Darksiders is an action-adventure game developed by Vigil Games, published by THQ, and released in January 2010 for the Xbox 360 and PS3. I think it's an underrated game, many people found fault with its insistence on stealing the gameplay styles and gimmicks of quite a few other games, most notably the Legend of Zelda. I'll be playing through the game with my good friend David, AKA GuardMomHeart.
This Darksiders LP will be a 1,000 gamer score run - effectively a 100% run of the game. We are also focusing on the canonical and apocryphal Christian imagery and allusions. That means we will try to give some context to the apocalyptic tale and its characters with such shocking points of reference as the Bible and other writings such as the Book of Enoch.
Fair warning: We spoil the identity of the last boss by looking at the Biblical sources for some of the characters. For this reason, the character bios for all of the major players will have spoiler boxes in them even though only a few are actual spoilers.
Let's play Darksiders! I'll be keeping track of which achievements are received in each video. Part 6 and on will take advantage of our new recording setup which has greatly reduced noise and provides higher quality in-game audio.
|Part 1: Introduction
|Part 2: The Apocalypse (1/2)
|Achievements: Open Air Parking
|Part 2: The Apocalypse (2/2)
|Part 3: Seraphim Hotel
|Achievements: Death Dealer
|Part 4: Vulgrim Soul Grinding
|Achievements: To Move A Mountain
|Part 5: Scalding Gallows
|Achievements: Prison Break, Chasm Jumper
|Part 6: Choking Grounds
|Part 7: Shadow Realm Challenge Rooms
|Achievements: High Flyer
|Part 8: The Broken Stair
|Achievements: Aerial Predator
|Part 9: Crossblade
|Achievements: Elemental Thief
|Part 10: Twilight Cathedral Second Half
|Part 11: Tiamat
|Achievements: Like A Bat Outta Hell, Don't Make Me Angry
|Part 12: Drowned Pass
|Achievements: Improvised Kills
|Part 13: Anvil's Ford
|Achievements: One Tough Cookie, Who's Counting?
|Part 14: The Hollows, First Half
|Achievements: Tremor Bringer
|Part 15: The Hollows, Second Half
|Achievements: Rocked Your Face Off, An Old Friend
|Part 16: The Dry Road
|Achievements: Time Lapse
|Part 17: The Ashlands
|Part 18: Ruin
|Achievements: Reunited, Treasure Hunter
|Part 19: The Stygian
|Achievements: Ashes to Ashes
|Part 20: Iron Canopy, First Half
|Achievements: River of Blood, Reach Out and Touch Somebody
|Part 21: Iron Canopy, Second Half
|Achievements: One Mean Mother
|Part 22: The Black Throne, Tower 1
|Achievements: Into the Void
|Part 23: The Black Throne, Tower 2
|Part 24: The Black Throne, Tower 3
|Part 25: Straga and Eden
|Achievements: Payback's A B****, Sight Beyond Sight, Legendary Form
|Part 26: Let's Play Test Darksiders
|Featuring: Glitches in the Ashlands and Choking Grounds
|Part 27: Let's Play Test Darksiders
|Featuring: Glitches in the Broken Stair and Crossroads
|Part 28: The Armageddon Blade
|Achievements: Wrath Machine, World Raider, Full Power,
|Part 29: Treasure Hunting, Experience Grinding, and Soul Farming
|Achievements: Horseman, Devastator, Battle Hardened,
Wrath of War, Dark Rider
|Part 30: The End
|Achievements: The Final Challenger?, BFA, The True Horseman,
Balance Restored, You Call This Easy?
War is our protagonist and one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He is summoned to Earth in the game's intro, thus prematurely initiating the end of humanity. He is voiced by the always entertaining Liam O'Brien, best known for his roles as "Grimoire Weiss" in NIER, "Sanctus" in Devil May Cry 4, and "Akihiko Sanada" in Persona 3. Having played most of those games very nier each other, I had a bit of O'Brien overload in early 2010. He is an agent of the Charred Council, an organization that supposedly holds the forces of Heaven and Hell in balance.
The idea for War comes from Revelations 6:3-4 -
"When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, Come! Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword."
War is unleashed after the opening of the second of seven seals during the end of the world in the Christian tradition. In this way, War's character fits the events of the plot quite nicely, he is a bulky dude with a huge sword that kills humanity (even if indirectly).
The Watcher is this game's Navi, i.e. a constant voice reminding you where to go and what to do. A constant antagonistic element that holds War's leash and tells him where to go. He is voiced by Mark Hamil, you know, the guy who starred in the universally loved space opera classic Wing Commander, also something called Star Wars and Batman. The Watcher doesn't have a specific analog in the Bible, i.e. there is no point where John, nearing death on Patmos, is told to visit a waypoint on the other side of the island to get his next vision. However, the idea of the good watchman can be found in Jeremiah 6:17 -
"I appointed watchmen over you and said, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet! But you said, We will not listen."
The last part is basically God saying "Hey, Listen!" and then the Israelites ignore him and calamity follows.
Abaddon is one of the leader's of Heaven's armies during the premature apocalypse. He is slain in the intro of the game due, in part, to War's negligence (who jumped the gun on the whole opening of the seven seals...or did he?). Abaddon does appear in the Bible and is also known by his Greek name, Apollyon. In Hebrew "Abaddon" and in Greek "Apollyon" both translate to Destroyer. He is also called the Angel of the Abyss and has his moment of glory in Revelations 9:7-11 -
"The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like womens hair, and their teeth were like lions teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer)."
I bet you didn't know that part of the Bible resembled a DnD Monster Manual.
Uriel is an Archangel fighting for the forces of Heaven alongside Abaddon. She has a strong resemblence to Storm from the X-Men (at least in my opinion). She is voiced by Moon Bloodgood (her real name, too!) most well knwon for playing the generic female role in the film "Terminator: Salvation". Uriel is an archangel in many Christian traditions including the Ethiopian Book of Enoch (AKA 1st Enoch) where he (gendered or genderless angels is a theological debate that continues) acts as Virgil to Enoch's Dante, here's an excerpt from Enoch 19 -
"And Uriel said to me: 'Here shall stand the angels who have connected themselves with women, and their spirits assuming many different forms are defiling mankind and shall lead them astray into sacrificing to demons as gods, (here shall they stand,) till the day of the great judgement in which they shall be judged till they are made an end of."
Uriel, thus, functions as an angel who watches over the punishment of the fallen angels who interbred with humans (yay, nephilim!) in the pre-flood Earth.
Vulgrim is a demonic shopkeeper. He trades collected souls for items, weapons, upgrades and new move sets. He is voiced by Phil LaMar who is best known as "Vamp" in the Metal Gear Solid series and was also an original cast member on MadTV. Vulgrim is an original demonic character without any particular prophetic corollary.
Samael is an imprisoned demon that War agrees to aid for information about entering the Destroyer's castle. He is voiced by Vernon Wells who hasn't done much videogame voice work, but played Wez in the film "The Road Warrior". Samael is sometimes identified as an angel, sometimes a demon depending on whether you're looking at Jewish Mysticism or Gnosticism. This is not an area of my expertise, but I will say that his name can be translated as "the poison of God" and he played a pivotal role in the first and third Silent Hill games.
The Tormented Gates are large stone creatures that belong to the same faction as War and the Charred Council. They are considered Old Ones. They were chained up and forced into servitude as doors. This is convenient considering they have door-shaped arms. The Tormented Gates have a lot in common with golems, which are supernaturally animated homonculi in Jewish folklore. Golems are human-shaped sculptures made out of rock or clay that are inscribed with the Hebrew word emet which means "Truth". The golem then becomes the T-800 and carries out its orders literally and soullessly. Traditionally, the best way to kill a golem is to remove the 'e' (an aleph in the Hebrew alphabet, a symbol that fans of the game Braid might recognize) from emet which gives you the Hebrew word met which translates to "death". The word 'golem' (translated into English as unformed body) does appear in the Bible in Psalms 139:16 even if the creature itself does not -
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Tiamat is the first of the Four Guardians that War has to fight in Darksiders. She is the first major boss and widely considered the toughest just because of the lack of health and weapons War has at the end of the Twilight Cathedral. Traditionally, Tiamat is interpreted as a multi-headed dragon rather than a bat, but in truth even this common description isn't all together accurate.
Tiamat is one of the primordial gods of Babylon. She represents the sea and is said to have birthed a great number of creatures including dragons as well as scorpion men and mer-people. The account of her creation of a monstrous army is found in lines 113-124 of the first of Seven Tablets of Creation that make up the Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish -
Ummu-Hubur [Tiamat] who formed all things,
Made in addition weapons invincible; she spawned monster-serpents,
Sharp of tooth, and merciless of fang;
With poison, instead of blood, she filled their bodies.
Fierce monster-vipers she clothed with terror,
With splendor she decked them, she made them of lofty stature.
Whoever beheld them, terror overcame him,
Their bodies reared up and none could withstand their attack.
She set up vipers and dragons, and the monster Lahamu,
And hurricanes, and raging hounds, and scorpion-men,
And mighty tempests, and fish-men, and rams;
They bore cruel weapons, without fear of the fight.
Tiamat's modern interpretation as a dragon comes from two major sources that I can find. The first is the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition Monster Manual (1977!), where she is described as the queen of evil dragonkind. The second source, and the first where I heard the name, was that the Elemental of Air from the first Final Fantasy game was named Tiamat. As a trivial aside, the cover monster for the Manual of the Planes (1987), an Ethereal Dreadnought, was the direct inspiration for Doom's Cacodemon.
Ulthane is an Old One much like War and the Council. This means he is effectively neutral to the struggles between Heaven and Hell's forces. He is a huge Gaelic berserker mixed with Thor, due in no small part to the massive hammer he wields. He lives in Anvil's Ford and is a well regarded smith (naturally). Ulthane is an original creation for Darksiders, but with a little etymological conjecture we can make some assumptions.
His name breaks down into two syllables, Ul-thane. The second part seems obvious enough. A thane is a Scottish lord, much like a Count, who is the ruler and administrator of an area of land. The first part syllable of his name, Ul, is a little harder to pin down, but I have my theories. The less likely one is that it is short for ultimate, but since ultimate is ultimately (word jokes are funny) Latin in origin I tend to favor theory number two.
Taking into account Ulthane's design as a sort of Gaelic superhero, I'd bet the Ul part of his name is in reference to the Ulster cycle of Irish mythology. The Ulster cycle is a series of heroic tales and legends wherein the most famous character is probably good ol' Cú Chulainn.
The Stygian is one of the Four Guardians, the third one that War crosses paths with, in fact. Unlike Tiamat, The Stygian does not seem to have any meaningful intelligence or, at the very least, it can't speak. The Stygian, being a huge sand worm, owes a lot of its design cues to the Shai-Hulud (Sand Worms) from Frank Herbert's Dune. All sand worms are pretty much descended conceptually from Dune, though. Some that come to mind include the Sarlacc from Star Wars, and the Sand Worms from pretty much every Final Fantasy game since the first.
The Stygian's name is actually an adjective form of the Greek Styx (river in the Underworld). It is also the name of the country in Robert E. Howard's Hyborian mythology (Conan the Barbarian), where the snake worshipers of Set exist. Given the stylistic leanings of Joe Madureira, this is most likely the reference being made.
Azrael is the angel of Death in Islamic and some Hebrew traditions. He serves the same role here in Darksiders. Technically, Azrael is not named as such in the Qur'an and is instead named Malak al-Maut, which means "angel of death" (at least according to the Wikipedia entry). The following exchange comes from Surah 32:11 -
YUSUFALI: Say: "The Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls: then shall ye be brought back to your Lord."
Azrael's name translates to "Whom God Helps". In fact, as an aside, the "el" ending in angelic names comes from the Hebrew characters "aleph" and "lamedh", which when used together mean "of God". This includes Michael (Who is Like God?), Raphael (God Heals), Uriel (God is My Light), and even Samael (The Poison of God).
Lilith does not appear in this game, at least not on-screen. She is most likely the one pulling the strings behind Abaddon's transformation into the Destroyer. She gives him the option to serve in Heaven or rule in Hell. Of course, Abaddon's decision to turn makes no sense since it was his pride concerning the superiority of Heaven's forces that led him there in the first place, but I digress. For the sake of the game's mythology, the Destroyer is probably a ceremonial title given to Hell's champion, rather than its outright ruler since Satan does not make an appearance either. This was probably intentional in order to avoid some of the cultural baggage that he carries around, though.
Lilith was Adam's first wife in Jewish folklore and later mated with Samael after refusing to be subservient to Adam. So, there's a good chance this relationship exists in the Darksiders universe as well (Lilith does appear in a Darksiders comic alongside Samael, though she appears as a demon rather than human). Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Kohen's 12th century A Treatise on the Left Emanation has this to say concerning Lilith -
Lilith is also one of the creatures closely associated with the Qliphotic emanation of Gamaliel ("The Polluted of God") in Kabbalistic Mysticism. This leads me to one of the main reasons I wanted to start this thread in the first place. I GET TO USE THE WORD SEPHIROTH PROPERLY IN A SENTENCE! Gamaliel is the qliphotic corollary to the sephiroth Yesod, which is associated with sexual organs. The reason being that sex is the process which most directly connects the spiritual and material realms because it brings new souls to corporeal existence. Consequently, this makes Lilith the figure that represents the mother of demons as the most direct corruption of the divine emanation of Yesod.
A form destined for Samael stirs up enmity and jealousy between the heavenly delegation and the forces of the supernal army. This form is Lilith, and she is in the image of a feminine form. Samael takes on the form of Adam and Lilith the form of Eve.