Darksiders: Warmastered Edition's Switch port release suffers from technical issues, but the action-adventure game at its core still holds up.
Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, the remaster of an action-adventure game first released in 2010, follows War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as he plays brutal middleman in a battle between heaven and hell. It is perhaps fitting, then, that the game's new Nintendo Switch port is simultaneously heavenly and hellish, both wonderful and excruciating. Because while the nearly-decade-old Darksiders has, in many ways, aged well, the port itself is unimpressive. Its consistent stuttering and occasional screen freezes (albeit temporary ones) bog down an otherwise enjoyable doomsday escapade.
The plot of Darksiders is essentially an apocalyptic whodunit. War crash-lands on Earth where pandemonium is raging: angels killing demons, demons killing angels, and humans getting obliterated in the crossfire. He doesn't know why he's been summoned, and the other three horsemen are nowhere to be found. War is charged with treason by his masters - the Charred Council, a group that mediates between the divine and the demonic - who believe that he has caused the conflict. To prove his innocence, War must figure out what, exactly, brought about the end of the world.
A common description of Darksiders has been that it's a third-person action game blending The Legend of Zelda and God of War. The description is accurate. Players traverse an overworld split up into different zones, making their way to dungeons in which new items are usually awaiting discovery. The dungeons contain a mix of puzzles and hack-and-slash set pieces, and are capped off by bosses that are mostly satisfying to fight. (There's one glaring exception.) Throughout their journeys, players collect souls from fallen enemies and treasure chests that can be used to purchase new weapons, moves, special abilities, consumables, and more.
The core of Darksiders has stood the test of time. The feel of its combat remains compelling, as does its quasi-biblical narrative. And War himself, an anti-hero created in what was arguably the golden age of anti-heroism, is a captivating protagonist. He's rather believable, so far as sentient embodiments of warfare go.
But the game is not perfect. It has some elements that feel very outdated, such as: the slow camera pan that shows players their objective when they enter a room, a way-too-long flying sequence, and the fetch quest that leads up to the game's final act. What's more, Darksiders' overworld is uninspiring - players are likely to quick-travel whenever possible instead of hiking through past areas, even when new items allow them to attain previously inaccessible treasures. Another disappointment is how ineffectual most of the game's secondary weapons and items feel. Rarely, if ever, does anything but War's enormous sword and his boomerang-like crossblade call out for use.
But somehow, despite all those caveats, Darksiders manages to just...work, on some fundamental level. It's straightforwardly fun to run around dungeons and solve puzzles and beat up the hapless foes that perish, wave after wave, before War. And as the story unspools, it proves to be surprisingly interesting, pulling out a few twists that keep the plot from being yet another rehashed, moralizing tale of heaven vs. hell.
The port's technical performance, on the other hand, is harder to defend than its gameplay is. Darksiders: Warmastered Edition looks quite good, thanks in no small part to Joe Madureira's creative direction of the original game. But stuttering regularly disrupts the experience, and while there's a performance mode in addition to a display mode, opting for performance doesn't fully fix the stuttering problems - and display mode really chugs without improving the visuals all that much.
Were the port pulled off even slightly more smoothly, the Switch version of Darksiders: Warmastered Edition would be an easy recommendation. The recommendation would include some disclaimers, to be sure, but it'd come easily. As is, the game still warrants an endorsement. Neither the gameplay annoyances nor the technical hiccups are able to totally overpower a game that has, in the years since its release, solidified itself as much more than a mishmash of greatest-hits series. So buyer beware: There are bumps in this road. But it's nonetheless one worth traveling, to hell and back.
Darksiders: Warmastered Edition releases on April 2 on Nintendo Switch for $29.99. It was previously released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Wii U. Screen Rant was provided with a download code for the purposes of this review.