Like its gaming peers – God of War and Devil May Cry – the Darksiders experience is evenly split between dishing out vicious beatings to waves of enemies with War’s massive fists or a load of blisteringly cool swords, solving fiendishly tricky puzzles and slugging it out with enormous ugly and twisted mini and end-of-level bosses. In the canon of combo crunching hack-‘em-ups, there’s an extensive series of moves and weapons available to you over the course of the game such as key pieces of ultra-cool weaponised gear and armour, including a glaive and mini-gun that War yanks off a downed Hind chopper in the Ashlands at the outset of a battle with a colossal, fanged sandworm.
Smashing through a cathedral door and watching a Griffin (stolen by War from an angel) and winged demon pummel each other into the brickwork, we got to take War’s sword skills for a test run against man-sized demonic bats. Rather than predictably launch a series of mid-air attacks, we opted for the more stylish way to inflict maximum damage by leaping into the air, grabbing the bat’s leg and driving the sword through its gut. You can also deftly chain multiple attacks together by tapping the attack button after each kill to leap to the next demon, until only red splashes and glowing orbs absorbed by War remain. Stomping out into the cathedral’s courtyard, a small army of skeletal soldiers burst out of the ground. No problem. War’s supercharged punches and leaping ground-slams made swift work of them before a puzzle presented itself. We have to find our way to a statue high in the air and drop it through the ground below to open up Darksider’s dungeon sections.
Randhawa tells us that there are plenty of these kinds of moments, each playing a significant role in the balance between roaming in an open world on foot or horseback, traversing ancient ruins and solving puzzles. Obstacles (like finding a way to open up lower ground levels) are easily solved by using your wits to find openings and ledges that might lead you to a new section, extra tasks and your goal. When negotiating ledges, War is able to cling to wall crevices with his gauntlet-like hand and can either leap upwards or use the gauntlet to support his considerable weight as he sprints along the vertical surfaces.
While War’s weapons are substantially powerful, there are some creatures that require a little more thought to defeat. One such ghoul was a skeletal soldier clad in crystal armour. In the corner of the area, a stone statue holding a crystal sword began to glisten and that was our cue for action. One mighty sword swing later and chunks of his crystal armour had shattered off, leaving the demon dazed and staggering to his knees, ready for our fatal blow. Holding down the sword slash charges up an attack that sees War hurl the spinning sword at his enemy – levelling anything in its path. The crystal sword that we just picked up can then be used back where we started to open doors that lead deeper into the mission just by placing it in the hands of a different statue. There were doors that could easily be opened without the aid of special items and then there were others that required hitting switches high above them.