Thursday, 3 October 2013

War, Death, and Darksiders

Revelations were always my favourite part of the Bible. The book, where Apocalypse that is to come takes place. Massive armies, legions of angels, suffering, strife, hunger. And the four horsemen. Now that is something you would expect of a grand fantasy novel. Something that is fun to hear about and read. That, is great mythology. And Darksiders, in first game accomplished just that.

You start as War, the second horsemen of Apocalypse. Riding the fiery red steed Ruin you land in the middle of chaos that is war between armies of heaven and hell. Clad in plate armor and armed with the greatsword Chaoseater you plunge into the mids of two armies and start sowing death. Nothing can stand against you. Nothing can compare to you. You are War and in your wake, the world crumbles. Ruin follows. And Chaos ensues.

The story is, as expected fiction based on the Revelations. There are hidden plots and games of intrigue played on all three sides. Nobody is honest, and everybody is hiding something. Yet the one to take all the blame at the end of the day, is War. The Seals were not broken. And no matter how many times War tells the truth, it is not in the Charred Council's best interest to unleash him onto the ones who made all that mess.

Yet War gets his chance. Humanity is dead, lost in the echoes of time and he is set to find the one responsible. In his search for the one responsible, War deals with angels, devils and makers. And I think, that the character of War is great. He is, as you would otherwise imagine the personification of War. Cruel, unrelenting, without pause and any hesitation. Quick to make a decision and stubborn enough to carry it through. Once he sets his sights on something, he will get it done. Yet, he is also cunning, patient, and crafty. Like a veteran coming from thousand years of battle, knowing all the tricks of his craft.

The combat with War in charge is heavy, gruesome, and full of impact. War is the epitome of ultimate warrior. His moves are full of confidence. His elegance does not come from grace, but from skill. He does not wield his sword in that certain way because he was taught so to be the best way. He wields it that way because that is the best way. Because there is no other way. Only his way is the way. It sounds like a lot of repeating, but War is so skillful, because he is War. Both the characterisation of the actual war, as well as the warrior. Yet he is above the term warrior. Warrior is one that fights in wars. War, on other hand is the one single entity that makes War. He is like self-fulfilling prophecy. His name is herald of what comes with him.

And as the first game ends with the Seals finally broken we witness the arrival of the remaining three Horsemen. Normally those would be Conquest, Famine, and Death. Makes sense, first comes the conquest, after him follows war. When war is done, famine hungers, and close behind him, death stalks. Yet, I guess for the developers was much easier to replace Conquest with Strife, and arm him with two guns instead of a bow. And replace Famine with Fury, arming her with a whip, instead of Famine's traditional scales.

Because, if it came to be, who in right mind would play a hack and slash game where the hero wields scales? What is he going to do? Start trading with the enemy? Drive him to ruin through economic crisis? On second thought, that could be a sight to see. A horseman of Apocalypse, using economics to ensure the destruction of the world. Instead we are left with some sort of dominatrix figure that kills spawns of hell with her fiery whip.

But why replace Conquest with Strife and then give him guns instead of a more elegant bow? First rider is all about style, elegance and class. That horseman comes on a white horse, clad in white armor, wearing a golden crown. Surely, to such a figure bow suits much more than a pair of guns. Yet that is Conquest, not the Darksider's Strife.

The second game unfortunately does not follow War any more. It does not continue the story where it was left of. Instead it is a sort of intermezzo. You play as the Fourth Horsemen, Death. Your mission starts after War "went on rampage and caused the end of humanity". It's time frame is during War's imprisonment.

Death's fighting style is a lot more agile, diverse, and fast paced in comparison to War's. He primarily fights with two, I would like to call them sickles, in appearance miniature versions of scythes. His persona is grim, and for some reason he loves to wear a mask. His armor is not heavy, not full, but more gladiatorial in style. Covering only the integral parts.

I have to admit, I did not finish the second game yet. I managed to go twice through Darksiders I. Yet the Darksiders II; even though far more diverse, and grander than the previous game, with much to explore and many characters to interact with does not have that charm, the first one had. The main theme of the first game was vengeance. War was dead-set on getting the one who made all that mess and then blamed it all on him. It was a primal motive. A feeling that we all, to some degree, know ourself. The second game had much more noble theme. A search for redemption. To save one's younger sibling from the blame that is not his own.

I loved the dynamic between War and Watcher. It emphasized War's nature. How he resents being commandeered. How he bent his knee only to stomp on his jailer when the time would be ripe. In contrast, Death's companion is his raven called Dust. And I get that Death is a character of solitude and loneliness, but I prefer that bit of comic relief War and Watcher knew how to provide.

I would have loved nothing more than to play as War in the third instalment of the game. But the third game will not be coming out any time soon. If ever.

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