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Darksiders: Apocalypse Wow

Company: THQ

Ever stop and think about why you started playing games in the first place? Better yet, of all the games you've played in your life, which was the one that crystallized what a videogame is for you? For me, that game will always be The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I still remember spending hours walking through Hyrule, marveling every time I discovered a new item, unlocked a brand new path to explore or ran into another of Gannon's fiendishly designed dungeons.

I've played several action/ adventure games since my time in Hyrule. Some have come close to matching the experience, but each time it always felt incomplete - like something was missing. With Darksiders, for the first time in a long time, I really felt like I was playing a game I've seen several times, but designed correctly.

The setup takes place not long after the Apocalypse, only someone ended up popping the cork a little early. This sends War into action to bring the Heaven and Hell into a new humanity-free age of warfare. War's premature arrival not only leads to the end of humanity, but the death of the archangel Abaddon at the hands of Straga, essentially paving the way for demons to take over the Earth. Like any good bureaucracy, the Charred Council, omnipotent beings in charge of keeping balance between Heaven and Hell, decide to pin everything on War and strip him of his powers. War debates the claim and offers to travel to Earth in order to figure out what really happened, reasoning that he'll either find out what happened or die in the process.

In an elevator pitch, Darksiders could be described as a hybrid of Zelda or Metroid, but with a bit of God of War tossed in for added flash. Similar to other exploration-based games, most of your gameplay time is spent traveling through dungeons connected through a main hub world. In the case of Darksiders, that hub is the Scalding Gallows, the prison of Samael, a powerful demon who offers War the power and information he needs to defeat the Destroyer, the demon responsible for Hell's victory. Samael's help doesn't come cheap. In order to unlock his powers and gain access to the Destroyer's tower, War must hunt down The Chosen and present their hearts to Samael.

Gameplay is a mix of puzzle-solving and combat, giving it a very Zelda-like feel. For the first hour or so, Darksiders feels like any other action game, but this is just an introduction to a much broader game. One of the best things about Darksiders so far is it's a game that keeps on giving. Whereas most games will show you everything they have to offer in the first few hours, Darksiders constantly slams you with new weapons and mechanics. You might think this would be a little overwhelming, but everything is so tightly woven around the core gameplay concepts of combat and puzzles, nothing ever feels out of place. Instead, it's an exciting romp through Hell on Earth.

War's main weapon is a sword, which is upgraded throughout his journey. As the game progresses, War will unlock new weapons and abilities. For instance, the first major dungeon, the Twilight Cathedral, plays home to the Crossblade, a decidedly Krull Blade-like boomerang. Similar to Link's boomerang, the Crossblade can lock-on to multiple targets, though War can also charge the blade and send it hurling at enemies. In addition to causing all sorts of damage, the blade will also hold enemies in place, giving you the opportunity to deal with other threats or add a little extra damage to your main combo.

In addition to locking onto multiple enemies, the Crossblade can lock-on to open flames and other environmental objects. One section of the Cathedral required War to attach an unlit bomb to a wall, then use the Crossblade to light it by first hitting a nearby torch. This simple pattern eventually extend to transporting fire across larger levels and even causing chain reactions to reach hard-to-reach spots. The puzzle even worked its way into the Cathedral's boss battle with the giant winged demon, the Tiamat.

I've been looking forward to Darksiders for a long time, and after spending some hands-on time with it, my only complaint is I need to wait a few more weeks (official release: January 5, 2010) to continue my adventure. THQ and Vigil Games have something special on their hands with Darksiders. If it isn't on your radar, add it with a giant star and blinking lights.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Related Links:

Sony PlayStation 3 Heavy Rain Nintendo DS Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

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