Darksiders Warmastered Edition (Switch) Review
Darksiders has been on my radar for quite a long time now. The comparisons to Zelda piqued my interest, earning Darksiders a place on my “yeah, I’ll get around to getting it” list for a very long time. So when I had a chance to play Darksider: Warmastered Edition for review, I took it. But what I didn’t really realise, is how much this game feels like a product of its time.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing on its own. Darksiders originally came out in 2010 (barely) during the 360/PS3 era, with all of the gameplay quirks being mostly untouched, with the update in texture quality being the focus of the
For those unfamiliar with the series, Darksiders has you play as a different Horseman of the Apocalypse for each game, with this instalment focusing on War. The horsemen are more like impartial judges between angels and demons, normally fighting over the third kingdom (that’s us humans!) There’s a truce between the two factions, with War being misled into believing the truce was broken and acting upon it, leading to the game’s events. It’s a bit hard to follow, but it’s far from uninteresting.
While I kept hearing this Zelda comparison, I actually found a lot more God of War DNA in the game once I got into it. And that’s not to say it’s a direct comparison either- Darksiders still does a lot of its own stuff, with what feels like a shallower pool of upgrades and combos, making it a lot easier to grasp. You start off with a sword and basic functions, quickly gathering more weapons and powers to help you increase your power as the game progresses.
And in a simple sense, it’s fun and it works. The game will alternate between the combat and solving puzzles, typically using items and powers you’ve recently gathered, which is probably where this Zelda comparison comes in. The ‘dungeon’ designs are fairly straight forward, with secrets being pretty easy to spot, which made trying to get the most out of your first run much easier.
In fact, the art design helps a lot in that regard. While I could argue it’s not especially unique, with ruined buildings being a heavily leant upon setting around 2010, it still does a great job of making each area feel established with its own personality and history. This includes sub areas, using subtle composition to make sure you’re aware of what each element in the environment does. Interactable objects even feel firmly rooted in wherever you are, instead of feeling like props.
The core gameplay of Darksiders is fine. It’s not mind blowing, especially seeing as it came out nearly a decade ago. But that age rears its ugly head in some frustrating moments, particularly in two instances- useless and unskippable cutscenes, and difficulty hiccups. And these two problems tend to come in tandem far too often.
Firstly, the cutscenes. Instead of making certain things happen during gameplay, like locking doors, showing off a new enemy, etc., Darksiders instead will abruptly take control away from you to focus on these events. They go on for just a smidge too long, and are usually from a camera angle that is so far removed from where you are actually facing that it can be slightly disorienting once you get control back.
I’ll explain this using a particular instance that I came across. After a moderate amount of jumping across a broken bridge, I triggered a cutscene to introduce a sort of mini-boss down the other end of the bridge. The cutscene wasn’t too long, considering it was introducing a new enemy, so it didn’t bother me at first. But then, within the gameplay, the boss would jump down the bridge, throwing cars. This was part of the encounter, dodging the cars as the enemy approached. Kinda cool, honestly.
But then the boss came to my part of the bridge, and I was blindsided by a huge hitbox for its attacks, and how quickly it turned around to swipe at me. Naturally I died, I figured I learned something new to take into account for next time… but the game’s checkpoints put me waaaaaay back, so I had to do the jumping puzzle again. Switching gears from combat to platforming, I make my way back again, where the cutscene is triggered again. I can’t skip it. There are fewer cars now, too. After an hour of dying and redoing the puzzle, feeling like I’m losing my mind, watching this boss scream as it had used up all the cars (apparently they just don’t respawn between deaths) and slowly make its way towards me. Every. Single. Time.
This combo of unskippable cutscenes and difficulty hiccups makes for a very slow and frustrating process of learning. I find games to be much better when they reward good performance from the player, instead of punishing bad performance by wasting your time. It was just plain frustrating, until I reached a point where I couldn’t justify the frustration any more.
As for picking the Switch version, I’d say it’d be about as good as the other options, with the bonus of portability. I noticed no performance issues in both docked and handheld, with the increased texture resolutions looking even nicer on the smaller screen. Darksiders also joins Fire Emblem Warriors in being one of the only games with a performance switch. You can choose between High Performance or High Quality modes. High performance lowers the resolution and almost hits 60fps, the quality mode keeps the resolution but you’ll hover around 30fps.
There is definitely a good game in here. The combat is solid, the art direction is solid, the story and setting are interesting. But there are a few too many issues “of the time” that don’t seem to have been touched at all, making for some spontaneously frustrating moments. If this is the first experience with the series, this may be a tough entry if you’re not used to the genre. But if you were a fan of the original, this will be a decent trip down memory lane.
+ Combat is fun and engaging
+ Art style is solid and distinct
+ Interesting setting and story
- So many unskippable cutscenes
- Inconsistent difficulty
- Checkpoints can be frustrating