It's weird to think that since Darksiders was released in 2010, Vigil Games disbanded, THQ went bankrupt, and Nordic Games acquired the franchise. Not only that, but it has even reincorporated under the name THQ Nordic and overseen remasterings of both games. So while ex-Vigil Games employees are scattered around the place with Darksiders lead creator Joe Madureira doing his own thing with Battle Chasers: Nightwar, THQ Nordic has been feeling the waters to discern if completing the Darksiders trinity can make waves.
Well, that's what we hope the publisher is up to now. In the meantime to whet our appetite, we've gotten the average port of Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition, but with what pros and cons it had, are the improvements to the original game up to snuff on PS4 with the Warmastered edition?
Darksiders follows the unjust guilt and trials thrust upon one of the four Horsemen of the apocalypse: War. Accused of starting the war between the realms of heaven, hell, and mankind before the appointed time, the gruff Nephilim must reclaim his lost power and honour by restoring the prior balance of creation. He vows to find those accountable for the sin he didn't commit, and this premise opens up for a fantastic journey with memorable demons and angels that lead you to satisfying resolves to the justice that you seek.
Darksiders II was comfortable filling in extraneous gaps as a complementary sequel in the same time frame as the original game, and while the former captured similarly fascinating world building and bold characters, the latter still has a more well-rounded plot, better antagonist, and weightier feel. This particular scribe can't get enough of imaginative takes on Biblical themes and characters, and we were reminded how this universe is one such example with its cohesive, epic lore. Even the dialogue is well written and genuinely funny at times, with voice actors that shine with over-the-top performances that come off as appropriately larger-than-life instead of canned.
As you would expect, the breadth of content in the game is thinner than what's inside its meaty successor; the combat, exploration, puzzles, and boss fights were noticeably more creative in the second go-around. That's not to say the foundation has lost its touch, though. The platforming and puzzles may be a bit lacking, but with a steady flow of new tools and mechanics that give fresh appeal to each of the surprisingly lengthy dungeons, we still think the level design and gameplay loop hold up well, thanks to the game's blatant yet excellent integration of inspired elements from The Legend of Zelda and God of War. Yes, there could be more collectables and the absence of side missions is a bummer, but despite hindsight issues like these, we still believe this is a truly solid, hack-and-slash, open-world romp newcomers and old fans will thoroughly enjoy.
It helps that the comic book-like visuals have aged exceptionally well. As our esteemed overlord of Push Square Towers would say, Joe Mad's chunky, stylized style is positively striking, translating smoothly into three-dimensional space, though the mid to late-2000s scourge of brown, bland environments slightly holds back the fully colourful, fantastical potential the sequel realised. The 720p resolution and 30 frames-per-second on PlayStation 3 were hindrances as well, but the, err, Warmastered version bumps up these two traits to 1080p and 60 frames-per-second, with the latter being notoriously absent in the previous remaster.
That frame rate makes a world of difference with our side-by-side comparisons of the PS3 and PS4 copies. There may be no incremental improvements to some assets as we noticed in the Deathinitive Edition, but sharper textures and largely refined shadows make this a more pleasing remaster. Pointless post-processing "effects" like Vignette and Chroma FX can be toggled, but they're better left off, as they respectively add a shaded border over the screen and an unnoticeable rainbow shimmer to objects' edges in the distance.
There are two issues that need to be fixed with a future patch. They may not impact the core experience, but all of the cutscenes are out-of-sync with their audio, which gets worse the longer they go on. We even had some of them cut to gameplay a mere few seconds after they began with the audio still running, so we awkwardly roamed around until the dialogue was finished. However, for a mere £14.99 / $19.99, these issues aren't enough to sway us from wholeheartedly recommending the game with its 15 plus hours of substantial action and story.
Minor conversion issues aside that can likely be solved, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition has the intrinsic fortune of being a timeless looker with its distinct visuals, which benefits from appropriate resolution and performance buffs that bring it up to speed. A fantasy world that retains its wonder and gracefully aged gameplay easily ensure that this game's horseman can confidently cometh again.