Way back during the first few days of 2010, a little game called Darksiders was released from an untested developer called Vigil Games. Formed from the ashes of THQ, there was little fanfare at the time for a new franchise from a new developer that looked an awful lot like just another God of War clone.
As someone who has never been a fan of Sony’s GOW series until it’s latest iteration on the PS4, I was initially leary about checking out the original Darksiders. It’s easy to understand my concern, especially with similar fare like Dante’s Inferno on the horizon; the games industry is famous for producing clones, and clones of clones. Well, Vigil Games may not have been long for this world, but Darksiders certainly was, and that greatness remains evident nearly ten years later with Darksiders: Remastered, a port of an earlier port now available on Switch.
Luckily for us, we got something far greater than what we all originally thought. And while Dante’s Inferno followed fairly close to God of War’s formula (and was better than the series it tried to ape, IMHO), Darksiders gave us something completely different. Rather than just create a me-too clone of GOD with an apocalyptic bent, Darksiders was something different…possibly an adult version of The Legend of Zelda that wore its influences proudly.
And what influences they were! Darksiders ended up being a hodgepodge of different conflicting themes and video game styles, yet somehow still managed to a total blast from start to finish. You have the open-world and dungeon-like vibes of Zelda with a bit of Metroidvania-style backtracking. You’ve got your slightly try-hard brooding tone of God of War mixed with the lumpy exaggerated art style of World of Warcraft. You’ve even got a Portal gun to keep things even more all over the place.
This sounds like it should be a mess, but somehow everything just works. The formula wasn’t nearly as successful in it’s two follow-up sequels (especially Darksiders 3, which abandons the familiar gameplay for a more brutal Dark Souls experience), but there’s something inherently great about the original Darksiders that keeps it among the best – or at least most satisfying – games of all time.
You play as War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It’s a story that could have been inspired by countless heavy metal album covers, one that works perfectly within the confines of a videogame. It can also feel a bit convoluted and obnoxiously gloomy, even at the best of times. And yet, with all of the hemming and scenery-chewing, it’s easy to get sucked into the apocalyptic melodrama better than most games of its ilk. While God of War can be distilled into “Daddy Issues”, Darksiders at least takes a unique approach to the end times with some beautiful, albeit ruined, modern landscapes and set pieces.
As great as the game itself remains, there’s little even the best remaster can do to modernize a game that came out in 2010 – practically an eternity in gaming years. The story can feel a little too convoluted for its own good, and while it tries to break the God of War mold, it tends to boomerang its way right back into that mold and becomes a little too familiar.
Combat can often feel familiar, too, with a style that feels a ton more rewarding than most of its ilk yet still managing to find the groove long ago etched by Kratos’ blades. But even when you’re pulling off combos and ripping dudes apart, War always tends to feel more ‘weighty’ than he would elsewhere and I tend to appreciate that weight. Hits really feel like they’re connecting and the overall flow just feels great. Also, the ability to upgrade War with new combos and attacks as he progresses always adds a new layer to master.
While the game plays and looks great on the Switch, it’s hard to ignore the original chunky, disproportionate graphic style popularized by World of Warcraft. It works for Darksiders, but it’s also dated. They’re obviously not going to revamp the artstyle in a remastered version of a game approaching the decade mark, but it’s certainly worth pointing out for those expecting a huge graphical overhaul. It’s an aesthetic that makes it look like a video game which expunges any sense of grit or reality.
Warmastered on Switch runs beautifully. Better than a lot of games I’ve seen on the console. It holds its framerate consistently and always feels nice and smooth. There’s also a nice feature that lets you choose between better performance and better quality – something we’ve seen on consoles like the PlayStation 4 Pro but never on the Switch.
I largely played the game set to “Quality” as I prefer things to look sharper and care far less about the framerate. That being said, if you feel that frame rate is the way to go, that still runs just perfectly fine with the setting to “Performance”; just expect a bit more jagged edges around just about everything. Either way, Quality or Performance, you’re likely to get an experience that never feels like its been compromised to fit on mobile hardware.
One of my favorite elements of the first Darksiders has always been its pacing. I’ve always hated sequences in games that require you to slowly crawl or climb over obstacles. It’s a way to slow the player down to make levels appear larger and longer than they actually are, a trick that’s as transparent as pea soup. Thankfully, War doesn’t like to waste his time. With the ability to hop around while hanging on wires and climbing walls, his agility helps cut out the nonsense and wait time to get from place to place.
This is only a piece of what Darksiders does as a whole. The game unlocks and reveals new pieces of gameplay in such fluid, addictive ways that always keeps you pushing forward to see what’s next, making every new reveal feel earned and satisfying.
Whether or not you’ve played this true classic before, Darksiders: Remastered is absolutely worth checking out on the Switch, which is perfect for those fans who haven’t played the game since its original release or those who somehow missed out entirely. Despite its flaws, here’s a game that still manages to offer a compelling, thrilling adventure that brazenly “borrows” from every source it can, yet still feels entirely unique. Who knows if we’ll ever get another entry in the series, but you can always revisit where it all started in this fine remaster – and bring it with you anywhere!