Darksiders Is So Bad

J Onwuka
J Onwuka
Aug 14, 2016 · 8 min read
Look at this meathead idiot.

I have never in my life played a game as piss-poor as Darksiders.

Whenever I talk about games I feel the need to state a few things:

#1. I am not good at video games. I’m not really bad at video games but I realize that a lot of times I’m gonna get stuck on bits that other people don’t.
#2. I don’t play video games compulsively, and I only use ‘compulsively’ cause I’m not sure what word is better. What I mean is that if I don’t like a game I’m likely to put it down pretty quickly, and I actually prefer to do lots of other things to playing video games. Reason I mention this is that a lot of reviews are from people who are either paid to play X hours of a game and give a ‘fair’ review, or from video game enthusiasts who try to get through a bunch of it before speaking on it.

I got past the first big boss in this game and onto the second part. That is more than enough time for me to declare that Darksiders is complete and utter bullshit.

Let’s begin with its story, which is basically Spawn with some extra Judeo-Christian mythos thrown in. You are War (of course) one of the Four Horsemen who have to keep the balance because for some reason balance is always good, even though one side is HEAVEN and the other side is HELL. Why is ‘too much good’ a bad thing? No one ever explains that part when they do this shitty ‘balance’ premise. Anyway you get a grey blasted setting to stomp through, lots of ruined stuff, fleshy demon aesthetics, etc etc. It’s big and it’s dumb and honestly that’s exactly what I wanted. Literally none of the plotline matters except as a backdrop to you slashing a bunch of stuff.

And here’s where I take issue with a lot of reviews I saw about the game (in the course of both validating my dislike and trying to find out if I was fucking up). Most of them say the combat is fun. Well, it is and it isn’t. The combat is fun in the sense of being a big dude with a big sword slashing all this stuff and making it explode and shit is fun. It is not fun in like… every other aspect. You have basically one button to use for attack, which is standard, but then every other button is really useless and specific. Your grab button can only grab enemies that are weak enough, and if they aren’t it doesn’t do anything but waste time. Your dodge is very short range and you hard stop at the end, which means if your dodge is not perfectly timed and aimed you will not escape the attack. There is a block but I never felt its use, especially since it is also the dodge button. (Aside: stop making distinct actions rely on whether you’re moving or not, in a game like this you will likely be always moving; if I need to block I would like to use a button that blocks whenever, not one that puts me into more danger.)

There are two things that are bad coming out of this. The first is that the enemies never really challenge your skills or gameplay. Okay, you’ve gotta dodge to stay healthy, but there’s no enemy where if you dodge a bunch they’re somehow weaker. You can knock enemies into the air and air juggle but there’s not much gain, and your big impressive attacks don’t do much more damage than just going at people with combos. When you get the giant shuriken you get no help with aiming (playing on gamepad) and the enemies who require you to use the shuriken mostly stand in place to let you hit them. None of the elements about your playing seem useful at all other than mashing buttons. You do get a huge Chaos Form which makes the game much less interesting because not only does it not have exciting attacks, you don’t (yet) end up fighting anything that needs it, and you have little chance to use it as you want. So far, every time I was able to build up the Chaos Form I immediately had a tough enemy that I had to use it on, the enemy becoming instantly pathetic, and then no chance for me to deploy it at an odder moment.

The second is that the controls themselves are so bad it’s impossible to pull everything off as you need to. You are a giant dude so I get that it’s supposed to feel heavy, but if you want a game that feels very satisfyingly heavy I suggest you check out Warhammer 40k: Space Marine. In Darksiders, you are slow and that’s it. Rather than give you just a fast move/run, you get the dodge, which is absolutely useless for moving faster to get somewhere. Even when you’re climbing and it tells you to press the dodge in order to go fast, you only get one quick movement, you can’t just hold it and move faster. This means that if you fuck a part up it’s insanely tedious to get back and redo it. The camera will constantly shift so that if you’re against a wall it shows you, the wall, and a bunch of blades hitting you but not where they’re from. If you’re running, it’ll swirl the wrong way so you can’t tell where you’re at. Yes, you can turn the camera with the right joystick but it moves so slow that it’s impossible to use to orient yourself in a quick battle.

If the game had enemies that just died quickly so you could button mash and win that’d be one thing. However, there are a lot of enemies in it that need you to dodge away from attacks in order to survive. This means that you’re juggling the movement, the camera, the dodge (which you have to time properly), and very likely trying not to be attacked by others. Oh, did I mention that your dodge does not cancel your attacks, which means that if you get stuck attacking an opponent at the time you need to dodge, you’re fucked. All of these things work directly against the way it builds its combat to be a frantic slash-em-all because they force the combat to slow down. Even if we assume that the camera’s shittiness was an error, the dodge’s poor responsiveness had to have been on purpose (unless they simply didn’t know how to program ‘he can do two dodges right in a row’), as did its slow movement.

The first boss Tiamat is an example of every single thing wrong with this game. Your first task is to throw bombs onto Tiamat, then ignite them; you throw the shuriken at a fire, then at the bomb, which ignites it to detonate. There are two problems. Number one, there are a bunch of columns in the way and you don’t automatically throw around them, which means that you can end up wasting a bunch of time cause all your bombs stick on the columns. Yes, there is a manual aim, but it is slow as hell, which leads to the second problem: you can’t really aim quick enough to make this part painless. Yeah, I’m sure an expert could do this, but the thing is that the boss moves very quickly and you have to tag both a fire (which the boss doesn’t always stay near) and the bomb in order to do it, quickly, without being hit (if you’re hit you lose all the tracking). Also if the boss moves too far away you have to redo it all because your shuriken can’t travel that far. That means that, rather than doing the slash-em-all bit (which is the only thing the game is sort of good at), you have to struggle around with its wonky ass controls trying to do this puzzle that the game really isn’t built to do.

After you do that a couple times, the boss falls down and you start the next part. And all you do here is dodge her attacks and try to get in some of your own. For ten minutes at least. The boss barely reacts to your attacks so at least twice I actually alt-tabbed out of the game to look it up and see if I was missing something. Nope. You just keep doing the thing that looks like it’s not working at all. This is poor monster design. It doesn’t give you a lifebar to look at and the boss sprite/model/whatever it’s called doesn’t show that it’s getting more hurt over time. You just stare at this thing that will never die as you continually try to do something to kill it. And then eventually, with no warning, you do kill it. And that’s it.

Yes, I did die on this a couple times, but none of it was actually hard. I’d throw a bomb into a column a couple times, or I’d fuck up a dodge a little bit, and I’d die. I never actually felt challenged by the fight, though. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get the aim to come around quick enough to do the easy task in front of me. I was annoyed that a stupidly repetitive fight took so goddamn long that I thought I was doing it wrong when I wasn’t. But the game wasn’t hard. It was just annoying. That is why Darksiders is shit.

Before getting to this boss battle you have to soft-stomp your way through this huge winding puzzle chamber dungeon. With the shit camera, laggy controls, and bad movement, getting through this takes forever. How much do you fight during it? Like zero, proportionally. Are any of the puzzles hard? No. It either doesn’t tell you want to do in this game which is not really built for lots of environmental interaction (i.e, all of its interaction is very static, you can’t just climb anything for instance) or it simply takes a long time to get from one side to the other. It’s not difficult, it’s just tedious.

And that’s the entire game. That’s why I got so insanely frustrated with it. It’s a hack-and-slash that gives you so little hack-and-slash, with such a terrible implementation that it generally isn’t fun when it needs to be. The game is the most fun when you have a bunch of mid-level enemies around to beat up, but even then, it’s not that Darksiders is fun. It’s that beating up a crowd of enemies is fun. Darksiders hates letting you do that in peace, even though it’s the only thing that the game is any good at.

Don’t play this bullshit.

J Onwuka

Written by

J Onwuka

I've never been cool. Listen to my uncool podcast at worldchampionspodcast.com.

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