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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Darksiders.

Transcript Edit

Well, bugger my bumblebee's breadbin. The first few weeks of 2010 are going to be fun, aren't they? Darksiders, Bayonetta, Dante's Inferno, and God of War III: God of War ripoff, God of War ripoff, God of War ripoff, and God of War... well, God of War. God of War knows how I'm gonna keep all four of these reviews interesting, unless maybe I wore increasingly elaborate hats with each one. What is it with this time of year that's made game developers so angry at mythological creatures? (Oh wait a minute, Christmas... Oh, I see! Did Santa bring you your pink slips this year, and now you're taking it out on all his mates?)

Anyway, I got my hands on Darksiders first, and to begin what I feel will be a trend of overusing the phrase "like God of War, but," Darksiders is like God of War, but concerning the Biblical Apocalypse. Not that they want to admit it; the story skirts coyly around depicting anything as offensive as God and Satan having a punch-up in a pub car park, instead referring obliquely to a "Creator" and a "Destroyer". The main character's one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and considering the gameplay style, it should be fairly obvious which one: Death would make things too easy, Famine's a little too gradual, and what the fuck's Pestilence gonna do, cough on people?

Anyway, something that strongly resembles the Apocalypse happens; War gets a bit overexcited and comes down to Earth to stomp on everyone, but wait, where are the other three Horsemen? Oh no! Turns out this isn't officially the Apocalypse; it's just some other unrelated conflict between angels and demons that results in total human extinction. Apparently, the right paperwork wasn't filed, so War's bosses get very cross at him, take away his powers, and send him back to act as some kind of cosmic repo man and kick all the angels and demons off the planet until they can fill the proper forms in! Presumably, "Darksiders" refers to the demons, but they never get referred to as that in the game, so it's a pretty weak title overall. If only there were a better name for a game about a supernatural embodiment of armed conflict... (Okay, I'm done with that.)

Besides the central concept, Darksiders doesn't actually rip that much off from God of War. In many ways, I wish it had - God of War had decent combat, for one thing. Here are the combos you will need to know to master Darksiders:

• The Chump Chop (square)
• The Double Chump Chop (square square)
and
• The Whipped Cream Genocide Brouhaha (square square square)

If you're an advanced student, remember to also hit the dodge button whenever a nearby enemy produces a megaphone and yells, "Hello, this is me telegraphing my attack! Are you ready? Here it comes now!" There's only one attack button at first - you get another one when you get your first secondary weapon, but there are no combos that use both buttons. All you can do is wail on the enemies like you're mining for silver in their nasal cavities, and it gets really boring really fast. The first boss fight is the hardest in the game, but by the end, you've got six more life bars (and hopefully you've bought the dashing stab attack, what is to the entire combat system what Yoko Ono was to The Beatles), so the final boss is piss easy. Who mapped this curve out, Jackson Pollock?

But to be fair, there's also a fairly strong emphasis on puzzles. (Just because War is the personification of violence doesn't mean that violence is all he's about... Oh wait, yes it does!) You may have heard in the grown-up reviews this aspect of Darksiders borrows rather heavily from that one Zelda game Nintendo have been constantly remaking since 1987. I don't think that's the case though; I think saying "Darksiders borrows heavily" implies they did some actual work of their own. A better phrase would be "completely rips off with about as much shame and emotion as the fucking Borg collective". I appreciate that taking elements from a good game that worked well, and playing around with them in new scenarios isn't a bad way to design games, but when you have a boomerang that can hit multiple targets, a grappling hook that pulls you on to climb-able walls, and a puzzle dungeon themed around reflecting a beam of light with movable mirrors, we've moved from simple "homage" to the territory of respraying a stolen car and reselling it to the owner. Thankfully, the last dungeon introduces one gadget that has never been in a Zelda game: a gun that opens blue and orange portals. Outstanding. Maybe Darksiders can't help it, like it's got kleptomania or something; in that case, I don't know whether to make fun of it, or have it sectioned!

For a game that has you collect souls all the time - that's blue souls, not red souls; this is not God of War, this is completely different! - Darksiders doesn't really have a soul of its own. It seems like what you'd get if some pale man in a business suit threw a pile of random popular games from the last five years at a development team and ordered them to Frankenstein them together into something that's guaranteed to sell. All these macho and smiling warriors chopping the legs off giant spiders with swords the size of aircraft carriers - this is a 14-year-old's idea of masculinity. War has absolutely no personality; he's a great big brick that gets in fights, going about things with an air of cold, angsty dispassion. He doesn't seem to give a toss about anything he does, so why should I? And what right does War have to be angsty about his life? He's fucking War! He's never had to queue up at the job center or pine after ex-girlfriends who left him for a surfer; he just breaks things! If I were War, and I'd just hoisted a seven-foot demon into the air and chopped him in half with a single swing, I wouldn't stand there scowling, I'd go, "Fucking hell! Did everyone see that? I am squirting machismo out of my nipples over here! I am a monster truck that walks like a man!"

But what butters my crampons the most is the character design. The main character looks like someone sat down, started drawing him and then never fucking stopped. You know when you play World of Warcraft, you pick up a pair of boots here and some shoulder armour there, constantly switching out every piece for more effective ones until by the end of it, your outfit's so mismatched, you look like you've put on a magnetic leotard and fell into a saucepan cupboard? Well, that's the look War has going on. Who the fuck thinks this looks cool (besides the gelatinous creatures that like Warhammer 40K)? A plain black shirt looks cool. A blazer and tie looks cool. What War looks like is a fucking coral reef on legs. In games, when characters can often be quite distanced and in constant motion, the designs need to be simple enough that the player can tell what they are and what they're about at a glance, but everyone in Darksiders just look like they're wearing ghillie suits made of dinnerware. Exercise art direction with a bit of fucking aesthetic sense, for the love of God! ...of War.

CreditsEdit

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw: ROAAARRRGH AAARGH RRRRRURGH KILL

Fair Use Notice: Kratos from God of War only wears a skirt and a big tattoo and he's still better dressed than War

FullyRamblomatic.com: Resistance is futile

ScreenshotsEdit

Darksiders 1

The main character's one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Darksiders 2

A better phrase would be "completely rips off with about as much shame and emotion as the fucking Borg collective"

Darksiders 3

He's never had to queue up at the job center

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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