Darksiders Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3
Darksiders box art
System: X360, PS3 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Vigil Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: THQ 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Jan.5, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Like the Zeldapocalypse
by Andrew Groen

December 16, 2009 - It's been five years in the making, and hopes are high for Vigil Games' upcoming action-adventure title, Darksiders. The developers themselves have even poured gasoline on the fire, going so far as to compare their gameplay to that of the legendary 3D Zelda games. We recently got a chance to go hands-on with this title for ourselves to find out once and for all if the anticipation is warranted. We already know that Darksiders looks great, but does the gameplay stack up?

Darksiders screenshot

More than any other game we've played in a long time, Darksiders is a product of its influences. While the developer has mentioned Zelda among its inspirations, that's really only the beginning. This is a game which very clearly has roots in many different classic games from the action-adventure genre. The combat is often very reminiscent of God of War, the exploration and pacing sets you back to the Legacy of Kain games, battles are often reminiscent of Devil May Cry, and the bosses will remind you of Ocarina of Time in a very good way.

During our extensive play time, comprising about 8-10 hours, we got a very good feel for Darksiders and came away more than a little impressed. It's not going to shock you with drastically new gameplay innovations, but it's definitely going to surprise you with its quality. Most games that aim this high usually end up falling tragically short, but perhaps due to its extremely long development cycle, Darksiders has fulfilled much of its potential and promises.


It might look like another straight-forward, linear action-brawler trying to be the next God of War, but looks can be deceiving. As you travel deeper and deeper into the game, you'll find that Darksiders continuously opens up to reveal new layers and expand on its original formula. Before you know it, this simple button-mashing slasher has turned into an all-new, complex hybrid, sporting both the grace of God of War's combat system and the complexity of a Zelda dungeon. And that's all before you reach one of the several truly enormous bosses.

At first, the game can lull you to sleep with its beginnings as a basic hack-n-slash brawler, but after a few hours, you'll find yourself smack in the middle of some pretty nefarious dungeons which require a lot of exploration and puzzle-solving. If this was a simple God of War clone, you'd plow through the puzzles one at a time, most of them posing little serious cognitive threat. But in Darksiders, the dungeons are somewhat Zelda-like in that there are small, individual puzzles, but all of those tie into an overarching, meta-puzzle.

Darksiders screenshot

The best example comes in one of the early dungeons, which places you in a hub room with several doors around the perimeter and a pool of lava separating them. You have to constantly be manipulating a series of nine platforms to cross the pool to the next door, and then solve the puzzles in the next room to get the object you need. The goal is to retrieve a huge ornamental sword from each area and bring it back to the original room to solve another puzzle involving those swords.

In a video game landscape which includes less complexity every year, Darksiders refuses to hold your hand. It's never quite as complicated as a traditional Zelda dungeon, which might take you hours to finish, but it's refreshingly complex and forces you to think and evaluate your surroundings.

In a game world like Darksiders, so full of bleakness and gray, it would be justifiable to suspect that its underground dungeons would be extremely bland and boring to walk through. However, that never ends up being the case. Comic artist Joe Madureira - who has been on board with this project since its very beginnings - has really crafted an intensely interesting world. Even the underground bits manage to be interesting and full of dead life.

Darksiders screenshot

Vigil Games has stated before that they wanted to create a world devoid of humanity; this is not your average super-powered-human-fights-evil-and-saves-humanity story. These glorified superhero tales are worn out. Which is why in Darksiders, humanity itself doesn't even seem to be much of a major player at all. This is not a story about the benevolence and innocence of the human spirit, but rather it's a straight up war story between Heaven, Hell, and the forces that keep the balance.

We're very excited to get our hands on the final product, because if our time previewing the game is any indication, this is going to be a very satisfying gaming experience that fills a gaming niche that hasn't been addressed in years. If you've been yearning for the same type of gameplay that made the N64 era so special, Darksiders will definitely appeal to you; it has a lot of the same sentiments but with the polish and graphical prowess of a modern title.

By Andrew Groen
CCC Freelance Writer

Game Features:

  • Apocalyptic Power of War - Unleash the wrath of War with devastating supernatural abilities; an extreme arsenal of angelic, demonic, and earthly weapons; and his fiery red phantom steed, Ruin.
  • Epic Quest - Battle across the wastelands and demon-infested dungeons of the decimated Earth, discovering new weapons, learning new abilities and uncovering ancient relics to aid in your quest for vengeance and redemption.
  • Battle Heaven and Hell - Destroy all who stand in your way - from war-weary angelic forces to Hell's hideous demon hordes, and confront the nefarious Destroyer, the very harbinger of Armageddon.

  • Screenshots / Images
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