Review by SolidFantasy

"War begins with Death"

In early 2010 THQ published and released Darksiders by Vigil Games. The game took a combination of tried and true mechanics and fused them together in an attempt to create its own unique experience. Lifting heavily from the Legend of Zelda by featuring numerous dungeons, gadgets, and creative boss battles Darksiders was gaming bliss for anyone starved for a Zelda game. It separated itself though by containing a more complex and adult oriented combat system akin to God of War. At the end of the day Darksiders was certainly a game I enjoyed and anticipated a sequel for, especially after witnessing the cliffhanger ending. So here we are, roughly 1 and a half years later with the sequel and I must say my thoughts will be all over the place. Darksiders 2 is a game that definitely takes some logical steps forward but also takes numerous steps backwards in departments where Darksiders was terrific. I have no doubts that some of these technical flaws come from the company of THQ being in dire straits and having to push products out the door but you cannot release a product this buggy and expect people to ignore it in favor of where the game shines. Darksiders 2 has many great ideas but it all gets squandered by the rushed and laziness of the development process.

Story: Instead of reprising your role as War you will be helming the most well-known Horseman; Death. Throughout Darksiders 2, Death is on a quest to clear his brother War's name from the accusations of triggering the apocalypse on Earth. Right of the bat you have an interesting premise and great excuse playing as a different Horseman. There is one giant flaw though; the story for around 20 hours will never evolve past that. In fairness Death will travel to some pretty unique and exhilarating fantasy settings such as the usual Hell and Heaven, but also a Forge World containing the creators of the universe and a Netherworld featuring lost souls. The issue is that Vigil doesn't do anything interesting with it and instead focuses the entire game on fetch quests that will help clear War's innocence. Without delving into spoilers, what little events of noteworthy that take place either don't make sense or are simply stupid plot devices. Darksiders 2 also contains one of the worst endings I have seen this generation. It's truly hard to imagine someone not being disappointed with the abrupt and worthless ending this game offers. Let me put it this way; if you skip this game and buy Darksiders 3 you will have no problems understanding that game. I already have mentioned that numerous areas of the game feel uninspired and rushed but in this department Vigil didn't even try.

Gameplay: Realistically speaking , Darksiders didn't have a great story either (who seriously didn't predict 90% of that game) and was mostly seen as a sleeper hit due to its dungeon crawling gameplay that truthfully plagiarized Zelda to the core. If you want more of that goodness than you are in a decent amount of luck as Darksiders has around 12 new dungeons to explore now separated by 4 hubs you'll come across throughout the game. There is a minor disappointment though that will eventually become a reoccurring theme throughout this review. The dungeons and puzzles are simplified by a staggering amount. Even the more relaxed and average gamers will have no problem reaching the solution to the games many puzzles due to the more linear design of the actual dungeons. Yes, the dungeons in this game are blatantly designed so that you will follow a path, solve a puzzle, get a key, unlock a door, and continue through a few more strings of puzzles and combat. You will absolutely never have a feeling that you are missing something from a previous room as the solution to every puzzle is limited to the room you are in. It's also very disappointing that most Dungeons can be completed in around 30 minutes. That isn't to say everything is inherently bad though. There are a few stumpers and at the end of the day the gadgets you obtain are very unique thus making the puzzles feel very creative regardless of their difficulty.

Outside of the basic Hookshot ability appropriately titled Death Grip, you will obtain some very interesting abilities. Soul Splitter gives you the ability to freeze yourself in stone and create 2 souls of yourself. You will switch between them on the fly while holding switches and pulling levers with each. Some of the most satisfying and unique puzzles come from this ability and eventually become more complex when you obtain the Voidwalker (similar to the Portal gun and also present in Darksiders). All this stuff may not be obtained until deep in the game but is something to look forward to if you are finding the game too simple. The platforming of Darksiders 2 is easily one of its brightest aspects. Controlling almost identical to Prince of Persia 2008. Death will be wall-running, jumping between walls, flipping between poles, and more. It's probably the only aspect I can't really fault at all. Platforming serves as the perfect 3rd wheel between the puzzle solving and ass kicking.

Combat in Darksiders 2 is not only refined but almost entirely different. You have two weapons with Scythes always being your primary weapon. You will also have a secondary weapon that can range from axes to hammers but with few exceptions, they're usually a slower. They are mostly a more powerful weapon used for finishing combos. Darksiders 2 doesn't just have a traditional RPG equipment menu for weapons and attire but a full-fledged loot system. Enemas will drop loot with statistics being factored by the area you're currently traversing and your current level. Seeing a loot system in an action game like this is definitely refreshing but it just isn't well thought out here. Throughout the game you will find special weapons called Possessed Weapons that you actually can upgrade by sacrificing other weapons and gear to it. The statistical bonuses of the sacrificed equipment will play a part in what buffs your Possessed Weapon will inherit. Again, this is a very interesting concept but in the end I found a game that could either be unfairly challenging or completely broken in your favor. The last half of the game I was able to stomp through solely because I created a weapon that refills my health and Wrath frequently and has ridiculously high chances for critical hits. There are also Skill Trees in the game but at times I found myself dumbfounded at what to spend a point on as most of the skills are rather useless outside of a select few. In the end you have a game with extremely simplified combat but unfortunately it didn't stop there. Outside of 2 or 3 very impressive boss battles that force you to utilize your abilities and surroundings, most boss battles can be wrecked by simply mashing buttons. It's extremely disheartening because the boss battles in Darksiders felt unique and as if each one had its place and purpose. You don't get that feeling here sadly.

Your horse is nothing more than a glorified travel agent now outside of one major battle and that's also disappointing. Vigil hyped up the fact that there would be 4 huge hubs to explore and do sidequests in which is only half true. There are 4 worlds but the side content mostly consists of collectables and a slim amount of optional dungeons. There's also a Crucible Arena where you can fight 100 waves of enemas but I don't consider that anything substantial. I truly feel that the side content of the game was overhyped, especially when you realize that the 2 final worlds to explore are straight lines. The one positive is that there is fast travel and that does help immensely because the first 2 worlds are definitely pretty vast. They may not be vast on content but they are expansive areas. The only other thing I want to mention is the Earth segment. For some reason there is a 30 minute sequence focused on Earth that turns the game into a pseudo action-3rd Person Shooter hybrid. It is extremely boring and insultingly has a Dungeon Map despite being a straight line.

Finally, we have to talk about the absurd amount of game bugs. On 3 occasions I experienced temporarily game breaking glitches that forced me to reload my game. What's truly scary is that there are even more and considerably more harmful bugs out there. It's just more proof that a giant portion of the game was rushed and that the developers weren't as focused on the project. Overall, the game has interesting ideas but no execution whatsoever.

Audio/Graphics: The sound in this game is actually good featuring some very good voice acting. The soundtrack is composed by Jesper Kyd (Hitman, Assassins Creed) and it is as expected beautiful and a joy to listen to. Darksiders has a very odd and distinct artstyle from Joe Mad. Personally, I don't like it but that's not something I should fault. I can fault the excessive framerate drops, constant loading, and generally weak looking texture work. Darksiders 2 is actually below par graphically and a step backwards from the original.

Replayability: Darksiders 2 will last most people around 20 hours on a blind playthrough but the optional content will definitely double that number possibly. The game also features a New Game+ mode and Nightmare mode where the game ends when you die once. It may not be a great game but there is certainly a good amount of quantity here.

Pros

Fun abilities
Varied Dungeons
Thrilling platforming
Creative puzzles
Lots of content
Voice acting
Loot system is refreshing if flawed
Jesper Kyd's soundtrack

Cons

Horrible story
Game breaking bugs
Loading times
Framerate issues
Simplified puzzles and combat
Earth level
Skill Trees feel useless
Flawed mechanics
Poor textures
Mostly lame boss battles

Verdict: Darksiders 2 is a case where a game takes 2 step forwards and around 8 steps backwards. It is still a good game but in ways, the original game is actually superior. 7.2/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/27/12

Game Release: Darksiders II (Collector's Edition) (US, 08/14/12)


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