Developer: Vigil Games
Release Date: 2009
Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda franchise is among the most highly praised in the video game industry. Even the worst titles (barring the non-Nintendo produced CD-I exclusives) are among some of the top-rated games, and Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time is still the best-rated title of all time. For some reason, there aren't many attempts to copy The Legend of Zelda's success. The games that follow the Zelda mold are few and far between, and the only really notable one in the last few years was Capcom's Okami, which was a fantastic game in its own right. Vigil Games doesn't appear willing to let this potentially excellent niche go untapped for much longer, however, and Darksiders: The Wrath of War could be just the game for fans who have been waiting for a darker Zelda title.
The end of the world may be something predicted for countless centuries, but that doesn't mean that it's necessarily going to be on time. That's the theory behind Darksiders: Wrath of War, which stars a Horseman of the Apocalypse, War. He and his fellow horsemen rode out and ushered in the end days of mankind, only to discover shortly afterwards that the apocalypse wasn't supposed to occur for quite a while, and the plans of both Heaven and Hell have been thrown off by the sudden extinction of mankind. War is stripped of his powers and exiled, but he isn't going to stand for being made the scapegoat for someone else's plans. Gathering what remains of his power, he returns to Earth to figure out exactly what happened, where his fellow horsemen are, and who is responsible for the early apocalypse.
The majority of Darksiders is going to be spent exploring dungeons, not unlike The Legend of Zelda. (You're going to be hearing that quite a bit in this preview, so be warned.) Each of the dungeons houses part of the answer to War's mystery, but getting through isn't going to be a walk in the park. Gameplay is primarily a combination of completing puzzles mixed with the occasional combat. It is worth noting that you're a bit more action-oriented than Link, and War can actually jump. Taking a note from Soul Reaver, War can even use a bit of his remaining power to form tattered wings that allow him to glide over gaps. We didn't get to see too much of the exploring, as our demo was primarily focused on the combat and puzzle-solving aspects.
Fighting as War is going to feel pretty familiar to veterans of most action games on the market. War is as agile and fast as Kratos, and fighting enemies involves the usual set of magic and combos that appear in many modern titles. War's particular gimmick is that he has two weapons at once as a way past the usual "the first weapon I find in the game is the one I stick with" practice that plagues titles like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry. The X button is always bound to War's personal blade, which is fast and powerful. The Y button is bound to a secondary weapon that can be switched at will. The two weapons we heard about were the Gauntlet and the Death's Scythe. The Gauntlet is a short-range weapon capable of powerful devastating blows, and the Death's Scythe was only mentioned offhand, but it has the special property of making enemies drop more souls when they've been defeated. Combining the X and Y attacks allows you to pull off devastating combos to tear apart the post-apocalyptic forces of Heaven and Hell. In addition to this, War has a Wrath bar, which is powered up by performing combos. When the Wrath bar is filled up enough, you can use it to activate powerful room-clearing magical abilities for massive damage to everything in the area.
It is worth noting that weapons are going to be substantially more customizable than they are in games like The Legend of Zelda or even action titles like Devil May Cry. While it's impossible to deny that, much like every other 3-D action game on the market, defeating enemies causes them to drop souls to power up your equipment, that isn't the only way to power up your gear. Taking a page from Diablo, each weapon has equipment slots into which you'll be able to insert items to power them up. While the specifics of what you'll be able to slot in are still a well-guarded secret, we know they'll do things such as increase the damage or speed of your various attacks, which is sure to offer plenty of customization fun for gamers.
In addition to War's weapons, he also has access to Gear items, which is where the Legend of Zelda influence really begins to pick up. Gear items are special tools that War can use to interact with his environment, identically to items in any of the Legend of Zelda games. The primary item we saw in the demo was the crossblade, which is basically War's boomerang, to continue the Legend of Zelda parallels. The crossblade is fairly versatile, can be tossed at enemies to stun them, and even lock onto multiple enemies at one time for a multi-stun. Like the Gale Boomerang in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and the triglaive from Dark Sector, it can also be charged with elemental powers by tossing it into certain areas. It was used to solve a number of puzzles that involved hitting out-of-the-way objects, and it felt more than a bit Zelda-ish. The crossblade is only one of the Gear items that will be available in Darksiders, and while we didn't see any of the other items, we did find out that they'll include various guns, in addition to Zelda-like tools and gadgets, such as a powerful mini-gun that can shred foes.
War's Gear items will be important for more than solving dungeon puzzles. The apocalypse has left the entire world devastated, turning the once-green Earth into a hellish blasted landscape. Now known as the Ashland, it's a harsh and uninhabitable place filled with the worst kind of monsters and obstacles, and you'll have to use your various tools to discover new areas to explore and advance the plot. In addition to your Gear, you also have a horse called Ruin who you can summon at will to help you gallop across the Ashland. While Ruin has the advantage of being faster than usual, he's also important to help you defeat or outrun some of the nasty monsters lurking the area. In the demo, we go to see one of these monsters, a giant sandworm that lurked just under the desert. On foot, War would be instantly dispatched by this hellish beast, but astride Ruin, he can outrun it with ease, or even try to take it on in one-on-one combat.
Darksiders: Wrath of War seems to be borrowing a little bit of everything. It's got combat from God of War or Devil May Cry, puzzles and items from Zelda, exploration from Soul Reaver and even customization from Diablo. It's a lot of great tastes, and surprisingly, they seem to be mixed together quite well. Zelda clones in themselves are exceedingly rare, and a Zelda clone that decides to spice up the combat is even rarer, yet Darksiders is actually shaping up to do a pretty good job of just that. The darker setting may be quite appealing to those who are tired of Hyrule, and the postapocalyptic story line actually sounds pretty interesting. While Darksiders is still a good ways off, it has enough promise to end up as something great, assuming it lives up to that potential.
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