Monday, February 22, 2010


Back in the day, I was a huge comic book fan.  I still have boxes of them in my old room at my dad's house.  Towards the end of my comic book run, the very last series I began to collect was Battle Chasers.  I was actually done with comics when Battle Chasers came out, but once I saw my friend's copy of the first issue, I was back in.  I absolutely LOVE Joe Madureira's art style.  Especially his take on fantasy.  So Battle Chasers was right up my alley.
Of course Battle Chasers had a troubled history.  It would take months for the issues to come out and eventually, it just died off, ending after only 9 issues.  Apparently Joe was busy with other things.  Like breaking into the videogame business.
Well, fast forward to today and Joe is the creative director to Darksiders, which I picked up on Saturday, partly because I played the game at PAX and enjoyed it, partly because I love Joe Mad's art, but mostly because it comes with a code that you can redeem for a free copy of Red Faction: Guerrilla.  That's right, each new copy comes with this lovely code.  Since I always meant to pick up Red Faction, this 2 for 1 deal was too good to pass up.  Besides, the reviews for Darksiders were solid.
So far, about 5 hours in, I am really enjoying the game.  I love it when I am pleasantly surprised by a game I was initially not very interested in (inFAMOUS being the last that I recall).  In fact, I am REALLY enjoying it.
A large portion of my enjoyment is coming from the art style.  Like I said, I freaking love Joe Mad's work.  All the character designs are right up my alley.  Visually, the game is great, although it doesn't impress so much on a technical level as it does on an artistic one.  If you break down the visuals, there are plenty of other game that look better, but the art style and especially the color pallette, is just superb.  The color scheme is bright and colorful, which I was not expecting given the post-apocalyptic theme.  But I am glad they went against the grain here.  The world is vibrant and alive.  The game does have a "cartoonish" look to it, which I know some people don't enjoy (they want a darker, more realistic look), but like I said, I love Joe Mad's style and I think it suits the game just fine.  In fact, the visuals remind me a lot of the Jak and Daxter games on the PS2.  Large areas, colorful visuals, and an animated feel to the characters.
Gameplay-wise, you cannot read a review that does not compare the game to Zelda.  It certainly does have a Zelda-feel to its design.  You acquire new items and power-ups which you then use to reach previously restricted areas.  You mostly acquire these in a "dungeon" and once acquired, you use it extensively to solve that dungeon's puzzles and to defeat its boss.  However, for some reason, the Zelda-influence is not beating me over the head like it has to others.  For sure Zelda was a huge inspiration, but it is not the only game it borrows from.  Combat borrows a bit from God of War, but only in that it is often times brutal in execution, and weakening enemies often trigger a "finishing move" you can activate by pressing a button (these are always done by just pressing that one button however, no elaborate QTE like in GoW).  Enemies drop souls of various color which you collect, but what game nowadays does not use some variation of this?
The game's controls took me a little while to get used to.  They feel great and everything is basically mapped where you would expect it to be, but sometimes you are required to hold down various buttons and triggers at the same time to do what you want and that can get confusing.
On the audio-side, voice acting is actually very good.  War himself has an appropriate somber delivery and the other characters (which mostly consist of demons) have their grunting, gargoling, ethereal voices down.  I haven't noticed the music much, which means it at least is not bad.  Sound effects are excellent however.  I've been playing with my headphones, and the clanging of blades, environmental ambient sounds, footsetps on different terrain, etc., all sound excellent.
I'm only 5 hours in, so I have plenty to discover and unlock, but so far, I have greatly enjoyed myself, and considering the free copy of Red Faction heading my way, this is actually one of the better purchases I've done in a while.

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