Long ago the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness perpetually waged war until a Council was formed to oversee peace between the two. Later, a third kingdom arose called the kingdom of man and the Council knew that if war arose again, man would be caught in the middle and annihilated in the process. Therefore, seven seals were forged and hidden to seal the peace. The breaking of the seventh seal was to be a sign that the forces of Darkness had broken the truce and the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse were to ride and wage war on the Destroyer. Anyone who has read the bible will immediately recognize the basis of this story.
The game opens with this war in progress and the destruction of mankind as predicted is the collateral damage. The character you play is War, one of the horsemen, who believing the seals have been broken, rides to battle. During this, he discovers that none of the other horsemen have been called. When brought before the Council, he learns that the seventh seal is still intact and that he has been deceived. As a result, he is blamed for the war and the death of mankind and stripped of his powers. Maintaining his innocence, he barely manages to convince the Council to let him investigate the conspiracy. They agree, but on the condition that he is supernaturally chained to a Watcher. This being will constantly monitor War's actions and has the power to restrict him at will.
I absolutely loved the story and the whole super hero schmuck. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately played it again, which is something I rarely do. The writers are to be commended for having mastered the art of drawing you into the tale. Playing War manages to convey the strength and power you would expect from a god-like character and the developers have done a great job on making his movements very realistic. Combat is just loads of fun to play and watch and the animated scenes are well integrated and extremely satisfying when finishing off an enemy. The graphics are also quite good and some of the creatures pretty impressive in their size and rather reminiscent of the huge boss demons in Painkiller. They've also done a very good job of making War a fully developed character that is not just all brawn but brains as well.
I do have a few complaints, though. The targeting and control system is too complicated and during your first big boss fight, which is also the hardest boss fight in the game, you're going to feel the pain. The sequence is a button to aim, a button to throw the bomb, a button to aim the bomb, a button to lock on target and a different button to throw the crossblade. All while using the button to dodge in conjunction with the direction keys and not enough time. I don't know how many times I had to re-map my keys trying to find the most comfortable and the quickest set-up. Although you face the worst boss first, the second time playing through the game, you'll wonder why it was so hard. Obviously practice makes perfect. The combat can be difficult, but not impossible, although remembering all the combos is not really realistic and you will probably use a few favored ones in most instances.
The puzzles are interesting and not overly obtuse, even though actually doing them might prove more difficult the first time around. One thing to note is that when you do pick up a new skill and weapon, the game forces you to use them in order to progress, so there is no way to bypass learning how to use these. The game does not allow you to become too comfortable by sticking to one method of combat. Although this can sometimes be frustrating, it is certainly never boring.
The game quest is basically linear, but new things and new enemies are constantly being introduced. Once you find a particular location, a store and a fast travel portal are opened up. Collecting souls is the currency and you are able to trade these for upgrades and stronger spells. You can also find special weapon add-ons and artifacts. One problem I found with the mapping system is that within the main levels, which are marked, are sub-levels that aren't. Some items can't be picked up till later in the game and not realizing this, I didn't particularly note where they were. By the time I wanted them, I had forgotten not only where to find them, but what sub-level they were on. Since you can't fast travel to these, at one point I ended up wandering around all the levels simply searching for the items.
For me, some games have the right combination of elements that makes them stand out a notch above others and Darksiders is one of them. Ironically, I kept passing over this game many times only to have it be one of my favorites. The only complaint I have was I might have wished for slightly leaner controls as it took a lot of fiddling to map keys to make it less awkward.
I just recently purchased Darksiders 2 in the hopes they haven't screwed it up. I also built a new machine, so I'm saving it as a treat to play later. First I have to play my backlog of games that work better on XP, or at least with less headaches to get them running smoothly.UPDATE Nov 2016: THQ Nordic (Nordic's new official name) has released an update to Darksiders called Darksiders Warmastered Edition. Those who owned the original game received it for free. You can check out what's new on Steam The new edition contains the original version as well.