Despite opening its doors in 2005, comic book artist Joe Madureira’s Vigil Games didn’t bring anything to market until 2010, when it unleashed the original Darksiders unto the world. A debut effort worth celebrating, it did a great job of mixing God of War-inspired combat with the puzzle solving and large-scale exploration of a game like Zelda, with an interesting story to boot. However, as is sometimes the case, the mash-up’s release window did it no favours, given that Platinum’s beloved Bayonetta launched in close proximity and took the brunt of gamers’ attention.
As someone who played through both of those titles at release, I’ve always held the opinion that Darksiders didn’t get the attention it deserved, and that it still doesn’t. Sure, it has a fanbase and was enjoyed by those who played it, and while I may be in the minority in saying this, I honestly thought it was a lot better than its competitor. Vigil Games’ effort really nailed what I was looking for at the time, and has stuck with me ever since. As such, I was happy to hear that THQ Nordic decided to give it the treatment it deserved, by remastering and re-releasing it as Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, years after its decent but not as good sequel underwent the same process.
Bringing things like 60 frames-per-second gameplay, 4K resolution (on the PS4 Pro) and noticeably improved assets to the table, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition promises a lot. And, thanks to the power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, its developers have delivered, by honouring the under-appreciated gem with one of the better remasters we’ve played. Add in an incredibly fair and, quite honestly, surprising $20 USD price tag, and you have something that all fans of both action/adventure and hack n’ slash gameplay cannot overlook.
If you’re new to the fold, or have only spent time with Darksiders II – which happens to be different from its predecessor, taking the form of a much more dungeon and loot-heavy experience – here’s the gist.
As the story goes, the creation of the world’s third kingdom (that of Man) spawned the development of the Charred Council – a group of mysterious and almost god-like overseers whose Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse act on their behalf. Created to keep peace in the battle between Heaven and Hell, and to help protect the weak but cunning human race from those who may threaten it, the Council oversees a system of seals. You see, so long as the several seals remain intact, everything is okay and there’s no need for intervention. However, in time of conflict or great distress, the seals’ breakage signals an emergency and calls the Horsemen to action.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
The beginning of Darksiders‘ lengthy, action-packed and wholly entertaining campaign takes us to earth and highlights one of our major cities, which is under attack from something man has never seen before. Blazing asteroids are falling to the surface at an alarming rate, many are dying and monstrous creatures threaten not only our lives but everything we’ve ever built. Destruction seems imminent, and our race’s days look to be numbered, as angels battle demons and fire erupts from destroyed buildings and annihilated roadways.
It’s into this chaos that War enters, carrying with him an epic sword and the ability to transform into a powerful demon-slaying beast. Summoned by broken seals, he’s there to do his job and attempt to stop the madness that threatens the Kingdom of Man. Or so he thinks.
As it turns out, the seals were not broken and remain intact, meaning that our long-haired and cloaked hero travelled to Earth under false pretences. Despite the madness, it wasn’t his place to interfere, even though the clouds separated and angels and demons took their ages old conflict to the streets. For this, War is chastised by the Charred Council, who seek to punish him before he suggests that something isn’t right and proposes a trip back to Earth for investigative purposes.
Begrudgingly, the Charred Council agrees to this return proposition, but does so with a caveat. That is, the fact that he must not return alone, and must be chaperoned instead, by a dark and slithering creature known as the Watcher. An ally, of sorts, he’s there as an agent of the Council, and can offer tips that aid the player’s progression.
From start to finish, Darksiders‘ story remains interesting and unique, and fits in well with the gameplay that surrounds it. However, while there’s a quality plot to be found here, the best thing about this experience is its combo-infused action.
As one progresses through this game, they’ll learn a multitude of new combos and abilities, and add to War’s basic form. There’s his hulking sword, which has lots of combos available for purchase, as well as his brother’s scythe, which helped make Darksiders II‘s combat so engrossing. Other mechanics – like guns, brief flight, a hookshot and a hulking form change – also factor into the fracas, helping War not only deal with his enemies but also reach new heights. You’ll want to take advantage of them, too, because the world is full of secrets, including hidden chests and medallions that can be traded with the demonic shopkeeper for helpful surprises.
While some of these tools are earned through progression, or by defeating epic bosses while on foot or aboard War’s helpful steed, a large amount must be purchased from Vulgrim, the aforementioned arms dealer. It’s he who you’ll visit whenever you want to upgrade, by purchasing new combos, health upgrades or specific weaponry, and it’s not money that you’ll want to bring him. No, Darksiders and Darksiders: Warmastered Edition use a system that turns souls into currency, making combat a necessity. With kills come souls, and with souls come the ability to become an even greater badass than you normally would with quest-based items and upgrades.
When it comes to presentation, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition impresses, outside of some relatively minor screen tearing. In fact, it’s easy to tell that work was put in to not only make it run on the current suite of consoles, but to make it shine as well, thanks to noticeably improved textures, effects and models. Although you’ll be playing a game that’s closing in on seven years of age, it doesn’t feel it like a lot of others tend to. The combat is still fresh, the world remains interesting and it’s hard not to smile as you pummel your way through hundreds of beasts in epic fashion. The voice acting, and storytelling, also continue to impress, thanks to Joe Madureira’s writing and the pipes of actors like Mark Hamill, Phil LaMarr, Troy Baker and Liam O’Brien.
At the end of the day, those who’ve played Darksiders at least once needn’t be told why the Xbox One, PS4, PC and Wii U are better for it. Not only is KEIKO’s Darksiders: Warmastered Edition an impressive remastering of a very good game, but it’s also an absolute steal at its current asking price.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
With Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, THQ Nordic has ushered in the return of one of the last generation's best action-adventure games. Furthermore, instead of simply giving us a barebones port or a half-assed upgrade, the publisher and its team of talented developers have done the biblical epic justice with a thorough and impressive remaster.