his portrayal of the raspy-voiced Watcher, the demon who holds the “leash” on War.

My completion time on Normal difficulty took just over 15 hours, but most of that was dealing with puzzles and not knowing exactly where to go. Any second pass through the game, even on the Apocalyptic setting would likely take around 10 hours. There are plenty of reasons to revisit the maps and locate any missing items, especially if you want to work on the numerous challenging Achievements.

Darksiders Warmastered Edition is one of the few worthy remasters of what was already a fantastic game in its day, and somehow makes it fresh and relevant today. You can probably identify at least a dozen or more game components and devices liberally “borrowed” from other games, but somehow Darksiders manages to spin them into something unique and totally original thanks to a fantastic narrative, robust character development, and a challenging combat system with seemingly endless potential.

Interestingly enough, Darksiders II released its remastered version back in 2015, so you can go into this game comfortable in the knowledge that the sequel is already waiting for you and is just as epic as the original. We can only hope the other two Horsemen get their chance to shine in their own games. Darksiders is the ultimate quest for vengeance and a heavenly way to dispatch the endless demon hordes, proving once and for all that it is better to serve in heaven than rule in hell.

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