Darksiders II Review (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
The original Darksiders remains a solid action adventure game that lives dearly in the hearts of those who embraced it for what it was, rather than pointing out the flaws and similarity in design to other, more popular games. With those shoes to fill, Darksiders II steps up in almost every way to reinvigorate the franchise while staying true to the original.
Darksiders II tells the tale of Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as he fights to prove the innocence of his fellow horseman War who is currently being held accountable, imprisoned by the Charred Council, for his part in unleashing the Apocalypse at the beginning of the first game.
Death’s quest – quite bizarrely – leads him down a path where his only option is to restore humanity that is now lost to the constant war that rages between Heaven and Hell. Death’s journey takes him far to new lands and introduces different races along the path in a story full of secrets, twists and a few turns that are hard to see coming. The strength in the story is driven through excellent voice work and a devotion to a mythological groundwork laid in the first game.
At its heart Darksiders II is an action adventure game that draws from some of the greatest franchises over the years and combines them into something darker and more mature; while this still runs deep within the heart of the game one can’t help but feel some of that depth has been sacrificed to build a narrative that would appeal to all, rather than only reaching a niche audience like the first game did.
During your adventure as Death, you’ll uncover hidden truths and drive through the darkest of lands. The game’s main driving force is through the use of Dungeons, which are filled with perilous traps and puzzles for you to solve and aids in the game deftly towing the line between keeping players moving but not tiring them out from the elongated and often all too button-mashing combat sequences.
Death feels like a breath of fresh air as he glides across the landscape. The fluidity of his movement, and the ease with which he climbs and maneuvers in combat, offers players more freedom than in the the previous game. Death actually feels all powerful and, even in his weakened state at the opening of the game, you feel the true power behind him is a few hours away and only a couple of unlocks from unleashing.
The upgrade path offers differing powers to be unlocked as you level up and the ease with which you can pay to completely rebuild your characters’ skill tree offers little consequence to making the wrong decision or changing your mind throughout the game. Players will have different ideas on how to play the game and Darksiders II fully embraces this ethos by allowing a freedom to choose your perfect style.
Perhaps the most infuriating thing about Darksiders II is the lack of tutorialising that happens throughout the game. New players are thrown in at the deep end and left splashing around in deeper waters than they could possibly manage. While the game offers light advice it felt like these notes were more directed at players familiar with an action-adventure or puzzle game, and not something a complete new player would find all that helpful.
Although you are given a crow as a guide to call on should you get lost in a dungeon or begin to wonder where your next objective is, it isn’t all that helpful. Usually it flies around in circles for a minute before giving you some response that you’ll find annoying rather than helpful. Although this won’t be detrimental to all players, people new to the genre should go in forewarned and be prepared for a steep learning curve.
The weapons and armour system works extremely well with simple onscreen instructions telling you how the dropped piece of armour compares to the current one you’re wearing and, just to ensure it is completely clear, differing rarity is coloured slightly different so you can instantly tell if you want to keep or drop/sell that particular piece.
While this task can become arduous over time, and the game provides no Sell-All functionality, it takes up such a small amount of the actual game that it doesn’t become a problem until you’re hours in and constantly going back to sell things mid-dungeon before heading out to fill up your inventory once again.
The currency in the game is Gilt and is driven, mainly, from two different sides. Firstly you’ll receive Gilt at the end of a quest but, perhaps even more important, you will loot Gilt from dead corpses at the end of combat. Loot is perhaps the biggest addition from the last game and provides players with a simplistic system of trade that allows them to push for new armour pieces and weapons for Death to use to prepare him for his upcoming slaughter. Due to the sheer amount of loot and Gilt that is dropped during the game the currency mechanic becomes largely useless as you will be hoarding massive amounts before you actually need to spend any.
Unfortunately the game hangs on a number of occasions, due to its need to try and be as seamless as possible with its loads. This tends not to be a problem if you’re on horseback or generally rambling around doing very little, but if it hangs in combat or leading to a cutscene then a reload is in order to bring things back into line.
There was a game-breaking bug (during Sean’s playthrough – .Ed) which was solved by a quick console reset ; one of these being during a Boss fight, where the boss just wouldn’t die. Overall, for something so large the game performs admirably throughout. You’ll notice minor hitches in the scenery where Death simply won’t step over that broken path of where he’ll suddenly fall from a ledge he is trying to climb but the generous auto-save system means you’re not going back too far which often allays any anger.
Darksiders II is an absolute contrast from its predecessor both visually and in execution; while the first fell short, but was lauded for its effort, the team who built Darksiders II have completely stepped up their game and have built a vibrant world with a driven and directed story that will keep players enthralled throughout, which covers any minor blemishes in the level design or frame rate.
Although Darksiders II has a tendency to infuriate you while it hides away the last puzzle piece, the elation you feel upon discovering where you went wrong is beyond comparison and the sweet charm that play rewards you for your every effort. Still derivative, and still not perfect, Darksiders II shouldn’t be penalised for its flaws but more celebrated for bringing those elements together in a tight package that, like the first in the franchise, will hold its appeal for years to come.Darksiders II Review (Xbox 360/PS3/PC),