arksiders: Wrath of War is an action/adventure title for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in development by Vigil Games and set on a post-apocalyptic Earth. While the theme of humanity’s demise has been explored through all facets of media, Darksiders has a twist all its own. In Darksiders you are not the last remaining human on Earth, left in purgatory on the planet for eternity, nor are you a hellish creature trapped up top after your ascension. You take on the Biblical role of War – one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. You and your three companions sounded the horn that ended humanity and are responsible for the destruction that has been wrought against our world.
The player is thrown right into the action at the start of the game - taking an active role in the destruction of the world as a platform to establish the story. If the apocalypse can go wrong – more than its inherent nature implies – it does. Faulted for prematurely bringing about the end of the world, War and his fellow horsemen are stripped of their god-like powers and stranded on the wasteland that is now Earth. The story follows War’s journey to find his fellow horsemen and to exact his revenge. Somehow, the narrative manages to feel personal – it strikes an odd balance between the catastrophic nature of the setting and a simple personal story of a man driven by vendetta. While the world has been destroyed and humankind erased from existence – the experience is really about the journey of a pissed-off biblical creature on a hunt for answers.
We had a chance to sit down for a gameplay demonstration of Darksiders: Wrath of War and it looks promising. It is understandable why – to the developer’s dismay – the game is boxed in with titles the likes of Devil May Cry, God of War and the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. While they are all great games and were inspirations, Vigil staff assures us that Wrath of War is a game that will stand on its own two legs. Dungeon exploration will feature more scripted gameplay and puzzle-solving elements, while the world above is more open ended in its quests. War slowly regains his powers through the span of the game. Until then, his limitations naturally constrain him from some areas in the Overworld maps, inviting players to visit and explore areas of the world repeatedly. Admitting that having an in-game merchant might not maintain the integrity of the storyline, War will appropriately harvest soles as currency to help him upgrade and advance in his quest.
While human kind is out of the picture, good and evil still fight for the ruins of the planet. Shells of wicked humans still exist in a zombie like fashion – more God’s wrath than T-virus – but they are little hindrance in War’s quest. Larger demons and even angelic beasts prove to be more of a challenge. In our demo alone we saw a lengthy battle with a sand-worm type creature that only ended when War managed to eviscerate it from belly to chin.
Battles above ground are both innovative and immersive, as War can pick up anything and use it as a weapon. From light posts to cars, if War can lift it, it can be used for a melee attack. While War starts off with a more than adequate weapon of his own, a massive sword to rival any found in a JRPG, he can also acquire modern weaponry. War can strip a large chain gun from fallen military vehicle if he chooses. While effective, is admittedly is strange to see one of the four horsemen wielding contemporary weapons.
Another important element in battle is War’s horse, Ruin. Ruin – complete with flaming hooves – is not an Earthly creature and as such is not limited to Earthly confines. War can summon Ruin in a moment and he will materialize out of thin air. Ruin has his own special abilities and is necessary to reach some areas in the Overworld.
While the game is obviously drawn from biblical themes, it is not strict to the story of Revelations. Vigil decided two of the four horsemen were outdated and swapped Pestilence and Famine for Fury and Strife – one of which is a female character. Vigil’s creative license with a story as epic and old as this is what makes Darksiders so interesting. We are definitely looking forward to getting our hands on the game.