Darksiders II is funnily enough the sequel to Darksiders, a game that gave us its own portrayal of the Apocalypse arriving on our doorsteps. It surprised many, with its mixture of brutal combat, fantastic dungeons and superbly designed puzzles elevating it above the status of “just another God of War clone”. Does Darksiders II build upon the original’s foundation, or is it a massive disappointment? Read on to find out.
Game: Darksiders II
Developer: Vigil Games
There may be a few fuzzy heads out there who will have forgotten just where we stood at the end of Darksiders. After you begin your campaign there is a handy recap that fills you in with where we stand now, which goes a little something like this…
The conclusion of the Darksiders leaves us with our protagonist, War, in spot of bother with Heaven, Hell and The Charred Council. He is blamed for Riding to the Apocalypse before he was called and therefore upsetting the balance between Heaven, Hell and Humanity, to the point where Humanity itself has been wiped out. As a result, War is now in chains pleading his innocence before The Charred Council.
You take up the role of Death this time around to discover his place in this mess brought upon us all. Death is determined to clear his brothers name and immediately you set about tracing down the “Crowfather” for answers. Mess with one Horsemen and you mess with them all!
This little section is basically a tutorial for you to get to know the controls. After a mild Boss battle, Death rather forcefully convinces the “Crowfather” to reveal that the only slight hope for War, would be for Death to resurrect humanity. To do that Death must ride to the Tree of Life.
From here on the story flows nicely allowing you to immerse yourself with Death and the arduous task before him. Along the way there are twists and turns with little teasers thrown in to make you ponder what your other siblings may be doing (such as why a black smith seems to have one of Strife’s pistols in her possession). All in all the epic story created in Darksiders is brilliantly continued and just as epic.
Graphically, Darksiders II looks like Darksiders. It’s almost like they have just added a few minor tweaks, but that isn’t a bad thing. As soon as you step into the first world it will feel good to be back!
A vibrant colour scheme provide you with even the darkest dungeon being somewhere that you don’t mind being in. As water flows through to fill aqueducts that were previously blocked up, you get the sense of life being brought back. You will easily be forgiven for wanting to jump into some of the bright blue watered areas you find, not just with Death but with your very own physical form. A number of times I found myself having to get a glass of water because I wanted to drink the water in game!
It’s hard to fault graphically because it does a great job of providing a fantasy world any RPG fan would be happy to roam around in. Scenery… good, doom and gloom… good, mystic powers and animations… gooooooood!
At the end of a boss battle you are treated to Death turning into his Arcane form to dish out the fatal punishment which is truly awesome. It’s just a shame these scenes don’t last long enough!
Perhaps the one fault that springs to mind worthy of a points deduction, is that Death is apparently both very heavy and very dusty! Everywhere you go, small dust clouds come off the bottom of your feet with each step. Equally when you land after a jump, a huge dust cloud appears from beneath you and it goes up to your knees (almost like a fully grown Yellow Yoshi from Super Mario World on the SNES) . Yes it is a small point to pick on, it’s just simply that it annoyed me to see dust, even on a clearly polished marble surface. If you can ignore this (which to be fair isn’t the hardest thing to do) you will be happy enough especially when you start to kit out Death with some of the loot that you collect on your travels.
The noises that spring to mind the most have to be the sweeps of your scythes as you clash with each of the enemies or unlucky pots you pick on in search of money and health potions. Most prominently the notable sound of blades spinning is reminiscent of someone sharpening a knife… really fast!
While you are not in combat you may pick up on the music which at times feels slightly odd. It might just be me but while in the one area inhabited by a race called makers, who are essentially giant Scottish dwarves (that’s right, a giant dwarf) known as makers, I could have sworn there was some form of bagpipe mixed with the type of tune you would find in China… Ah, it’s a fantasy game so artistic license is in full force and for the most part you will find everything fits in nicely.
This would be the point in which critics may revert back to those old “it’s just God of War” comments. To them I say stop thieving my oxygen and silence yourself. Yes there are moments where you both Hack and along with that… Slash, but that is not what defines Darksiders II.
The combat is pretty straight forward in that your primary weapon is controlled with one button, secondary weapon with another and you attack with different combinations of the 2. You can use the left trigger to target one enemy or just point in the direction you wish to swing and go for it, but the latter is ill advised. That may not sound great but when you couple it with the timing of your special attacks and the need to evade, it is actually not bad at all and certainly keeps you on your toes!
Darksiders II requires thought in combat, just as it requires thought as you navigate your way around dungeons that constantly throw puzzles at you. It’s not enough to hack you way to a boss, you must figure out how to get the the boss (something any Legend of Zelda fan would be proud of) and then in some cases figure out how to beat them to. It’s not always enough to just hit them with your weapon of choice.
In the way that many feel Mass Effect dumbed itself down from a fantastic Sci-Fi RPG, to Mass Effect 2 which was more of a third person shooter (a good one, don’t get me wrong), Darksiders II has gone the other way, adding to the foundation in search of the old school RPG that has suffered with the emergence of games like Call of Duty and co.
As you progress, there is what feels like a plethora of loot for you to find. Be that from a sneaky chest hidden inside a dungeon or by battling through one of the many Side Quests before coming up against a humongous brute, who is solely intent on thwarting your effort to gain the item you seek.
With each and every piece of loot comes that internal debate over which stats you want to boost. Do you relinquish the ability to heal every time you score a critical hit for the ability to gain wrath (which is used to perform special moves/spells) instead? Do you lessen your strength for better defence? Do you sacrifice a strong weapon into another one to increase its level? What ever you do, it is entirely your choice and you can always find items that suit your style… you may just have to look in the right places.
On top of it all, Death is not just swinging his scythe into enemy after enemy. As you level up you earn skill points that you can put into new abilities. Each ability can be levelled up 3 times in order to make it stronger and you then need to choose how you prefer to fight. You can unlock crowd control attacks, big hitting attacks, healing attacks, or maybe you prefer to be hard to kill so you invest heavily in shielding. The journey may be the same as anyone else who buys Darksiders II but the way you go about it is entirely your own experience!
It’s this element that is one of the strongest points to Darksiders II. Whilst you control Death you create his class to the point where you can pretty much turn him into a hybrid of your favourite abilities… to a certain extent at least.
What can be said of the camera then? Well, it has one. Sadly, gameplay is let down in this area. Once again it isn’t a massive issue but when it causes you to fail in some way or another then it is frustrating. Most commonly you can find yourself getting trapped while you are riding on Despair your noble steed. This usually happens when you get over excited about mowing down an enemy from the comfort of your horse and therefore you over shoot, hit a wall and get stuck between that said wall and an inconvenient log. Dismounting solves the issues but you can sometimes find yourself pinned slightly. Especially if there are enemies attracted to your discomfort.
Riding seems to throw up the most camera issues but for the early stages you may find that you don’t feel the need for Despair, you may even occasionally forget that you have him until you get where your going.
This is not only because the distance roaming between two areas is only just long enough to warrant having a four legged friend, but the use of fast travel is both a gift and a curse. If you are hopping between places looking for items, or hunting down side quests then it’s brilliant however, it also encourages laziness. It’s options like this where you truly find out if you are the kind of gamer who wants leave no stone unturned or is happy to stick to main story lines only.
Without spoiling anything, hang in there because there is a point to having a Horse (after all you are the Pale Rider. One of 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse)! By and large the gameplay is solid. Of course there are issues, but what game doesn’t have them? Minus the odd occasion that might furrow your brow slightly Darksiders II may just cater to the needs of even the most picky gamer.
It is as simple as this. A regular play through sticking to main story lines will probably see you hitting the 20 hour mark. If you go on the hunt for all of the collectables and complete all of the side quests then you are looking at a game that contains something in the 40 hour region.
Oh but it doesn’t end there! After completing a specific event during the story, you receive an anonymous letter inviting you to a place called “The Crucible”. Accepting the invitation takes to an arena where you are challenged to defeat waves of enemies. There are 100 waves in total and in true wave based combat fashion, they get harder and harder. To give you the gist of it, you will probably gain access to the Crucible when you are around level 10. The first wave of enemies, although nothing you haven’t dispatched already, start at level 15.
Every 25 waves you are able to leave the crucible with a special item but if you accept the item offered at wave 25 for example, you will have to start again from wave 1 and make your way to wave 50 for the next item. I think it is safe to say there is longevity to be found in Darksiders II.
THQ and Vigil have done a great job at revitalising the action RPG genre. That isn’t to say that it is dead in anyway, but Darksiders II may just remind people that this type of game is out there. It has been made in such a way that if you’re not someone bothered by previous story line, then you don’t need to have played Darksiders to enjoy it. At the same time those who have played Darksiders will notice how familiarity can be concurrent with change and work well.
Darksiders has levelled up and Darksiders II comes with a whole host of new skills and abilities that you will want to explore. As this is the second journey of four horsemen to hit our consoles, it looks like we are heading in the right direction for the next instalment should it come. A purchase of this title will be a welcome addition to your collection. In fact, if you will excuse me, I’m off to play some more.