Another remastering…oh, what? This one actually IS an upgrade? You jest. Oh, shit, no you’re right. Wow. *applause*
THQ released an interesting title way back in 2010 that sent our senior editor Steven McGehee into an excited tizzy that has never really receded. I remember going down the hallway at the Los Angeles Convention Center with him during E3 2009 and seeing the gigantic illuminated Darksiders sign welcoming us to come try it out. It has been a love affair between editor and game since that has known no gaming boundaries. One which extended to the most recent re-release of the game and wishful thinking for a sequel. In short, McGehee REALLY likes this title.
If you’ve been living under a rock, let me catch you up a bit about what the game is about. The opening cutscene tells us that Heaven and Hell have been in constant battle since the beginning of time. Eventually a third kingdom, the kingdom of man, was created whose fate would change the balance of the war between Heaven and Hell. An entity known as the Charred Council oversaw a pact between Heaven and Hell that kept the Endwar for mankind at bay. The pact was to only be broken when the Seven Seals were destroyed, which would then summon the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Horsemen, who answer only to the Charred Council, are feared and respected by both the HellGuard (Heaven’s forces) and Hell. After this brief introduction, the game begins in a post apocalyptic Earth, with forces from Heaven and Hell doing battle in the busy city streets. War arrives to the surprise of both sides. It’s soon revealed that the seventh and final seal was never broken and War should have never been summoned. Before having to face the wrath of the Charred Council, you’re over powered by the Destroyer, one of Hell’s most epic warriors. War convinces the Council that he can root out the cause of this calamity and discover who broke the pact and caused this imbalance. He’s granted some of his power back and given a chance to travel a long, hard road to redemption and revenge.
So, the story is a bit dark, but delightful.
The real joy to the 2010 game, and consequently the most recent remastered version (dubbed Warmastered Edition) is the complexity of the level tree, as well as the seamless action that is just fun as hell. In addition, there is a large world to explore, though most of what you’re doing for throughout the game is set on a linear track. Is that a bad thing? Well, for this time period and the genre of this game, it’s expected that there is some linear path to it.
Now, before you go assuming that the game is restrictive please note that you can move freely in the area you’re provided. For example, you’re given the opportunity to explore a ruined city at the beginning of the game, but only after you complete a set of different, linear tasks to get there. Once inside the city, and after you dispatch the boss, you can roam and explore within its given boundaries. That’s the linear I’m discussing. Boundaries that are tight, but with area to move and explore in.
So, what are you trying to search for during your exploration? Souls are the currency in the game in regards to upgrading, healing and buying things. There are three types of Souls that War collects — green ones for health, yellow for Wrath, and blue ones for currency. Wrath Souls can be thought of like mana; with Wrath, War can execute any of four Wrath Abilities. You get Wrath Souls from caskets (think chests in God of War), killing enemies, and using Consumables.
Blue Souls are retrieved via caskets and by killing enemies and destroying environmental objects. Blue Souls are traded to Vulgrim, a demon who isn’t partial to the Destroyer’s cause. Vulgrim pops up in certain locations throughout most of the gameworld. From Vulgrim, War can purchase weapon upgrades (more damage, more special moves), Consumables (HP and Wrath replenishment, etc.), Wrath Abilities, Life and Wrath Shards (to increase total HP and Wrath capacity) and a few other goodies. Vulgrim’s also the key to moving quickly in between major zones in the game world as players can utilize Serpent Holes to get from one discovered area to another.
Aside from upgrades, you can also upgrade War’s abilities, which are broken into Passive Abilities and Wrath Abilities. These abilities aren’t purchased, they are given to you at certain points in the game (after which you keep them for good). Passive Abilities are primarily used for completing various environmental tasks or puzzles, but some can also be used in combat. One such ability is a horn that is used to awaken the massive gateway giants. In combat use, the horn can send weaker enemies flying back from the sonic shockwave it creates. Without trying to spoil too much, War gets the ability to glide, control time, and create two way teleportals, and even a few other skills, by game’s end. As for Wrath Abilities, there are four, with a ground spike attack given to you and the other three requiring a purchase from Vulgrim (having all four does net you a 10 Point Achievement by the way). The other abilities include Affliction which drains life from enemies for several seconds. There is also Stoneskin that reduces the damage War takes from enemies and increases the damage he causes. Finally, a third Wrath ability sets War’s skin on fire, causing him to do more damage to enemies.
War can also take advantage of several weapons. While his primary weapon is always the Chaoseater sword, players can also purchase a Scythe from Vulgrim very early in the game. Additionally, a set of gauntlets and two Passive Ability weapons are earned too, giving War five total weapons. The three main weapons can not only be upgraded with continued use, but they can be enhanced with certain powerups. These powerups are pretty hard to come by, but give benefits like increased damage, more Blue Souls for every environment object destroyed, and slow, but steady Wrath regeneration (without the need of Wrath Souls). Your weapon appearance changes slightly depending on what enhancement you have equipped, too. All five weapons have additional abilities that can be purchased from Vulgrim as well, and most of those can be upgraded three times, yielding a very respectable amount of upgrades and customization.
As for the adventure itself, it’s so ingrained with action that you’ll be ‘God of War’ happy with the results. You move around with ease laying down destruction to those things and beings around you. There is a small element of a environmental destruction that comes along with it to make your sword swiping action feel greater than it probably is in hindsight. Anyway, once you go up against enemies it’s a non-stop sword swinging fest that gives button mashing a whole new name. It’s addictive gameplay that requires little to no skill to enjoy. If that wasn’t enough, War is also armed with finishing moves that magnify the coolness, as well as grotesqueness of the world War is trying to save. It’s beautiful to see in action.
As for the girth of the environment, while it is restricted with boundaries, it makes up for it in multi-tier layouts that allow for some flexibility with both action and exploration. You’ll find structures that have multiple levels to explore, road ways that lead to other road ways, and just a nice big feel to a linear-based game. Staying on track with the adventure, feeling like there aren’t any exploration restrictions is a good place you want to be with any action-oriented title. It certainly gives the world a lot of depth, or at least feels like it does.
Overall, the gameplay from 2010 feels smoother, yet very much intact from its original idea. The amount of upgrades, leveling choices, the adventure and the action is still there and reminds us all of how cool this game was and is. The gameplay isn’t without its flaws, but what you get is far greater than what a reviewer can nitpick about.
On the presentation side of things, Darksiders Warmastered Edition comes in with better visuals, including 1080p (4K for those PC folks, lucky devils), better textures and a smoother frame rate from the original version. It’s visually an improvement over its original brethren, as you can see very detailed and upgraded textures, lighting, shading and such throughout the game. It still has some essence of 2010 scattered on it, and you can see that with some texture decisions, but for the most part it’s quite a beauty of a remastering job and a great example of how ‘remastering’ is done in general.
That said, a lot of big companies tend to put the least amount of effort in bringing old games back, but don’t mind charging a premium price. This is not one of those games. This is truly worth the price ($19.99 — seriously) for its visuals and run through experience again, and doubly so if you’ve never had the opportunity to play this game. It was a damn good game back in 2010 and it’s a damn good game again.