Darksiders II Review

Note: I re-reviewed this game in 2014. Please disregard this original review.

Yes, I did not like Darksiders.  And yes, I bought Darksiders II on day one.  That might seem very stupid, and it pretty much is, but THQ is currently in the gutter for now, and I do not have much against them, since I enjoyed the Saints Row series more than I probably should have.  And I could go on about pricing models and how most games that are AA status, since that is what Darksiders is, and probably always will be, should be no more than $50, but you’re here to see if I think the game is better than the predecessor.

Darksiders II Review
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC
Release Date: 14/8/2012
Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: THQ

This sequel takes the less traditional route, by setting us back during the 100 years between the prologue of the first title, and the main game.  But the main character from the past game, War, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, is technically in the game, but they probably didn’t record any new dialog.  Instead, we step into the boots of his mildly cocky brother Death, who is trying to prove that it wasn’t War’s fault that humanity was destroyed, but is really just trying to revive humans in hope of undoing the damage.  But there is also a dark past involving Death and his species’ past, which obviously leads to one of the ones he thought to be dead, to come back as a baddie.  

Then there is a corruption spreading through the universe, planets entering their autumn phase before they die, these things called Makers, who might be gods with scottish accents, but might just be people who make giant stone creatures.  If you couldn’t tell, the plot is sorta all over the place, and could really use a codex.  If you go to the trouble to highlight terms in the subtitles, you could give us a proper definition.  I do actually find the characters and worlds to be interesting though, but there is a good reason to have the main character either narrate what is going on, or have them be completely new to this world.

Whatever, you are a muscled guy with bluish skin, long static hair, and a skull mask that you take off, but never show your face.  You have a horse that you rarely use, but can summon at will.  A crow that guides you, but I always forget exists, and dual scythes to mess up some dudes, and make them bleed numbers.  After a tutorial at an ice dungeon, you are sent to find the tree of life, and go through many errands, which send you across four realms, well more like  two and to half realms.  

Now, I think my biggest problem with Darksiders was that you were in no more than 8 connected square miles Earth for 95% of the game.  However, it had massive volcanic structures, labyrinth-like temples, suspiciously well constructed nature environments, a desert, and the ruins of… New York?  I know what Earth looks like and I can accept it being in ruin, but who the hell bult a volcanic temple?  And I get that you are in a city, but there is just too much grey!  Here, there is a lot of stones and still a lot of grey, but they feel more like ancient lost cities, not just more modern buildings that were totally devoid of life.  And because I am not just turned off by the very illustrated looking characters being in what the intro tries to push as the real Earth, I can appreciate it a lot more.  Oh, and when I did go to the grey Earth in this game, the atmosphere was good enough for me to forgive it, and the bean bag gun feels wonderful, but the roaming blue things are way too powerful.

I can complain about the overuse of a certain shade of green that is used for the majority of enemies in the Kingdom of the Dead, and the red goat man who is there with glowing crystals, which gives me the impression that he, a merchant, wants to get robbed.  But I think that most of the enemies have a certain charm to them, and the giant scotsmen don’t look nearly as out of place this time around.  While War was very over designed, with a lot of random gear all over his body with little reason, Death’s look is customizable, and you can select from a more magical cloth or heavy armor look for him, but he never looks like he has too much going for him.  And while the look is not for everyone, I feel that kudos must be given for the very smooth animation in this game, and for at least looking distinct.

Moving to the actual gameplay, I’d say that is is like a far more looser version of the original, but by that I mean that dodging is actually possible.  When I play any game, I tend to always prefer a dodge than a counter, because it is harder to mess up a dodge than a counter attack.  But Darksiders had you control a character who fought like a brick, but Death feels more like a mix between War and… I guess Bayonetta, minus the sexually intimidating aspects.  He dodges throughout the world, landing quick blows that gradually lower the enemy’s health, and absorbing it back to yourself.  Yes, the stupid chest of health method is gone with the multiple health bars that do not understand the concept of defense.  You just have one, you level up, get new equipment with four armors, two weapons, which no longer have to be used for level ups, and an accessory.  

It is pretty standard stuff, but I feel like I am the one in charge of combat, and that I am not begging the game for health, since you are now in charge of bringing your own health.  By breaking crates and vases, you can find gold to be used to buy equipment, and maybe some combos, or you can find potions.  You can only carry 5 of them, to prevent you from being careless, but you can die with no negative repercussions, unless you chose the permadeath mode, you madman.  Well, there is a death counter that shows how many times you fell in combat and fell into a pit, which is not dying, since I fell more often due to the climbing controls being wonky than anything else.

Yes, the controls, the combat, the camera, the level design, are all good and kept fairly simple, but about 1-2% of the time, they go bonkers on me.  I accidentally used a potion by pressing the left D-pad button in my attempt to use the inventory, which is the down button, not the up button, a good 10 times.  I quickly found another one, but I get peeved when a potion for about 1,000 HP is used to heal 200 that I would have gotten by sending crows to eat some corrupted angels. 

Combat is fun for the most part, utilizing three main weapon types, scythes, fat gauntlet-like things, and slow heavy things on sticks.  Developing abilities on a skill tree, but I only use about two, the dash and the raven swarm, which are far more useful than the ones in Darksiders and you have no reason not to use them, since you get skill points for them, and nothing else.  I adopted the style of dodging, shoot with the same pistol that was useless in the first game, and then using one of my abilities on an enemy, rinse and repeat.  Oh, and dodging and using a scythe, that messes everything up.  But once I got items that gained health when I got a critical hits, and I had a 21% chance of getting a crit, the combat officially became a walk in the park.  

But back to something that I really disliked about Darksiders, the utilization of other people’s ideas.  The wall running is still Prince of Persia, but it feels more natural, since Death’s a lot less bulky than his brother.  Although, I got caught accidentally going up when I was suppose to go to the side, a bit too often.  The clawshot has been replaced with the Deathgrip, a giant hand that brings enemies to you, or vice versa, and can let you swing from purple orbs.  I actually loved using this in combat, since it pretty much crippled any smaller foes and made them powerless when I used my gauntlets.  The Portal gun returns, and it is just as shameless.  It does get a new feature, but it is in the final dungeon.  And then you have a weapons that can summon ghosts and have them press pressure plates, but that is replaced by an item that turns Death into a immovable statue, and summons two ghostly versions of him.  Yeah, that actually has a few neat puzzles.  

And yes, I could complain about Death, the controller of life as we know it, pushing a ball into a socket, but just having combat would be the definition of one note.  But the puzzles are still of good quality, and they don’t get super repetitive throughout the 18 or so dungeons.  Yeah, there’s about 18 smaller dungeons in this game, as opposed to the 4 massive temples in Darksiders.  Oh, and the super move is still pretty pointless, since it only lasts 15 seconds and takes a bit too long to charge up again.  I get empowerment, but Death is not recognizable in his super form, so it creates a feeling similar to the super guide.

As a whole, there is a lot to like about Darksiders II.  The characters are interesting and wonderfully voiced.  The gameplay is frantic and fun, with enough variety in the 40 hours I spent on it.  The world is unique and imaginative.  The soundtrack had a very nice sense of scope.  And the RPG mechanics added only added to the experience.  The story can be jumbled, the collectables can be a pain to get, and there are times when I get peeved at the camera, but those are just minor bits that only happen 5% or less during my time with the game, as opposed to the first game, which had them happen about 25% of the time.  Darksiders II will not set your world on fire, but it is a well designed and fun game that manages to stay unique despite borrowing from countless other IPs.

An impressive product, won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws, but is very enjoyable and worth a purchase.

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