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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Vigil Games
Release Date: Jan. 5, 2010 (US), Jan. 7, 2010 (EU)


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PS3/X360 Preview - 'Darksiders: Wrath of War'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 1, 2009 @ 7:33 a.m. PDT

Darksiders is an action/adventure game that will plunge players into a near future world devastated by the apocalypse, giving you the ability to experience the supernatural destructive power of WAR, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as he explores a demon ravaged world -- seeking revenge and ultimate redemption with a vast array of modern and mythical weaponry.

Darksiders is set shortly after the apocalypse.  Someone or something has tricked the Four Horsemen into starting the apocalypse before it was supposed to occur, causing both heaven and hell to be thrust into war before they could prepare for it.  The Horsemen are blamed and scattered across the post-apocalyptic planet, which is now a hellish landscape of ruined buildings and terrible, unearthly beings. Players are given control of War, one of the horsemen. Stripped of his rank and powers, War is sent on a quest to find out who caused the early apocalypse and what happened to his fellow horsemen. Along the way, he'll encounter the forces of both heaven and hell, none of which are particularly happy with him for ruining their plans.

War is, as one would expect, not too different from his fellow action/adventure mainstays, Kratos and Dante. It wasn't very difficult to get into the swing of things due to my experience with those two games, but there are some interesting differences. War uses two weapons at once, which is a nice change from the usual problem that plagues these types of games. War's main attack button, X, is always dedicated to his main blade, thus providing a reliable backbone for your fighting style. War's secondary attack button, Y, is bound to a weapon of your choice. Depending on the situation, you may find yourself using a powerful gauntlet or even Death's own scythe. In our demo, we got to check out the gauntlet, which was a close-range and powerful weapon. It was slower than War's main blade, but when used in conjunction with the other attack, it allowed for devastating and brutal combos. It also gave us access to the ability to counter-kill, an instant-kill move that can be performed when the gauntlet flashes and provides additional rewards for any enemy who is killed that way.

War also has access to access to a few different kinds of magic. One is powered by your Chaos meter, which is filled up by hitting enemies, not unlike a super meter in a fighting game. Chaos can be used to perform special moves and attacks that you normally can't. The real trick to the Chaos meter is that if you allow it to fill up, War will transform into his "Havoc Form," which is basically a giant demonic shape that allows War to unleash some serious hurt. Of course, it only lasts for a short period of time, so it must be used wisely. War can also cast a more traditional kind of magic spell by building up Wrath energy, which is earned by defeating enemies and collecting the yellow souls that they drop. Once you have enough, you can cast a powerful spell that will crush your foes. Since yellow souls don't seem to be overly common, you'll want to save these spells for crucial points.

In addition to your on-foot combat, you'll also eventually gain the ability to summon War's horse, Ruin. During the beginning of the game, you'll find that Ruin, like most of War's weapons and abilities, was stolen from him. After you discover Ruin in the enemies' possession and liberate him, War will be able to summon Ruin at will. Once summoned, Ruin will burst forth from fire and ash and allow War to ride him into combat. While riding Ruin, all of War's moves and attacks do more damage, and Ruin can charge into enemies and trample them under flaming hooves, but this comes at a cost. War is faster but not as agile, so it can be more difficult to dodge certain enemy attacks while on Ruin. If you take a strong blow while on Ruin, you'll be knocked off and Ruin will vanish into thin air. You'll have to resummon him to climb back on. This is easy enough if you're between fights, but during a hectic battle, this can be a deadly situation.

On the surface, Darksiders looks like any of your modern Devil May Cry or God of War clones. It has its share of unique ideas, but the comparisons are undeniable. What really makes Darksiders stand out is that it isn't designed like a Devil May Cry-style game and is far more comparable to The Legend of Zelda. The ruined world is full of open areas and dark dungeons for War to explore, and each time War comes across a new item or artifact, it opens up new areas for him. His horse Ruin can be used to traverse the overworld, allowing access to new areas or letting War return to old areas to find hidden items.  This means that unlike Kratos or Dante, you're not forced along a linear path and punished for backtracking. Indeed, you'll want to search every nook and cranny, since War will only get more powerful if you can find the hidden rewards scattered around the game.

There are actually three distinct ways to level up in Darksiders. When you fight, you gain experience points, which can be applied to the weapon you're fighting with to unlock new moves and abilities. You also collect souls when you defeat enemies, which can be spent much like God of War or Devil May Cry to upgrade your combat abilities. Finally, each weapon also has slots into which you can insert special items, Diablo-style . These slotted items come in a wide variety of abilities and will give you the power to make War stronger or faster or to grant passive bonuses. There will even be Legendary items that you can get in special ways to earn extra bonuses. No matter how you choose to fight in <I> Darksiders, you can assume that a vast number of potential customization options will await you.

Darksiders hasn't changed overly much since last year's E3.The basic premise is still the same: Legend of Zelda with a biblical post-apocalyptic flavor. From what we've seen of the game, it's holding up quite well. Combat is easy and fun to play, and it offers a wide variety of combat options. We can fight enemies from a distance with guns and magic or get up close for brutal melee combat, and the game allows for either option. Being able to summon Ruin at will provides for some unique and interesting combat options, as you can work the calling of Ruin into combos almost as well as we could a sword slash or gauntlet punch. We only got a brief taste of the world exploration, but what we saw looked very interesting indeed. The post-apocalyptic world is a brutal setting, and it looks to be a very unique place to explore. Darksiders adds a darker flavor to the Legend of Zelda-style games that we haven't seen very often, and even since last year's E3, the title has received an extra helping of polish to really help it stand out from the crowd. Assuming the rest of the game is as well designed as the segments that we've played, Darksiders could turn out to be a surprise hit. If you're in the mood for some post-apocalyptic Zelda-style action, you'll want to check out Darksiders when it hits PS3 and Xbox 360 early next year.

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