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Darksiders’ ending was amazing, and the sequels have never done it justice

Expectation is everything, and Darksiders left us with a doozy

Vigil Games/THQ Nordic
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

With the release of Darksiders 3, there are now three Darksiders games in the world. However, none of these games have advanced the story past the first, instead re-treading the same timeline for the other Horsemen — Death in Darksiders 2 and Fury in Darksiders 3. And while Darksiders’ sequels are fine games, it’s hard not to see disappointment in what they are from the very start. Not through any fault of their own, but because the ending of Darksiders promised so much more.

For those who don’t know, Darksiders is all about the biblical apocalypse — or the start of it at least. War, one of the Horseman, is prematurely sent to Earth to begin reining in the apocalypse, as six of the seven biblical seals of revelation have been broken. The Charred Council, three giant, flaming statue heads tasked with maintaining balance between Heaven and Hell, wrongly blames War for starting the apocalypse. The rest of the game is a Legend of Zelda-like romp through mid-apocalyptic Earth to clear your name.

As War discovers over the course of the game, the angel and leader of the Hellguard Abbadon broke the six seals early in an attempt to draw out and destroy the leaders of the demonic world — the seventh seal was left unbroken so as not to summon the four Horsemen. By the end of the game, Abbadon becomes the Destroyer, and aims to rule the Earth in the form of a giant dragon.

Things get pretty interesting after War kills Abbadon, the final boss in Darksiders. Uriel, the current angel in charge of the Hellguard kills War as part of an oath, and then breaks the seventh seal found on Abbadon’s corpse. When the seventh seal is broken, War is resurrected and aims to unleash the apocalypse in its truest form. But in the final clip of the game, we see three other fires representing the other Horseman — Death, Fury and Strife in this universe — fall to the earth as War states that he will not wage this war alone.

The ending of Darksiders is still something I hold dearly as one of the coolest game endings of all time. After an epic adventure through Heaven and Hell, the game promises that something even greater is still to come. At the time, this led to rampant discussion of a co-op adventure game designed by the Darksiders team — something that was eventually revealed to be in the works before the studio was shuttered alongside THQ.

At the time — way back in 2010 — I remember talking to friends (including Polygon’s own Austen Goslin) about how cool the sequel to Darksiders was going to be. But then Darksiders 2 came and went, another third-person single-player game. Now we have Darksiders 3, a slightly different take on the same thing we’ve seen since 2010.

It’s hard to look at these games — even as games that I’ve enjoyed — and not feel like they’re just biding time for something bigger and better. The end of Darksiders was ambitious and promised the world. It set up expectations of an entire universe that we’d get to explore not as a lone warrior, but in a squad of friends, as brothers and sisters of the apocalypse. No matter how good Darksiders 3 was, it was never going to live up to the original promise of Darksiders.

darksiders 2

Perhaps the greatest shame with this promise is how many different ways it could be fulfilled. Given how much the Darksiders series has borrowed from other action games, could we see a Borderlands-style Darksiders RPG, with lootable weapons and skill trees for each Horseman? What about just a top-down, Diablo-esque Darksiders sequel where all four of the Horsemen are classes that can be chosen? How about a game as a service Darksiders experience, where players could complete raids with friends on the apocalyptic Earth, claiming heaven and hell’s greatest treasures like in Destiny or World of Warcraft?

Perhaps the hardest — and most impressive — option would be to make a Zelda-esque game like the original Darksiders, with four player co-op. Solving puzzles around dungeons with friends or AI counterparts, taking down giant bosses as the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; it’s this particular Darksiders sequel I’ve spent years thinking about.

Developer Gunfire Games, founded by former Vigil Games staffers, is still relatively small. In order to get to a point where they could make the Darksiders game that I and a lot of fans want, the studio would need to grow considerably. And for that, it would need time and money.

Like the past eight years, the next few years ahead of us will be filled with more Darksiders questions than answers. But for now, every whisper of Darksiders co-op on the wind will still catch my attention. Eight years later and beyond, it makes no difference. Darksiders: Cooperative Apocalypse Busting with my Buds is still a game I want to play, and it’s a promise I still hope to someday see fulfilled.

The next level of puzzles.

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