Review: Darksiders II
Darksiders II runs parallel to the events of the original but this time puts War’s brother, Death, in the hot seat.
Gerard Campbell | Thursday, August 23 2012
Product type: Action adventure game
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Test Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Vigil Games; Publisher: THQ
Darksiders 2 is a stronger and more ambitious game that the original.
The original Darksiders featured a hero called War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who, in the long-running battle between heaven and hell, was accused of jumping the gun in bringing about the End of Days.
Darksiders II runs parallel to the events of the original but this time puts War’s brother, Death, in the hot seat. Death, the most feared of the Four Horsemen, tries to find proof that War was a victim of conspiracy by the Charred Council, the group charged with maintaining peace between demons and angels.
To help in his quest, Death asks for the help of a Scottish-accented race called The Makers, amazon-like warriors who dwell in the Nether Realms that lies between Heaven and Hell.
This is a much bigger game than Darksiders, with a huge game world that often dwarfs Death as he bounds around. The opening levels, in fact, reminded me a lot of God of War 3. You know the bits where Kratos climbs up Gaia and is dwarfed by his surroundings? It’s like that here: an opening location has Death negotiating a huge frozen landscape, giant chunks of ice falling around him as he climbs.
To help navigate the terrain is Despair, Death’s mighty steed, who appears at the press of two buttons (on the Xbox 360 version it’s the two bumpers), green flame licking his equine limbs. Press the buttons again and he disintegrates in a wisp of green smoke, leaving Death leaping to confront what lies ahead.
The influence from other games is clear and as with the original, Darksiders II has echoes of Zelda in the way Death explores the game world, as well as the Prince of Persia series, in the way our hero wall runs and leaps from pillar to pillar. You could also even perhaps throw in some Devil May Cry into the mix.
While exploration is a given in games like this, combat comes to the fore here. Death is able to hand out fast and slow attacks, depending on his choice of weapon, which ranges from Death’s trademark scythes to axes, hammers and razor-sharp claws.
Darksiders II’s combat has a real RPG feel to it, too, with numbers popping above a foe’s head every time Death scores a successful blow, indicating how much damage he's inflicted. Death also has a skill tree where points can be allocated to a variety of abilities, ranging from calling forth minions which take the fight to an enemy to Death’s reaper form, which brings forth a giant skeletal form with a fearsome scythe.
Darksiders II also throws in platforming and simple puzzle solving, many of the puzzles involve pressure switches and glowing balls that must be rolled into depressions in the ground. Then there are the constructs: magic-infused creations formed by the Makers out of rock which Death can command.
As much fun as Darksiders II is, sometimes the dungeons seemed to go on forever and sometimes, just sometimes, I wished the end of level boss would turn up. It’s also a little jarring to have the game freeze mid-corridor while the rest of a level is loaded. I hit one glitch in the middle of a boss battle – thankfully not game breaking - where my lumbering opponent got stuck on a piece of scenery. That made defeating him and the minions he continued to spew forth all the easier.
I also want to mention the audio. Michael Wincott does an outstanding job as Death: his gravelly intonation is pitch-perfect. The soundtrack, too, is outstanding; composed by acclaimed video game composer Jesper Kyd (he also did the soundtracks on the Hitman, Borderlands and the Assassin’s Creed series). It’s a soundtrack full of haunting melodies and driving beats.
Darksiders II is a stronger and more ambitious game that the original, and that’s saying something: the original was great fun. While it doesn’t bring much new to the action game table, its brilliant while it lasts.
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