Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Video game review: Darksiders

Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Microsoft Windows (PC)

Year 2010 has been a year of some great action adventure titles release, mostly on the consoles. These are games such as the critically acclaimed God of war 3, Dante’s inferno, Bayonetta and the long awaited Darksiders. While God of War 3 received unbelievably high scores from the various game reviewers, Bayonetta was also well praised for its game play and design. However, Dante’s Inferno received somewhat negative reviews, mostly due to the complains of some minor problems and is framed as an average clone to Sony’s God of War franchise. Out of all these games, Darksiders finally made its way to PC-DVD just a few weeks ago, so is this a good game? Or is it just another clone to God of War again? Today I will review this game.

Watch this video for gameplay trailer, with interviews from the developer

Darsiders was developed by Vigil Games, this is a new video gaming studio. The game itself was published by THQ. The game was originally released on Xbox360 and Playstation 3 earlier this year. The PC port finally arrived in later September this year. I didn’t know about Darksiders until I came across a video trailer on youtube. My first impression was “wow, the guy you get to play looks really cool, he has a big sword and wears a cool armour”. However, I wasn’t too sure about this game so I read some reviews by IGN and Gamespot. In general, the opinions are that this game is a mix between God of War and Legend of Zelda. Furthermore, IGN UK and IGN AU reviews both gave Darksiders 9/10 score, while the general rating is around 8.3/10. Personally I am quite a fan of action adventure titles, such as Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed, so I decided to give Darksiders a try, the result? Well, this is what I am here to talk about.

This game has characters with BIG weapons!


I will rant about the story for a bit, so bear with me. First of all, the story of Darksiders is loosely based on Revelation. Yes, I repeat, Revelation. However I also said it is “loosely based on”. One might think, how can anyone write a video game story loosely based on Revalation? Well, here is the deal. In Darksiders you play as one of the four horsemen of Apocalypse known as “War”. I think this is from the passage of Revelation 6:3-4. In the story the seals were broken and War, as one of the horsemen was summoned to the earth. He started to wipe out every living thing on earth, thinking it was time for the end of days because the seals were broken. Very soon War discovered something is aloof, because it seemed that he was the only horsemen being summoned, and as he performed his duty of “extermination” he gradually lost his power in the process doing his duty in bringing an Armageddon. War was eventually defeated in a battle against a large demonic creature and is presumably dead. He woke up and found that the seals weren’t really broken, and War has been mistakenly summoned. On top of that, War was blamed for starting a pre-mature apocalypse that doomed the kingdom of man. Well, you can imagine this will totally suck if you are War. He managed to persuade the council in charge of the horsemen to let him return to Earth to investigate who was behind the false call in hope of clearing his name. When War returned, it has been 100 years since the apocalypse and the world lies in ruins and all mankinds are extinct. Only demons still lurk around fighting against roaming bands of angels.

Ok, at this point. by now you probably understand why I said the story is “loosely based” on the last book of the Bible, because in the Bible the most important thing about the end of days is about Jesus' return to earth (described in passages such as Matthew 24:36, 25:13). Therefore, one can say script writers for the game draws inspirations from the book of Revelation about the end of days and created a post-apocalyptic sci-fi fantasy story.

Welcome to the post-apocalyptic world of Darksiders

While some might call this blasphemous, but remember this is just a video game story. Furthermore, the story is all about War finding redemption and setting the wrongs right, which turns out to be quite interesting. Despite this game's secular origin, there are some interesting things to think about from the story. For example, a the main antagonist (actually a demon) tried to tempt War to join the bad side, saying to the game's hero “since the Creator has abandoned his creation, why should you still fight for the light and not join me to rule in hell?” Personally, I face this challenge as a Christians every now and then, especially in times of difficulty. Sometimes there seems to be this voice telling me that God doesn’t care, and He has abandoned me, but in reality this is just the devil's lies. In the story War overcame the demon’s temptation and lies and stayed on his original course. At that point, I was thinking, "what about me? Have I sometimes gave up to the devil’s lies and believe that God is not with me? How can I continue to trust in God? The answer is in the Bible, see John 5:24, and John 6:35-40, this is something worth reflecting about. Also in the story it showed that the bad guy became the bad guy because he thought he knew better than the Creator himself and wanted to take control (I will leave this to the would be players of this game to find out). Therefore, I think as far-fetched as the story is, in terms of spiritual and moral content the Darksiders story actually has some good moments that kind of rings home with some of challenges Christians face everyday, such as trusting in God, while knowing that God is in control and He knows better than any of us.


At the first glance, Darksiders appears to be a God of War clone. However, my flatmate remarked that Darksiders actually bears a lot of resemblances to the Legend of Zelda games. As you take control of War, you can unleash some devastating powers upon your foes. The combat system is somewhat similar to Devil may cry series, as you hit the enemies your combo ranking goes up, and the keys of winning battles often lie in figuring out the patterns of your enemies movements and attack patterns rather than the typical one button mash action in most video games. There are lots, I repeat, lots of puzzles in this game. Some of the puzzles can be very challenging, and sometimes requires the player to think outside the box, but solving the puzzles are a lot of fun and satisfying. As the game progresses the player gradually get new items, often crucial to solve the puzzles that lie ahead. For example, early in the game the player acquires a cross blade, which is a boomerang type of weapon, not only can you use it in the fights, but it is also one of the most essential item in the game to solve the puzzles.The boss battles are very interesting as well, as these boss battles are often puzzles themselves that requires the player to observe the patterns and use the variety of War's arsenals, and formulating strategies to win the day.

The horsemen of apocalypse is as well equipped as Bruce Wanye!

Personally, one of my favourite features in Darksiders is the horseback combat. Later in the game, War regains his horse Ruin, this is fair enough because how can a horsemen be a horsemen without a horse right? The player can summon and un-summon the horse at any time, and the horse can be used in open areas to increase the movement speed, while riding the horse War's attack damage and range increases greatly. Without spoiling too much of the game, the horse is a crucial item in this game.

War rides on Ruin in Wild, Wild West!

There are other features in this game that makes it worth replaying, such as the difficulty option setting. The player can choose to play easy, normal or apocalyptic difficulty when starting a new game. In the game there are many artifacts and items scattered throughout the game world, by collecting these items the player can make War even stronger. It is also possible to back track to the different levels to acquire the artefacts that you missed previously. Towards the end of the game, the story actually requires the player to back track. The control input is very smooth, I only had very minor issues with the control. Overall, this game unshamely borrows a lot of the best gameplay elements from many classic games and blend them together. The result? It totally works and Vigil game managed to forge a unique gaming experience.

Video for War's horse, Ruin (the video is R-rated due to violence)


The design of Darksiders is probably one of the strongest points of the game. This game is very, very well designed. The lead designer is Joe Madureira, a comic book artist/author best known for his work on Marvel’s Uncanny xmen. The game world is very well presented, beautiful and atmospheric, from abandoned wild desert, mystery haunted tower, ruined post-apocalyptic city to demonic infested cathedral, with everything in between! The game world is superb and really grasps the feel of a comic book world, dark mysterious but full of colours, overall, the artistic style is a very unique. The character models are very cool! War looks really hardcore, it is everything that you will imagine a horsemen of apocalypse would look like. The monsters and bosses look scary and imaginative, in a comical way.

Hey look, it's treebeard! Or is it.. rockbeard?

The graphics for the PC version is pretty smooth, there are occasional glitches, but will not cause any major issues provides that you have at least a Geforce 8800GT graphic card. The lightning effect looks great in this game, while the textures are slight low for today’s video game standard, but the design of the game make up for the lack of high textures. Overall, Darksiders is a very pretty looking game.


The sound effects in this game is impressive, I had to keep the volume on my speakers low the whole time, otherwise during combats it feels as if the soundwaves will tear open the roof of my little apartment. The soundtracks, on the other hand although epic, but lack something memorable in them. The voice acting in this game is top notch, almost on par with the voice acting in Batman Arkham Asylum.

Violence, language and sex/sexual references:

Violence: One should take note that Darksiders is a very violent game. As War takes on the demonic horde from hell, there is an overwhelming amount of decapitations, flying limbs, and blood animations in this game.

Language: There are minor coarse languages, no actual swearing words.

Sex/Sexual references: There is not sex/sexual references in this game, actually none of the male or female characters are scantily/proactively dressed/depicted in this game, which is pretty good compared to most of today’s video games.


I’ve encountered a problem with gamepads in Darksiders, since this is a PC port apparently only Xbox 360 controllers are compatible with the game, but this wasn't stated on the cover box. Therefore this must be a game bug/issue, and I could only use my mouse and keyboard to play.


I am very happy that I played Darksiders, this is a great action adventure game. If you enjoy playing 3rd person action adventure games then don’t miss this one. It is a blend between Zelda, God of War, Devil May Cry with a story and universe unique in its setting. The puzzles are challenging and fun to solve, the boss battles are engaing, epic and memorable. This is a game that won’t insult your intelligence!

Video trailer of puzzles (courtesy of Gametrailers)

Story: 8.5/10 – a unique and interesting story, far fetched yet original.

Gameplay: 9/10 – To be short, this game is great fun, lots of fun!

Graphics: 9.5/10 – Although the textures are a bit low for a PC game, but the game world is very well designed and beautiful, this is a pretty looking game!

Sound: 8/10 – The sound effect and voice acting are both top notch, but the sound track could use some improvement.

Violence: Very high level violence, although the box says MA+15, but I actually won’t recommend it to anyone below the age of 18.

Language: It is relatively clean, only a few coarse words, but no swearing words at all.

Sex/Sexual references: None

Recommended age of audience: 18+

Final score: 9.2/10 (superb!)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Video game review: Dynasty warriors 6

Release format: Playstation 3, Xbox360, PC-DVD, and Playstation 2.

KOEI's hack and slash video game Dynasty warriors is back in the 6th instalment of this "long lasting" franchise! Is this good or bad? Let's find out.


Loosely based on the historical fiction novel "romance of three kingdoms", Dynasty warriors 6 once again, follows a similar if not identical story to its predecessor. At the end of the 2nd century, China was divided into three factions by three warlords. Each faction is trying to become the supreme ruler of China, it became a warring period known as the "three kingdoms".

The player can take control of one of the 14 characters in the game, and start a quest to unify the middle kingdom.

Although the story sounds epic, which is because it is based on an epic novel, but for some reason when I was playing the game I just couldn't be bothered to pay any attention to the story at all, it is because the story was
told in uninteresting ways.

There are some minor spiritual contents in one of the earlier stages involving witchcraft and rituals that might offend more sensitive players. Otherwise, the story is actually not bad in moral or spiritual content.

Gameplay and design:

Dynasty warriors 6
is like all its predecessors, and this is a one button hack and slash game! One hit by your character can take out 50
people! Almost all the characters use excessively long and large weapon which they wield with great ease. The combat is pretty easy, just like all Dynasty warriors games. One thing worth mentioning is that Dynasty warriors game doesn't have a "kill count" as you, well, kill people, but instead it is called "knock out" count. So you actually don't "kill" people, but simply knocking them out.

Dynasty warriors 6 use
a new combo system called the "Renbu" system (I don't know what "Renbu" actually means). This means if you perform the combo right, your renbu goes up and you can do a even longer combo. This adds a bit more challenge to the gameplay as the player will fiddle through the buttons on their gamepads to try to get the combo right, and rush around the map to keep on fighting so their hard-gathered renbu ranking can stay up.
This time, there are 41 characters in this game. The player have to unlock the characters, each faction is given three charac
ters to begin with. As you play through the main campaign, by completing objectives you can unlock additional characters, but not all of them have story modes. For those characters with out story mode you can play in free mode and challenge mode.

As you play you can level up your characters by gathering experience points. EP can be gathered by either completing objectives or "knocking out" enemy soldiers/officers. The level cap is 50, and the player also have the option of discovering new weapons and horses, which they can equip their characters with.

The replay value is pretty high because of the free mode and challenge mode, this means you can keep on playing the unlocked maps with unlocked characters with your friend. Yes, this game has a two player option, this means your friend can play with you by choosing another character. However, in multi-player mode the screen is split and player 1 and 2 occupy the top and bottom of the screen respectively, which is a pain if you have a small screen, but fine if both of you are playing on a 50 inch TV.

In terms of single player, Dynasty gets boring very quickly as it quickly becomes a repetitive, one button mashing adventure. However, in 2 player mode this is where the game shines as with all its previous instalment. I remember the days when I used to play Dynasty Warriors 5 with my friend until 2 in the morning because we are trying to get 2000 KOs to level up our characters!

In terms of moral and spiritual content, Dynasty Warriors 6 is a pretty clean game, although the game is about war, but there are no blood or death, as I mentioned earlier you don't "kill" people but instead simply "knocking them out". There are no blood animations. However, the design for one of the female characters is in my opinion, more on the side of provocatively dressed but it is nowhere as bad as what you see on the posters on the street of Sydney CBD.


The graphics of Dynasty Warriors 6 is slightly better than the previous game, but not by much. The main improvement is the detail of character design, the texture of character design is now finer, otherwise it is pretty much the same as before. One thing worth mentioning is that KOEI managed to make some of the characters appearance really memorable this time.


Personally, I've always love the soundtracks of Dynasty warriors games. Dynasty warriros 6 retains its trademark heavy metal soundtracks, mixed with hints of traditional Chinese music. Where else would you play a game about historical Chinese wars but with heavy metal music in the background? If this doesn't sound cool to you then you don't have a personality!

Concluding remarks:

Dynasty warriors 6 is pretty much the same as all the previous Dynasty warriors, with slightly improved graphics and slightly different gameplay. If you played one you've played them all. While it is not great or definitely not original, it is entertaining playing with your friend in co-op mode. Otherwise, everything about it is pretty average if you are going to play by yourself.


Story: 5/10
Gameplay: 6/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 8/10
Moral content: 8/10
Language: no coarse language at all
Sex/sexual references: very minor (almost non-existent)

Overall rating: 6/10

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Review: The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes - Wordsworth Library Collection

I remember reading Sherlock Holmes stories when I was a kid, the stories were deeply enjoyable, the formidable detective left an lasting impression on my mind. I guess in some ways Sherlock Holmes was the reason why I first took interest in problem solving and logical deductions at some of my school subjects, such as Maths and physics, as a kid I imagined myself as Sherlock Holmes solving complex problems as I was solving mathematical problems at school, and I guess in a way this somewhat attributed to my small success in my later career as a student. It has been years since I first read it, until two years ago that I stumbled upon this collection of Sherlock Holmes. Published by Wordsworth Library, this heavy tome contains all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories of Sherlock Holmes in chronological order according to their date of publication. The collection contains all four novels: A study in the scarlet, the sign of four, the valley of fear, and the hound of Baskervilles, plus 56 short stories on the famous detective in 221 Baker Street. This huge book accumulates to 1408 pages and contains the original illustrations from the Strand Magazine.

All in all, I tried to read this book back to back, I spent an enormous amount of time reading through this book, while trying to formulate theories about the strange cases on my own based on the facts laid out at the beginning of each story. The character of Sherlock Holmes is interesting, and his quirky friendship with Watson provides humorous effects in some of the darker moments in their adventures. In my opinion, not all the stories of Sherlock Holmes are the same quality, some stories are better than the others. For example, stories such as the five orange pips, sussex vampire, Thor bridge, dancing man, red haired league and the six Napopleans are amongst the more memorable cases, with surprising twists and turns to form lasting impression on the readers' memories. The stories are gripping and kept me reading through this 1408 page book.

As I mentioned earlier, this book contains the original illustrations from the Strand Magazine by Sidney Paget. The illustrations are very well done and usually inserted at the right place in the text to demonstrate the important moments in the stories. The book is hard covered with gold writings for the titles. I picked it up for 24 dollars, the price is really affordable for a book so well composed and edited. If you have never read anything about the famous detective, or if you are a fan and want to get all of the Sherlock Holmes stories in one volume, then this is the book to get.

Rating: 5/5