Many a video game has turned to biblical stories for fodder. Hey, you can't get much more dramatically huge and bombastically climactic then a battle between heaven and hell, right? Of course, that doesn't mean game creators actually read any of their source material.
Case in point: the Darksiders games. They're based on the Book of Revelation's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but you needn't bother looking for many scriptural similarities. In fact, these Four Horsemen don't even have the same names you remember from your last read through that last book.
So let's start with a little game background before we jump into the latest title in the series: In this rambling version of the "End of Days" tale, the Four Horsemen (Strife, Fury, War and Death) are the last of the Nephilim, herein known as fusions of angels and demons. They do herald a big blowout between the forces of heaven and hell. But God doesn't seem to be a part of this mix. Instead there's a powerful group of shadowy figures called the Charred Council that tenuously maintain a balance in the power structure.
From Warring Demigod to All-Out God of War
In the first Darksiders game, a funny thing happened on the way to the apocalypse: The horseman War galloped off to battle too early. He wiped out mankind and was subsequently apprehended for his prophesy-busting crimes. In Darksiders II, it's now up to War's brother Death to set things straight and prove that War was essentially set up through some netherworld skullduggery.
Starting to glaze over? Here's the bottom line: There's some dark, ancient grudge going on that's threatening all of creation. And Death has to figure it out. (Cue ominous music.)
What all that amounts to is a game set in a broad, fantastical world of dungeons and battle arenas. Death must ride his ethereal ghost horse through this expansive maze looking for the Tree of Life, the Well of Souls, ancient World Builders, and other legendary-sounding creatures and artifacts. Along the way he needs to solve puzzles, locate keys, loot treasures and maybe even resurrect mankind if the opportunity arises. Oh, and while he's at it, he "gets" to hack and disembowel all manner of screaming creatures, foul corruptions and undead bosses with his oversized scythes and axes.
If that description is starting to bring to mind games like God of War or maybe even Prince of Persia, well, there are a lot of similarities here. Death climbs and runs across walls with parkour flair, jumping from pillar to post with acrobatic grace and chopping away with his gigantic blades—all with the same kind of swirling and slashing mechanics of both of the abovementioned games. As the story progresses and more skills are obtained, there's even a little shooting and bomb-throwing blended in.
Of Whirling Blades and Beelzebub
The brutal third-person hacking and smashing includes decapitations, thrusting impalements and gore-splashing eviscerations. Did I mention that it's brutal? The game even makes splattering all that red stuff into a challenge with a "blood spill statistic" that keeps track of the hundreds and hundreds of gallons of blood that eventually paint the scenery.
And along with all that bloody gore, Darksiders II dabbles in sensuality as well. Floating wraith creatures sport fully fleshed female curves. A buxom female demon named Lilith shows up in a revealing armored bustier that barely contains her virtual realism.
While we're on the subject of demons, it should be noted that there are lots of those here. Some of Death's powered-up abilities give him demonic minions that rip and claw by his side for short periods of time. Runes, goat head symbols and other demonic artifacts are everywhere. And though God never shows up, Satan does call out from the darkness in an ending scene, warning a failed minion that she won't enjoy his "punishment" this time.
Would it be an understatement to say an overall sense of spiritual darkness permeates the fabric of this game?
In a roundabout way, that brings us back to where we began. You can indeed find lots of games that seem to have their roots in the stuff of the Bible. But this game of nonstop violence, corrupted souls and ravaging spirits won't be showing up anywhere near a Sunday school lesson anytime soon.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Horror/Suspense, Combat, Action/Adventure
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PC
August 21, 2012
Bob Hoose Kevin Simpson