Darksiders II isn’t your traditional sequel; while it does share many characters and various gameplay elements with Vigil’s first Darksiders game, it is in fact a brand new adventure. Focused this time around on the Horseman Death, on a journey – set in the same timeframe as his brother War’s adventure in the first game – to destroy the mysterious Corruption, restore humankind and, ultimately, prove that War is innocent – that he wasn’t the cause of the Apocalypse.[boxout]It’s more of a sidequel, then, running parallel to the first game throughout most of Death’s journey. Death himself is much more agile than his brother War, with acrobatic moves similar to those in Prince of Persia – wall runs, vaults, jumps and many other manoeuvres help Death traverse the brand new locations in the game.
Despite his agility, Death is just as powerful – perhaps even more so when levelled up – than his brother. Armed with dual scythes, Death’s acrobatics are reflected with his speedy combat, which is genuinely fun, due to the amount of smooth, flowing combos you’re able to pull off with ease. It’s one of the few games out there that manages to emulate the rewarding combat of God of War.
Not only can Death wield his scythes, he can pick up a range of secondary weapons; both heavy, slower weapons (maces, axes, hammers and such) and lighter, faster items which include gauntlets, claws and armblades – all can be found and used.
These secondary weapons, along with gilt (the game’s currency), potions and various pieces of clothing and armour (which bring cosmetic changes with them) will be dropped by certain enemies upon death or can otherwise be found in chests. It’s much more RPG-like in this regard, with the focus on loot making for a more rewarding experience; killing enemies to find a weapon with better attack power and an elemental bonus, or pair of boots with higher defence adds a great dynamic to the game.
In fact, the whole game is much more of a role-playing experience than its predecessor, with health points appearing above enemies as you land an attack; a deep levelling system with two new skill trees and many other stats; sidequests involving the collection of items or even whole new dungeons or bosses; unique Mass Effect-esque dialogue choices; and even rare, possessed weapons which you can upgrade by sacrificing other items to level up. These are all welcome additions which make Darksiders II feel like a much grander and an even more intricate game than the first instalment in the series.
Temples in Darksiders II remain very Zelda inspired, with keys, dungeon maps and a final boss waiting for Death in each one. Unfortunately, none of the temples stand out too much – the level design is never quite up to The Legend of Zelda’s standards. There are some brilliant puzzles in these areas, involving riding Golems, controlling spirits and even the use of portals in later temples, however. Another great feature is Dust, Death’s crow, which will point Death in the right direction if he becomes lost; it can, at times, be inaccurate but provides a welcome help for some of the harder to navigate temples.
Level design, puzzles and general gameplay soon become tired however; there’s often too long a wait between the introductions of new mechanics, which can make the game drag and at times become quite dull, with the platforming becoming a chore and the temples being all too similar. It’s a very long game, which should be a good thing, but the poor pacing truly lets it down.
Outside of the temples lies a colossal world for Death to explore but this land feels extremely empty, whilst it’s littered with enemies here and there, there’s very little to do other than travel between temples – the game soon feels almost linear as you travel from point to point to progress further, using Death’s horse Despair as a means of travel.
Combat is the game’s saviour however, as new weapons and skills manage to keep it fresh throughout the entire adventure. Death’s magical skills, which can be assigned to a button, allow for devastating moves, such as Death taking his ghastly Reaper form to wreak havoc or calling upon a murder of crows to aid him in battle. These are all useful for fighting against a tough boss or a horde of enemies, making for varied combat depending on how you choose to use them.[drop2]Boss battles, too, are more hit than miss; there are some excellent bosses in Darksiders II. Though most of them feel rather straightforward, the game includes some unique, strategic battles and some awe-inspiring enemies and moments, with Death’s finishers in Reaper form being particular highlights.
Story-wise, Darksiders II doesn’t match up to its predecessor at all. The plot feels like it’s going nowhere at times and there’s nothing spectacular about it to keep your interest – we’ve seen it all before and it even manages to outstay its welcome, all the while feeling as though it’s not actually going anywhere.
Darksiders II is presented beautifully, however; the art-style is refined and a much better attempt at a unique, cel-shaded style. There’s a little recap when you load up the game, which is a nice touch, and the menu to game transition is wonderful.
The game’s sound design is on par, but it’s nothing to get excited about; sounds can often glitch and the sound of enemies, attacks, or even the music will disappear completely, though despite this the game is otherwise relatively bug free.
- Death is a great character to play as, with combat to die for.
- It’s presented very well and the art style is wonderful.
- Boss battles are often very fun.
- Loot, such as clothing and weapons, adds another, brilliant dynamic to the game.
- It’s a much grander adventure than the first game, with lots of additional things to do.
- Gameplay becomes tired and drawn out.
- The story soon wears thin, it’s really nothing special.
- For a game with such a large world, most of it feels wasted and empty.
- Poor pacing means that the game drags and becomes repetitious at points.
Whilst Death’s entry in the Darksiders series certainly has better gameplay mechanics and a better style than War’s, the story fails to make a mark and the game, for as big as it is, can soon become monotonous at points. It’s still a good game, though, with excellent RPG elements, flowing combat, some brilliant boss battles and lots to do post-completion. If you enjoyed the first game, then it’s definitely worth a look, just don’t expect to be blown away by level design or narrative.