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June 2024

Darksiders: Warmastered Edition

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, WiiU, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release Date: April 2, 2019

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Switch Review - 'Darksiders: Warmastered Edition'

by Andreas Salmen on July 26, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Deceived by the forces of evil into prematurely bringing about the end of the world, War – the first Horseman of the Apocalypse – stands accused of breaking the sacred law by inciting a war between Heaven and Hell.

Buy Darksiders: Warmastered Edition

It's high season for Nintendo Switch. The first half of the year has seen countless ports pour onto the portable hybrid to varying degrees of success, from surprise announcements like Saints Row to games that run on pretty much everything by now, such as Resident Evil 4. Publishers are flocking to the system as quickly as possible, and as such, quality is not always a priority. THQ Nordic isn't a stranger to ports and remakes for older games, so it's not a huge surprise that one of its stronger IPs makes the jump first: Darksiders. Released on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, the game has quite a few years and an excellent current-generation remake on its track record. Thankfully, the Switch implementation seems to have received an equal amount of care.

Darksiders: Warmastered Edition is the remake of the first game in the trilogy, so it sets the scene for the sequels. We control War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who's been called to Earth to aid in the impending endwar. Unfortunately, War has been deceived, and an evil force, the Destroyer, has taken control of Earth. Accused of wrongfully starting the endwar and stripped of most of his powers, War must prove his innocence and face the Destroyer on his own. What ensues is a quest to defeat demons and angels and to find out what started the apocalypse.

There is much more of the story to uncover, and given the genre, Darksiders has a strong style and lore. It may not be the most complex story, but it creates a gripping world, even though the title shows its age. It sets the stage for the two other entries, the most recent of which was released in November 2018. It's a strong opening act that is worth playing — or revisiting if you have fond memories of the series.

Darksiders is best described as a classic hack-and-slash with distinct Zelda-like mechanics. War wields a massive sword, Chaoseater, to slice and dice enemies. The title is heavily focused on relatively simplistic combat, with frequent encounters throughout the experience. Combos don't go beyond simple button combinations, but it works well. The combat is fun and conveys the power of being a Horseman with every massive hit. Combat is smooth and free-flowing for basic combos and finishing moves.

Once enemies are on the verge of death, we have the option to start an enemy-specific finisher that usually ends with a few cut-off limbs. While the attacks are brutal and exciting the first time around, they lack variety and become rather repetitive over time. Dead enemies release special souls for currency, health and wrath. While currency and health should be self-explanatory, wrath is uses special combat skills that are acquired over time. Stone-hard skin absorbs more damage, and heavy damage special attacks and more can be used whenever a wrath stone has been charged with the corresponding souls. On top of that, we may use War's chaos form, a supercharged monster version of the horseman.

Combat isn't limited to our trusty main sword, Chaoseater. Before long, we gain access to our brother Death's scythe, heavy gauntlets, and firearms and gadgets that can be used in and out of combat. Some of them, like the scythe and the gauntlet, are secondary weapons that can be combined with Chaoseater. Being able to use different weapons is fun and creates a more dynamic fighting style. They may also serve to solve puzzles, another big part of the Darksiders adventure. As mentioned before, the first Darksiders is, in some areas, akin to a mature version of classic 3D Zelda (before Breath of the Wild). It's a mostly linear, dungeon-based affair. Some areas are used more frequently, as they connect different key places in the story, while most areas are shielded off and require you to work through them from start to finish.

Within those dungeon-like areas, gameplay can sometimes feel formulaic, but that mostly works to its benefit. Between the fights and bosses, we move crates, pull levers, and find keys to reach previously inaccessible areas. Every "dungeon" has a unique tool or gadget that is incorporated in the area's design. Over time, we acquire a selection of abilities, and the ever-growing repertoire keeps the adventure from growing stale. No matter how linear some areas are, exploration is always a part of the experience, with a multitude of hidden chests and passageways that grant perks and items. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, and it can feel antiquated in its approach to game design, but it serves the title well. The experience opens up in later stages and features terrain for horseback, but it's a very linear affair that is close to being of a reincarnation of Zelda.

Darksiders occasionally strives to make things interesting. I found most of the shooting sequences to be rather annoying, especially when playing in portable mode with the Joy-Cons, but your mileage may vary. Enemies vary slightly in different areas, but prepare to meet known foes numerous times, making the repertoire of enemies feel more restrictive than it actually is. Boss fights are usually great set pieces that require mastery of recently learned techniques and feel like a deserved culmination of the current area. It's a bit of a mixed bag, but it does a lot more right than it does wrong.

There are some RPG elements in Darksiders, but they are quite pared down. There is no real character leveling, as War doesn't level up beyond acquiring new gadgets, new attacks over time, or finding shards that increase health or grant a special armor set. Our weaponry, however, does level up. The more we use the sword or scythe, the more XP is gained, and they eventually level up to increase their damage. We may also find special enchantments that we can attach to our weapons that grant extra buffs in battle, but that is about it in terms of an RPG-like progressions system. The game profits from it, though, as you never spend too much time buried in menus or thinking about which piece of armor to wear. It has a simplistic retro vibe in its game design that is much appreciated and comes together nicely. Thankfully ,it mostly runs well, too.

Darksiders wasn't necessarily a looker in terms of graphical power, even when it was released nine years ago, but it always looked unique. The comic-inspired drawing style is what made Darksiders instantly recognizable, and that still holds up today. It may not be able to hide its age, but it has certainly aged better than many other games of that era. It's the rather simplistic yet distinct look that made it easier to get it to run on Switch without too many sacrifices. It certainly isn't an upgrade, but it isn't necessarily a downgrade, either.

Ports on the Switch can be as erratic as a random dice throw. Having seen quite a few nasty surprises, I'm happy to say Darksiders on Switch runs beautifully no matter how you play. There is a performance and a quality mode that seems to mostly affect the game's visual resolution. While that sounds unexciting, the results are like night and day. Both modes are playable, but performance mode gives you way above 30 frames per second with a slight degree of blurriness compared to a much sharper mode that is closer to 30 but seems to dive into the 20s here and there. It's probably dependent on your own taste. The performance mode is usually what you'd want to play in terms of getting the most out of it, as the slight bump in resolution is not worth the loss of frames.

All in all, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition is a great port of a good game. While it's not necessarily innovative, it is well executed and uniquely presented, something that still holds up well after almost 10 years since its original release. Not everything in the title has aged well, but it still plays and works as well as intended. The only letdown is the price tag of $30 when the Warmastered Edition arrived for $20 on all other platforms almost three years ago. In any case, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition is a great game that's worth experiencing for the first time — or once again on the Switch.

Score: 7.5/10

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