Thursday, January 12, 2012

I had to accomplish *SOMETHING!*

This useless feeling? This "being stuck in the past?" Yeah, I had to do something to overcome it. And so I chose to work on gaining every achievement in a video game...and busted my butt to do so.

The game is "Darksiders," AKA "Darksiders: The Wrath of War." I think I may have mentioned it before. It's one of those post-apocalyptic tales, but this one is based somewhat on the Bible and Biblical characters. Here there be spoilers, so go look at pictures of kittens, (I'm sure you can find a FEW out there), or something if you ever plan on playing this, what I consider, amazing game. (That means you, my beloved, unless you want everything spoiled for you. =P )

Heaven and Hell have been embattled for eons. A group known as the Charred Council had been maintaining the balance, using their enforcers, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to keep things even. Then the race of man appeared, and the Charred Council claimed that "this fragile but cunning race" would play an important role in the End War. Thus, a peace was brokered, with Seven Seals created to represent that peace. At the appointed time, the seals would be broken, and the End War would commence, with the Horsemen riding forth to pass judgment on the good, the bad, and the in-between.

Skip ahead to modern times...The world seems to be under a bombardment from space. Meteors rain down, destroying everything in their path. What is revealed in short order is that these projectiles from the heavens are actually demons and angels locked in battle.

Amongst the chaos that ensues, only one horseman arrives: War. As he engages the combatants, he mysteriously starts growing weaker and weaker. He is close to being completely powerless when he finally encounters the Archangel Abaddon. (He almost gets caught unaware by one of the demons around him, when Uriel arrives to save him.) Abaddon is dismayed at the appearance of the Horseman, proclaiming that the Seventh Seal was NOT broken. War, in turn, asks, "Where are my brothers?"

Well, there's no time to discuss matters, as the gargantuan hand of Straga rises from a pool of magma to crush the archangel, and then, after a brief fight, obliterate War.

Things don't look good. Brought before the Charred Council, War is accused of starting the Apocalypse prematurely. With demons all over the place at the scene of the crime, and the Hellguard (angels) taking a beating, it certainly looked like War had sided with Hell and helped to distract Abaddon so that the archangel might meet his doom. (Uriel certainly thought so.)

But War insists that he answered "the Call," and was there under the good faith that ALL of the Seven Seals had been broken. This is not so, as the Council has evidence that the Seals are intact; there was no call. War's presence at the battle must mean that he brought about the End War on his own...out of boredom? Defiance? You, the player, don't know. But War is determined to clear his name, and demands he be sent back to Earth to find the truth. The Council thinks the idea foolish, and says so...but War argues that if it's truly foolish, and there's no hope of gaining justice, then he'll lose out to the demonic/angelic hordes and they'll still get their judgment against the Horseman. It's a win/win for the Council either way.

Thus, they agree and attach "The Watcher" to War. (The Watcher is voiced by Mark Hamill, and sounds suspiciously like The Joker from the animated Batman series.) The two are sent back to Earth, arriving to find the place in utter ruin.

It turns out that War's been absent for 100 years. Humanity has been wiped out, and the world is now populated by demons and angels that are now trapped there while the war rages on. The Destroyer now reigns supreme for the time being, and there's been quite a shakeup in the hierarchy of demonic leadership. One demon, Vulgrim, has gone neutral. (Vulgrim is voiced by the talented Phil LaMarr.) Using the only currency around, souls, a player can make purchases of all sorts from him. There's also Samael, who seems to have had a falling out with the Dark Prince. Samael is willing to help War get to the bottom of things, but insists that there are four guardians War must defeat first. War must bring each guardian's heart to Samael...upon which he wants to feast.

And so the game begins, with War taking on Hell's Chosen. It starts with Tiamat, represented not as a dragon of any sort, but "the Bat Queen." Next comes the Griever, an insect like monster with a belly covered by a protective crystalline carapace. After her comes the Stygian, a massive demonic worm that was feeding on death and decay in "the Ashlands," but is now held captive by the hellish host in the barren wastes. Finally, there's Silitha, "the Spider Queen," with plenty of creepy-crawlies to keep an arachnophobe steadily unnerved.

Along the way, War runs into a few other characters. Ulthane, one of "the Old Ones," who is also known as "the Black Hammer." He's a giant blacksmith who seems to have played a role in events, as he's seemingly exiled himself to the ruined planet, but said role remains a mystery for some time. Uriel also makes an appearance several times, looking to pass judgment on War and carry out the sentence of death.

It turns out that Samael lied. The guardians weren't actually guarding anything. No...Samael had issues with the company his boss kept, and the two had a falling out. The Dark Prince took Samael's power and divided it up among the four Chosen, and the only way to regain it was by devouring their hearts. Back at full power, Samael threatens War...but also holds up his end of the bargain, transporting a far more powerful Horseman to the Black Throne. There, the last and most powerful of the Chosen, Straga, awaits.

But Straga isn't the final boss to fight in the game. The real bad guy is the Destroyer. Straga just happens to be guarding the Well of Souls, which is feeding power to the Destroyer and his demonic armies. How did the Destroyer gain access to the Well of Souls? Because Azrael, the Archangel of Death, was forced to do so. In fact, Azrael is being held captive in the Black Throne. The player has to free him, solving some of the biggest pain-in-the-butt puzzles in the game, so he can open the path to Straga. Once Straga is defeated, War can move forward to confront the Destroyer.

Here's where the story REALLY unfolds. Abaddon was aware that the universe was sick, what with all the evil seemingly permitted to continue under the rule of balance by the Charred Council. So he got together with Azrael and they arranged to break all but the last of the Seven Seals. This would bring the leadership of Hell into one place - Earth - where Abaddon, Uriel, and the rest of the Hellguard could destroy them in one fell swoop. When the Charred Council sent someone to investigate, they would discover the Seals intact, (with duplicates having been made by Ulthane). And who would the Council believe once they found the Seals whole? Those who reigned in Heaven, or the Prince of Lies? It was the perfect set-up.

Once it's revealed that the agents of Heaven were behind the End War, War tries to walk away from the whole mess, only to have the Watcher yank hard on his harness. War WILL see that justice is done, and the proper parties punished, or he would face his own judgment.

The player finishes rescuing Azrael, faces off against Straga, and is then brought, to all places, Eden. Though Eden was abandoned and faced destruction from lack of caretakers, (what with Adam and Eve getting the boot so early in the game), Azrael decided that the first Gift of Heaven should be salvaged. Thus, he hid it away. How and where is of no consequence, apparently. Just being there, with the Tree of Knowledge still available, is enough. To face the Destroyer, War must go to the Tree to receive its gift...the Gift of Truth...and perhaps information on how to stop the Destroyer. (And he does so alone, without the Watcher on hand, as the Watcher wouldn't be able to enter Eden as such a nasty little creature of darkness that he is.)

Once there, War learns of what transpired with Abaddon's plans to start a false war. He sees Uriel told that she would be needed soon, but not given details. And as a woman in love with her liege lord, as well as a faithful servant, she proclaims that she would follow Abaddon into Hell itself. The Archangel then vows to guard the Seventh Seal himself, ensuring that the Horsemen wouldn't become involved...

...but the Charred Council is essentially all-knowing. They knew what Abaddon was up to, but all they had was the knowledge of it without proof. If they had proof, they could have sent the Horsemen to carry out justice. Instead, such an order would seem like a baseless assassination...

...so they sent out a false call for War, who arrived just in time to take the blame for starting Armageddon. The Council knew that six Seals had been broken, but used the false Seals as "evidence" that there had been no call, and accused War of acting on his own.

Amidst the visions War receives at the Tree, there is also another mysterious player...one with a feminine voice, and obviously permitted to give extraordinary power. War sees Abaddon after his defeat, and his discussion with the mystery woman. She points out to the fallen Archangel that no matter how events played out, he would be brought before the Council and face final judgment. She then uses the famous line, "Would you serve in Heaven, or Rule in Hell?" Abaddon takes the latter choice, and is transformed into the Destroyer! War also sees the only weapon that can stop the Destroyer - the same weapon used to break the Seals: the Armageddon Blade.

After leaving the Tree, War reveals all he's learned with the exception of what he knows about the Council's part in all of this. It's then a bit of running around to find the pieces of the shattered weapon so Ulthane can reassemble it. And along the way, war faces off against Uriel one last time. But for this fight, she declares a death oath. Only one is walking out of there alive.

Played well, you can kick her feathery, haloed butt. Just as you're about to utterly crush her, a cut-scene interrupts and War spares her. He knows just enough of the future to understand that she needs to face off against Abaddon/the Destroyer. He knows she'll be defeated there, too, and that he'll show up to save the day...hopefully.

Right! On with the tale. War gets the pieces, brings them to Ulthane, gathers up any last minute equipment from Vulgrim, and then returns to Azrael to be sent on his final journey to face down Abaddon/the Destroyer.

It ends with the most awesome cutscene I've seen in any video game in a long time. It's the kind of scene that makes a player sit up straight, get goosebumps, and scream, "Dangit! When is the next game coming out?!?" Here...Watch...and try not to scream in frustration for me...or with me.

So...that's Darksiders. And as I said at the very start, I earned every achievement there was in the game. Some, as far as I'm concerned, aren't achievements at all. I mean, if it's part of the story, then receiving "the Cross Blade" really wasn't much of an achievement. The only work I did was to get that far into the story. I didn't have to beat a boss or defeat so many characters to get it.

But when it comes to truly earning an achievement, there was this one - JUST ONE - that was a royal pain to get. There's a point where War jumps on a flying "angelic beast," and you are able to shoot things down as the beast flies along a preset path. In order to earn the "Aerial Predator" achievement, you have to kill 160 critters before you reach your final destination. What was making me nuts was the game telling me I was close to earning it, but never said HOW close. I finally went through that portion of the game over and over again, making notes as to where certain baddies would appear, and then frequently pausing so that I could kill all I needed to get my precious achievement. I also made a note of how many kills I had before the flight started, and compared the end results to the original figure.

Not only did I get it today, but according to the count, I got 161 kills along the way. Ultimately, I'm glad I didn't earn this in the middle of the night, as my , "YES!" would have woken my beloved Becky up.

There...a story told, even if it's not original, with my focus on something other than mortality and a horrific past. I highly recommend Darksiders, as it's a beautifully rendered game, and fun overall. I mean, it had BETTER be fun, having played it three times to earn the achievements for finishing it on easy, normal, and apocalyptic modes.

Be well, all, and DFTBA! =)

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