-Error reading from ESRB datastream-
Arguably the biggest change in Darksiders II is to be found simply through your main character. As you may know, in the first Darksiders you played as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Due to War’s actions at the ending of the last game, his reputation has become slightly worse in certain people’s minds and his brother (and fellow apocalyptic horseman) Death has come to restore that reputation. He’s never really one hundred percent sure how he’s going to do that but the when and how become apparent as the story goes on. While it’s similar to the first in spots and has a lot of dragging due to overly long dungeons, the narrative in Darksiders II is very strong. Mainly in part to great acting performances from the voice cast but also because of the well thought out and realized world you’re set in. I’m not quite sure how Vigil did it but they make you relate to a character named Death and ultimately even care for him.
Another thing that really sets up the world and the story is the absolutely incredible music composed by Jesper Kyd. Jesper Kyd is the brilliant artist that composed the music for Assassins Creed 2 and whiles it was rather good, he really outdone himself this time around. It all fits together so well and helps to establish a mood that directly corresponds with the current environment you’re in, be it an eerie or cheery mood.
As you can probably tell from his name, Death is different from War. War was more of a bruiting, chest out while my hammer is in your face guy. Death, on the other hand, provides a new variety in the combat as he is more of a dash around and slice you with my scythes kind of cat. Ultimately, this doesn’t make up much of an issue or a positive as you tend to play both characters the same once you start getting into more difficult combos. The speediness of Death is always at your disposal, it’s just not always useful.
Darksiders II is one ugly game. There’s no bones to be made about it and no excuses to be had. After seeing the PC version, it’s clearly the superior of the two as it doesn’t contain many of the issues prevalent in the Xbox 360 version. From screen tearing to the frame rate absolutely dying, Darksiders II tends to not even hide its unappealing visuals. While some of the environments do look rather nice and the character design is fantastic, the actual textures and technical aspects of Darksiders II are all just one big mess and it shows, repeatedly.
There’s one thing we all love as a collective society, and that is loot. Glorious, sweet loot. But the only thing better than loot is even more loot, and Darksiders 2 has just that. From nice shoulder pads, capes, boots, to swords, Darksiders has you covered. In typical loot style, all items are color coded representing their rarity and show off the stats of each weapon compared to yours when you highlight over it. There really isn’t much to say except for it’s loot and it achieves its purpose. It keeps you gnawing at the bit for more and more green arrows that tell you that the weapon you picked up is better than the one you have equipped.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the loot system is the acquisition of possessed weapons throughout the game. Attaining possessed weapons seems like a bit of a rarity as I only picked up one along the way but that one still lasted me for about one fourth the game. The reason for that is that you can literally feed your weapon other weapons and have it level up, then letting you select abilities to upgrade on your possessed weapon. It’s a really fun system and adds a nice knot in the bartering, leading you to have to choose between leveling up this already strong weapon even more or just taking 40,000 gold from a merchant.
Darksiders II suffers from something no game of this day and age should have, awful technical issues. Though no game should have it , particularly this severely, plenty of games do and Darksiders is no exception as the issues bring up such bugs as a switch not activating when I press B to use it, me falling into the environment, and many full game lock ups. There was even a situation where a button wouldn’t activate for me, I then had to restart to the last checkpoint and upon doing that and hitting the button, Darksiders locked up on me and forced me to restart it again. It’s a bit ridiculous THQ didn’t postpone Darksiders just for these technical issues to be worked out. While it isn’t a technical issue, it’s more of an issue with the UI, I even had a problem where I forgot how to assign skills to my quick menu, and since there’s no controls screen, I was forced to make an all new game (separate from my main game, not overwriting it) and go through the tutorial just to find out that I need to press down on the D-Pad. There’s no doubt this is a situational issue that many will not run into but it was a frustrating one to say the least.
One comparison that stays true throughout Darksiders II is the similarities between it and The Legend of Zelda. The most unsurprising of them all is that most of the game still takes place in a dungeon filled with levers and switches just waiting to be hit. I found myself getting tired of the dungeons in the original Darksiders, with the puzzles never really ramping up any kind of excitement from me and unfortunately, that issue rode over into Darksiders II. If there’s one perfect word to describe the dungeons in Darksiders II, it would be dragged. With the exception of one or two, every dungeon in Darksiders had lost my attention by the time I had put in half the two hours they require from you. I can only push so many buttons and switches before I just get bored, and then become irritated because I feel as if I’m making no progress. That no progress issue is elevated by the fact that a lot of the dungeon design is cluttered and utterly confusing, with the map providing little to no context on your current position and how exactly to get from A to B. In a game like this, this is something Vigil had to get right, and they just plain didn’t.
Speaking of getting right, an adventure game like this would not be complete without a deep, combo heavy combat system and Darksiders II has just that. The first few hours had my doubts arising however as it forces you through tedious combat that gives you little to no combos, making you hammer on the X and Y button multiple times with no real difficulty or worry in mind. I understand they’re teaching you and rolling you into the combos but after a few hours, I was ready to learn instead of practice. Alternatively, they made me go through a dungeon knowing no combos so that I could get money to pay for training. It makes sense, sure, but it’s a poor way to begin a game.
When the combos do begin rolling and you open up the glorious skill tree Darksiders II presents, the combat becomes an absolute blast. There are so many combos that there’s almost no way you can perform all of them in one play through, leaving more and more new combat abilities to be unlocked along the way and they never get old. The first few hours of combat may struggle to muster up a punch but the rest of the game knocks it out of the damn park.
Vigil Games has set out what seemed to be one of their main goals in the production of Darksiders II and that was give it its own image and not have to rely on comparisons to other games. They achieved that goal with flying colors but along the way they forgot to improve on key aspects like visuals and dungeon design. The visuals are a forgivable problem, but the dungeon issue is so prevalent throughout Darksiders II that it becomes a tad unbearable. If you enjoyed the first Darksiders and want more, then I have a game for you. But if you didn’t enjoy Darksiders as much as the next guy, it’s probably best to stay away from Darksiders II.
How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!