Darksiders 2 Review

by Ben Salter Featured

11 Comments 25 Votes 3816 Views 15/08/2012 Back to Reviews

This is no place for a horse.

Darksiders II Got Right
  • + Clever puzzles
  • + Fantastic loot and skills system
  • + Awesome wall-scaling dungeon exploration
  • + Death is an entertaining protagonist
Darksiders II Got Wrong
  • - Aim and gun controls are dodgy
  • - Outdated graphics don't match art direction
  • - Triple the length means it becomes repetitive

Death is a total badass. But that was to be expected from such an imperative facet of life, humanised in witty horseman form. The new protagonist is just one of many reasons Vigil Games has improved upon what was already a solid, but under-appreciated, foundation.

Darksiders did a commendable job of drawing noticeable inspiration from Zelda’s dungeon exploration and God of War’s ultra violence and mashing them together against the odds. Darksiders II doesn’t shy away from the comparisons, but instead embraces them as it looks to craft yet another unique experience from familiar ideals, with a hefty dose of Prince of Persia. Death scales walls and traverses perilous ledges with apparent ease. There is some accidental jumping into a sea of nothingness to certain death, but after you come to grips with the controls and the need to aim before jumping, you’ll be negating harsh terrains Sands of Time style.

However, it’s by no means a clone. A wise man once told me imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Darksiders II is just that: flattering as a homage to the revered multi-million dollar franchises it draws inspiration from, whilst crafting its own unique adventure. If you’ve ever played any of the aforementioned juggernauts, you’ll feel at home with Darksiders II, but at no point does it slip into blatant copy territory. Solving a challenging puzzle after minutes of confused frustration comes with the nostalgic satisfaction of progressing in a famed Zelda game, and yet a deep analysis will uncover it’s nothing like the conundrums presented to the spiky-eared Link.

Death carries a gun, for one, and there’s lots of wall scaling. It just comes with the same sense of satisfaction and progress when the solution to a puzzle finally makes itself obvious.

Puzzles begin with fairly standard wall-scaling, hitting switches from afar and pulling levers, but soon enough you’ll be grappling around and even splitting into multiple entities.

Darksiders II takes the curious path of running a parallel story to Death’s brother, and fellow horseman, War’s troubles in the original Darksiders. Accused of causing the apocalypse, War was, or should I say is, on a mission to clear his name, whilst Death is doing all he can to acquit his brother from the allege misdemeanors. You by no means have to play the original game, but you’ll have a better time with the surprisingly complicated story if you’re up to date with War’s saga.

The angels versus demons theme is still very much alive, but this time it comes in the midst of a more diverse landscape, injected with much needed colour and inhabited with diverse enemies and allies formed out of necessity. We begin in an icy mountain that soon makes way for an ancient rainforest-esque dungeon, before deserts, creepy blackness and fire. Each area brings with it a new aesthetic appeal in a game world that is around three times the size of its predecessor, which also rings true for the pacing, clocking in at just over 20 hours.

The new map and its pushy fast travel system is both a blessing and a curse. While the overall game map is considerably bigger, outside of the dungeons and main areas there’s little but a baron landscape. You can run around collecting loot, but after being spoilt by the likes of Skyrim, following the active quest line is more enticing than exploring by horse. Within the first hour you’re introduced to the fast travel system, which allows you to return to any previously visited landmark instantly, including merchants to restock supplies from within a dungeon. As a side-effect, however, the bigger world is lost amidst the lure of teleporting everywhere, leaving less incentive to explore.

With that in mind, you’re being sent form A to be B to complete a task, not loiter throughout the journey; there’s no need to linger on horseback. Key locations are brimming with characters willing to help you for something in return. They’ll happily send you on a perilous quest -- Darksiders II is primarily a series of fetch quests -- and most are even up for a chat, should you give them the option, which Death will soon end with a burst of sarcastic wit.

Death’s adventure is a fairly standard action-dungeon-exploring affair. He is always equipped with a light and heavy but slow weapon that can be used in conjunction to execute some pretty nasty combos, especially when combined with one of the four special moves currently activated. Button-mashing works reasonably well, but only if you’re timing dodges and using special attacks at the opportune moment. He also carries a gun, but this is more prevalent as a solution to the testing puzzles that act as much needed respite between all of the mass murdering.

Darksiders II opens action-heavy, but settles down as you progress and get more involved in the puzzle and adventure elements. They begin with fairly standard wall-scaling, hitting switches from afar and pulling levers, but soon enough you’ll be grappling around and even splitting into multiple entities. Each is cleverly crafted and just that little bit more challenging than the last.

Killing enemies will earn you loot, which can be spent on items, weapons and upgrades. Weapons and items found in the course of play can be equipped immediately or sent to the easy to navigate inventory. It’s nice to be saved the hassle of having to go into the menu every time you want to equip a new item, but to also have the option to stash it away for later. The decision is made simple by an obvious green number representing improvement and red signally a decrease in ability.

Get the Adobe Flash Player to see this video.

That extends to the rudimentary RPG levelling system that implements a two-sided skill tree. With each level-up, comes a skill point that can be spent on warrior or spell-caster abilities. Once unlocked, special attacks can be mapped to a button of your choosing. These are restricted by the Wrath meter, which essentially acts as magic, and is drawn upon each time you activate a special ability, and replenished by killing bad guys or using a potion.

The only striking blemish in Darksiders II’s design is its awkward use of aim and gun control. You never have great control over the firearm, as this isn’t a shooter, but a few unfortunate moments play as if it is. These can be largely overlooked, but I can’t help but wonder if some of the puzzles could have been restructured so the gun could have been replaced by something more appropriate.

The voice acting for its comical wit and art direction deserve to be showered in praise, but unfortunately the latter is let down by disappointing textures that look as if they were ported from the Wii. The use of colours and general design is fantastic, but with some pixelated backgrounds and oddly basic effects keep it from looking as good as it should.

The Final Verdict

Darksiders II is the game we’ve desperately been awaiting to break the game drought of 2012. It’s clearly inspired by the likes of Zelda, God of War and Prince of Persia, but implements these foundations in its own unique and interesting way that’s just plain fun. The combat system is great, as is the new loot and level implementation that compliments some very clever puzzles. It does have a few minor issues, but in the grand scheme of things, and with a protagonist as inspiring as Death, it’s must play for fans of action-adventure puzzle games.

By Ben Salter

Version Tested: Xbox 360

Darksiders II

Platform: PS3 / Xbox / PC / WiiU
 
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Darksiders 2 Review Comments

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Is this the PS3 version being reviewed? Can you confirm the lower res textures are being used across the board? 360/PC.

Nice review though!

OllyEbbz said: Is this the PS3 version being reviewed? Can you confirm the lower res textures are being used across the board? 360/PC.
Nice review though!



I played 360 version. I assume it's the same on PS3. Unsure about PC.
PC is pretty much the same, didn't even give us a lot of video options.. I like it though doesnt look too bad :)

M@ndyz said: PC is pretty much the same, didn't even give us a lot of video options.. I like it though doesnt look too bad



That's because the art direction is really good. The idea is awesome, it's just not executed as well as you would expect. If you don't tend to notice texture or detail issues, you'll think it looks great.

Ben said:

M@ndyz said: PC is pretty much the same, didn't even give us a lot of video options.. I like it though doesnt look too bad


That's because the art direction is really good. The idea is awesome, it's just not executed as well as you would expect. If you don't tend to notice texture or detail issues, you'll think it looks great.



I hate lazy PC development, it'll bug me for sure. There's no reason for poor texture resolution. Even considering the size of this game if coded right even PS3 could have managed better quality.
Is it an improvement over the original though?
now THAT's what i call a real stinker. low effort as low effort can be. i wish people would ignore such productions that provide just the very same experience as its predecessor. they did not even bother to come up with an up-to-date gfx-engine. darksiders 1 was a very blunt zelda-clone. never liked the concept of zelda. not even with the brutality of a darksiders painted over it. i hope this title stays way below the greedy expectations of its lazy developpers.

OllyEbbz said:

Ben said:

M@ndyz said: PC is pretty much the same, didn't even give us a lot of video options.. I like it though doesnt look too bad


That's because the art direction is really good. The idea is awesome, it's just not executed as well as you would expect. If you don't tend to notice texture or detail issues, you'll think it looks great.


I hate lazy PC development, it'll bug me for sure. There's no reason for poor texture resolution. Even considering the size of this game if coded right even PS3 could have managed better quality.
Is it an improvement over the original though?



Yeah for sure.

It doesn't really detract from the gameplay too much. But I should mention I was playing Skyward Sword before this and that looks much worse (on a HD TV).
I'm really enjoying it so far bar a very few minor things, I can see it topping the first in terms of how much I enjoyed the experience, easily.

Except for Death's voice. Not feelin' it, not one bit.

Kerosanak said: I'm really enjoying it so far bar a very few minor things, I can see it topping the first in terms of how much I enjoyed the experience, easily.
Except for Death's voice. Not feelin' it, not one bit.



It wasn't the best, but I didn't mind it. I quite liked the things he said considering his character though. More interesting than War.
After picking it up on Sunday im glad i bought it from Eb games so i can take it back and get my money back. To me it is average at best with very out dated graphics. Playing it on the ps3 the game is not smooth at all. Yes the combat is fun but simple pressing square all the time is very repetitive.

If the game come out 4-5 yrs ago it would have been more impressive to me. But after all the games over the last few years this is way behind the times.
interesting. my friend likes it but feels death deserved a better story. the story is lacking in comparision to war and that he was a much better character overall. He does like the world so far though.

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