OXCGN’s Darksiders II Review
Death Comes Knocking
by David Faulk
©2012 David Faulk
This is how Darksiders 2 begins.
It takes place during the events of the first game, with the most powerful of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Death, riding to clear the sullied name of his brother, War.
Instead of taking place solely on Earth, Darksiders 2 takes Death all around the outer realms, from Angelic Outposts to the Land of the Dead, and practically everywhere in between.
War begets Death
For those who never played it, Darksiders‘ main antagonist was a giant, grimacing incarnation of war, aptly named “War”, that spoke mostly in insults and threats.
War’s hulking frame tore through demon and angel alike with ease and surprising agility. Though his selection of weaponry was a bit limited, War made good use of his abilities to carve a path to redemption.
Death, however, is a much different beast. Smaller and more nimble, Death cannot block like his younger brother. Instead, much like his name, Death dances through combat, dodging and weaving around enemies, focusing on singular enemies more often than large crowds.
Death also has the uncanny ability to hold a conversation without threatening someone’s existence, unlike his brother. Another change to to the Darksiders formula is the introduction of RPG elements, an inventory system, and Diablo-style looting.
Though War could upgrade his individual weapons in the original Darksiders, Death himself now progresses through a leveling system which rewards him with skill points to invest in abilities, instead of buying them like in Darksiders.
These are all welcome additions to the established formula that make Darksiders 2 clearly stand apart from its predecessor.
Death’s icy touch
Luckily, Darksiders’ core combat mechanics remain blissfully intact. The combat controls are responsive and intuitive. Though you could get through the entire game by mashing the primary attack button, the combos are easy to pull off and pretty rewarding at that.
With a list of all the available moves found at any time, there’s no excuse not to experiment. Thanks to the RPG and loot-fest elements added to to the title, players can tailor fit Death’s arsenal to their play styles. Death’s signature scythe is ever-present as his main form of slaying.
However, this incarnation is unlike any from the past, as Death can separate his signature weapon into two, smaller scythes to carve his way through his enemies. There are countless scythes to choose from, coming in many shapes, styles, and statistics.
Death has much more than just his trusty scythe to keep the hordes at bay, though.
From slow-swinging and wide-reaching axes or hammers that can clear a room in a few swings, to lightning fast gauntlets and bucklers that allow for a more personal execution, Death has a Borderlands-sized arsenal of secondary weapons and abilities to satisfy any combat style you may find yourself preferring.
Another surprise in Darksiders 2 is the inclusion of “Possessed Weapons”, which are among the rarest of all weapons. These special treats allow you to “sacrifice” other weapons and armor to upgrade them.
Each is allowed five level-ups, each time allowing you to choose how they progress, from increasing the chance to do critical damage, to the amount of critical damage, to the addition of different damage types, such as Fire, Ice, Lightning or Inferno.
These weapons are another way Death can keep up with his increasingly difficult enemies. Another way for Death to turn the tide of battle is in his wardrobe. Unlike the first, Darksiders 2 allows you to outfit Death in whatever garbs you find in your travels.
These outfits are divided into chest pieces, boots, gloves, pants, and a special amulet that allows additional buffs. The best part of this addition is the fact that as you change Death’s outfit in the menus, it is reflected immediately in-game.
All in all, Darksiders 2‘s combat is fast, ferocious, and immensely satisfying, with enough customization to keep every type of hack-and-slasher happy.
A World of Death
In order to clear War’s name, Death must travel to the many corners of creation. Joe Mad’s artwork brings the places Death visits and the beings he meets to life, and gives them each a sense of individuality.
Though Darksiders 2 isn’t the most graphically impressive game out there, the stylized look continued from the first game more than makes up for it. Worlds are rich, characters come alive, and I was very impressed with the draw distance.
Exploration, which is about even with combat in terms of game content, isn’t as much of a task as in other games. Though, that isn’t to say it doesn’t take its toll.
While you can be taken in some of the most roundabout ways to solve a problem, it’s nicely evened out with a sense of accomplishment.
There are plenty of collectables throughout the game that ensure you’ll be smashing your fair share of pots hoping for some glowing coins or special scrolls. Though most of these excursions offer rewards that make the trouble a little less tiresome, there’s a point where you simply don’t care and want to be out of one of the several dungeons for good.
Speaking of which, Darksiders 2 is packed with content. The main quest alone takes an average of 20 hours to complete, and has enough dungeons to make sure you never want to stand on a switch or pull a lever again.
Coupled with a New Game+ option, Darksiders 2 will certainly keep you entertained until the plethora of pre-Christmas games are unleashed, and possibly past that.
The premise of Darksiders 2 is a simple one. Death, brother to War and one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, must clear the name of his brother who was wrongly accused of jump-starting Armageddon. To do this, Death decides to undo what War supposedly did by reviving all of humanity.
The irony is amusing to say the least. Darksiders 2 delves deeper into the unmentioned backstory of its predecessor. How the four horsemen came to be, who the Nephilim are, what happened to them, and why are all heavy story elements that, while hidden in the original, are nice to see brought to the forefront.
Another strong story point is the exploration of a new force of chaos known only as “Corruption”, which claims all in its path. Without spoiling anything, these two elements are woven in quite nicely with both themselves and Death’s quest as a whole.
The story also dabbles in deeper backstory, such as how everything in this universe was created, the roles of many of the behind the scenes players, and even though it takes much from biblical texts, it succeeds in never stepping on any toes while still having enough room to play.
The one complaint I would have with Darksiders 2‘s story, which Death himself even addresses a few times, is how you’re seemingly constantly given the run around.
But, I can excuse this as a storytelling device that allows the player to be revealed information along with Death.
In conclusion, Darksiders 2 is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. Though the core mechanics are still present, the many alterations and additions make it a much more expansive and enjoyable game.
From the widespread, beautiful worlds to the visceral, cut-throat combat, Darksiders 2 is like a roller coaster with its ebbs and flows.
The presentation is excellent, and you can tell Vigil took some of the complaints about the original game to heart without losing what made it unique. Complementing this is yet another fantastic score by Jesper Kyd, which brings the whole world together in a seamless fashion.
If you didn’t like the first Darksiders, chances are you won’t like this one, but if you even gave the first title a passing glance and liked what you saw, I would strongly recommend Darksiders 2.
©2012 David Faulk
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