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Darksiders II Review

Darksiders 2In the game industry, it’s an abnormality for an untested development team to deliver an inaugural hit, and an irrefutable miracle if they are able to sustain that success. As Realtime Worlds demonstrated with 2007’s Crackdown and Team Bondi with 2011’s L.A. Noire, even a marvelous maiden title is no guarantee for future fruition; both studios proved unable to replicate their initial accomplishments and were subsequently forced to close down. With Darksiders II, the team at Vigil Games has put themselves on a trajectory poised to defeat the sophomore slump.

Whereas many development houses reference brainstorming sessions where groups convene to analyze a game’s strengths and weaknesses for an projected sequel, all too often the result is a collection of minor tweaks and negligible embellishments which serve as little more than back-of-the box bullet points. Although Darksiders II replicates some of broadest design decisions of its predecessor, it’s obvious that the team at Vigil decided to give the sequel the type of comprehensive and conscientious overhaul that occurs with shameful infrequency. Renovating components ranging from combat, environmental navigation, while adding in additional role-playing elements and even a loot system, Darksiders II offers an exemplar of how follow-ups should be fashioned.

Darksiders 2Credit the game’s team of writers with forgoing the temptation to offer a sequential continuation that merely apes the narrative arc of the first game. Instead, Darksiders II is set concurrently, as War- one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, is charged with instigating Armageddon. Knowing these accusations are fabricated, his brother Death sets out to both reverse the damage to humanity and more importantly, find evidence to exonerate his sibling. Smartly, the developer’s resisted the urge to depict Death as a one-dimensional, horse-riding avenger. Crafted upon an absorbing dichotomy, Death can be both savage and aloof, other times exhibiting acerbic wit. Undoubtedly, Michael Wincott (Alien Resurrection, Seraphim Falls) deserves credit for his assistance in the characterization, adding enough nuance to maintain the anti-hero’s appeal through the game’s 25+ hour expedition.

Death’s effectual agility and augmented arsenal is the other element that is likely to engross gamers. Generally, he moves with a litheness unseen by his indicted brother, whizzing around low-level enemies, while delivering velvety chains of rancorous violence. Beyond his weapon de rigueur- a pair of flesh cleaving scythes, Death also has access to a gratifying inventory to secondary arms, such as axes, hammers, glaives, maces and claws, supplementing his repertoire of combos even further. For the majority of Darksiders II’s playtime, combat remaining both compelling and substantial, only undermined by the appearance of swarms of combo-breaking foes during the title’s closing hours.

Darksiders 2Satisfyingly, battles bestow a great deal of dividends- including experience points, dropped loot, and currency. Gaining levels allow players to cultivate two separate skill trees- The Harbinger, which allows basic combat skills to be augmented, and the Necromancer, which presents the ability to bolster Death’s defensive power and even summon minions to assist in battle. While Darksiders II’s trees and robust  menus are a bit laggy, they do shroud a myriad of methods to customize Death. Prudently, the game allows you to re-spec your abilities and try alternative approaches to handling conflict.

Complementing combat is the title’s well-groomed loot system, which incentivizes plunder at a proper level and rate and also makes item management a relatively hassle-free task. Beyond the archetypal stat-boosting armor and weapon pick-ups, players will find a large number of specialized enhancements to improve Death’s chance for criticals, amplify his experience growth, or even improve his probability of uncovering rare items. Cleverly, the title doesn’t require gamers to pause the action. Each unearthed piece of gear opens a small window disclosing any statistical boost and allowing Death to instantly equip the item with a single button press. Even junk items are handled proficiently, instead of obliging the dark horseman to pawn the goods at a local merchant, he can feed the items to ‘possessed’ weapons, supplementing specific attributes.

Darksiders 2Darksiders II visual virtues are evident through Death’s excursion. Save for a bit of screen tearing and the infrequent framerate blemish when the on-screen action gets too busy, the game is a consistent graphical tour de force. Each of the title’s four vibrantly-colored realms are striking, juxtaposing wide-open landscapes with taut dungeons, each location offering a remarkable amount of architectural detail. Unlike the often sterile, premeditated pastures of Hyrule, the game’s articulation of scope and scale help construct an environment which feels naturalistic, elevating the sense of exploration. Harmonizing with the graphical opulence is Jasper Kyd’s score which smartly shirks the stereotypical orchestral swells of dark fantasy to underscore the title’s gradations.

Despite the game’s numerous merits, there are fleeting elements which detract from the title’s ambition. Quests which task gamers which gathering a quantity of items feels like padding, when contrasted with the game’s other, more interesting errands and puzzles. Boss battles are often pedestrian, entailing the same mechanics used to defeat the game’s prosaic underlings. Considering the game’s ambitions, the sporadic graphical glitch is comprehensible, but bugs which prompt a hard-reset are a bit more unjust. Throughout 30 hour with the game, this happened four times.

Darksiders 2Considering games are set in virtual realms, sequels can be unnecessarily ecological- salvaging, recycling and reusing the prevailing components of their predecessors. Darksiders II is the atypical follow-up offering an extensive redesign; whole systems have been renovated while new mechanics have been added. In the hands of most development teams, this could be an expensive, potentially disastrous undertaking. Yet, Vigil Games was succeeded triumphantly, an essential purchase for action game fans.

 Darksiders II was reviewed on the Xbox 360, with review code provided by THQ.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert ‘DesertEagle’ Allen is Tech-Gaming’s resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

26 comments

  1. Good review. What took you so long to get the write-up out, tho?

    I rented it and realized I like it enough to pay $40, so I’m waiting for a price drop. Hopefully, I can hold out.

  2. When I heard this had loot I thought it wouldn’t work. I was pretty sure than THQ couldn’t pull it off.

    Got any salt I can borrow, this hat is pretty bland.

    10 hours in and loving it. Only had one crash and I didn’t lose too much progress.

  3. What ever happen to your crazy titles, Des? I was hoping for Death Note reference or something! XD

    Still great review.

  4. Any having a B1GO sale soon? I wouldn’t mind getting this and Transformers.

  5. Honestly, I heard it felt like a bad mashup of Zelda, God of War, and Prince of Persia. That doesn’t sound good at all.

    • If you talking about the IGN, it’s total BS. Aubrey Drake wouldn’t know a good game if it turned around, spanked her , and made her call it “papa”.

      Seriously, look at the reader comments and other reviews. DS2 is a very good game, like this review said.

      • She lost me when she said Darksiders 2 was “most derivative game ever made”

        She’s never heard of Dante’s Inferno or 3D Dot Heroes I guess.

  6. “Considering games are set in virtual realms, sequels can be unnecessarily ecological- salvaging, recycling and reusing the prevailing components of their predecessors.”

    You must be really limber because its obvious you like sucking yourself off instead of writing reviews for regular people to read.

    • If you hate the reviews, hate the site, hate everything why do you come read them, quote them, and post? It’s really makes you look like your jealous.

    • Actually I thought that was really cool. It’s true EAs sports games recycle so much year after year that they should win a green award.

    • It’s called metaphor, baby. If you stayed in school longer they might have got around it to you.

  7. Trollers, huh?

    I’ll hand it to THQ, they deserve success for putting this game out in the middle of August. I just HATE than during the summer there’s no AAA games then for September, October and November there’s more than I could ever afford.

    I guess it does work out well becuase I get some good deals in January and February. Last year I got Rayman Origins for $20 a month after release.

  8. From what Ive seen, DS2 is at the top of my gotta play list. I really like Death and Jasper Kyd always delivers.

  9. I bought this last week and really haven’t had too much time to play 🙁

    But from what I saw I really liked. No crashes here.

  10. So what if it borrows from other games. Games have been doing that since Pong.

    I think Zelda is a good point of reference, but the first game was so much more than just a clone.

  11. Yeah, the story is pretty kick ass. The only thing you didn’t mention was new game+ and the challenge rooms where you can get more loot.

  12. Great review. You must be either Canadian or British. 😉

  13. A contest for this would be great, since after reading the review I don’t think I can live without it.

  14. Any difference between the 360 and PS3 versions? I want less bugs.

  15. I guess I’m one of the few who found the glitches to be so annoying that I’m holding off on continuing until a patch it released. It sucks to lose time to a bug for a brand new $60 release especially one that seems rush to beat the holiday rush.