If you’re going to strap on the shoes of anyone during the end of the world, who better than one of the Four Horsemen of Said Apocalypse? The end times have unexpectedly been unleashed, and as the armies of Heaven and Hell go to war on a ruined Earth, all the fingers are pointing to moody horseman War as the instigator. Banished from his lofty position as a result, our hooded anti-hero will need to slash his giant blade through waves of demons, angels and more as he carves a way to the truth, and his own absolution.
Co-director Joe Madueira has a long history as a comic book artist and writer, and you can tell from the moment Darksiders: Warmastered Edition’s menu loads up. Everything from its slick animated cutscenes to the character model and weapon designs look, play and feel like an interactive comic brought to life in video game form. Right down to the ridiculous story full of cackling demons and big-headed angels lording it over the burning ashes of the mortal world. It’s big, loud and silly and a world away from the ambience of The Legend of Zelda games, a series its developer so clearly owes much of its inspiration.
Truth be told, Darksiders isn’t a particularly original experience today – nor was it back in 2010, when it first released. There’s a splash of the 3D era Zeldas in its mixture of dungeons, exploration and puzzle solving, and the combat model owes more than a few doffs of the cap to the original God of War series. Yet even now, nine years after its debut, you can still see why it garnered so many positive reviews. That art style, reminiscent of early World of Warcraft, gives its a world a relatively unique feel on consoles, its voice-acting is pretty damn good (including Mark Hamill occasionally straying into Joker territory) and its hack-’n-slash combat is still deeply satisfying as you bisect an angel or skewer a demon.
Now-defunct developer Vigil Games found the ideal pace at which to unlock War’s growing array of powers and weapons. When you start you’re given a taste of the horseman at the height of his power, with tons of health and the ability to assume a giant Chaos Form wreathed in fire, like a Tolkien Estate-baiting Balrog. But then you’re stripped down to your bare essentials with only your hefty sword Chaoseater at your disposal. As you progress, you’ll unlock Death’s Scythe and a number of other powerful weapons. You’ll start to build up your Wrath powers, enabling you to unleash special moves that can make a big difference when you’re being swamped.
It's also blessed with an AI system that’s actually pretty good at trying to exploit your weaknesses; smaller demons often try to overwhelm you from all directions (forcing you to dodge to safety or use your scythe to clear them out for good) while angelic lieutenants pull pack and attempt to snipe you from a safe distance. A jumping strike and a mid-air combo usually puts their winged antics to bed, but this isn't a game that's packed with dumb enemies. Darksiders may not have done anything particularly new with its mechanics, but it made them enjoyable to wield nonetheless.
Compared to the two games that have since followed, Darksiders does suffer from some repetitive and downright drab environment designs. There’s just only so many underground corridors and ruined buildings you can explore before you start hungering for something aesthetically diverse. Compared to the rich variation of locales featured in Darksiders II, the original too often strays into a dated look that not even a remastered version can rectify. In fact, most aspects of Darksiders were improved upon for the sequel – including the stiffness of wall-running, a new weapon loot system and the fact you get access to your horse from the start of the game rather than right at the end – so if you’re double-dipping after your first playthrough on PS3 or Xbox 360, it’s hard to ignore this rougher incarnation’s retrospective faults.
There are some improvements that were introduced to the game with the original Warmastered Edition, meaning Darksiders on Switch boasts enhanced shadows, updated textures, smoother rendering and better post-processing effects. Visually, the version playing on Switch is a noticeable improvement on the one released on Wii U in 2017, so now it looks and feels like you’re playing the remaster rather than a straight port of the PS3/360 build. Add in the satisfying tremble of the Joy-Cons every time you pull off a powerful strike, and you’re left with a port that does the original plenty of justice.
Darksiders: Warmastered Edition is a faithful port of the original that brings every slash of Chaoseaster and every bloody execution to Nintendo Switch in all its glory. While still the inferior entry in the Darksiders trilogy, this first outing is still a robust action-platformer full of satisfying melee combos, open-ended levels and a suitably over-the-top story. Easily one of the most underrated franchises to appear in the previous generation, Darksiders is a solid port that finally unleashes the Apocalypse in handheld form.