Enter Darksiders II, the much-hyped successor to the original Darksiders. Calling the game highly-anticipated would be an understatement given the success Vigil Games and THQ garnered back in early 2010. Back then, Darksiders was nothing more than a little known title to most. After making a resounding impact amongst gamers, Darksiders II with its bigger budget and larger fanbase has some fairly large apocalyptic boots to fill. Is Death the man, err.. being for the job?
Developer: Vigil Games
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Genre: Hack-n-Slash, Action-Adventure
Release: (AU) August 16th 2012, (EU) August 21st 2012, (NA) August 14th 2012, (JP) October 18th 2012
Death takes centre stage as the all-new protagonist of his very own game, on a mission to clear his brother, War as the Horsemen responsible for triggering the End of Days. Interestingly, the events of Darksiders II takes place co-currently during the one-hundred year imprisonment of War, making for a rich intertwining storyline connecting the two titles. The story begins simple enough with Death convinced of his brethren’s innocence. Embarking on a quest to reveal the truth behind the events, Death believes he can write the wrongs by restoring humanity with the power from the Tree of Life.
The switch up of main characters makes for an interesting premise with Death bringing his own repertoire to the hack-n-slash genre. Death isn’t the bony, hooded skeleton often depicted in folklore. Hiss nimble feet and variety of weaponry turns what would be a mundane exercise of button mashing into a whole other experience. Where War used a brute force approach in the physicality of a two-handed gargantuan sword, Death has a more combo-centric battle stance where combat results in quick, connected succession, culminating with a massive finishing blow to pulverize any opposition standing in his way.
Differences don’t stop there. War’s solid frame made him a formidable barrier against oncoming attacks whereas Death takes a less confrontational technique to defense. Unable to block, Death must use his dexterity to maneuver, dodge, side-step and barrel-roll out of harms way to conserve his health reserves. Doing so offers him the upper-hand, opening up enemy defenses to an all-out counter combo attack to devastate his opponents.
Despite the obvious limitations and blandness of a hack-n-slash genre, Vigil Games offer up a variety of weapons to choose from, making for an immersive and richer combat than one would imagine. Equippable weapons include sledgehammers, two-handed scythes, axes and maces to deal blunt force trauma that’ll leave you cringing from the punishing results. If speed and frenzied strikes is what you crave, melee gauntlets are an ideal choice. Whatever your playstyle, there’s something for everyone with your selected secondary weapon easily mappable to the button pad for quick access.
Boss fights are larger than life encounters as the many demanding match-ups require precision, tactical timing and proper weapon selection to down these mammoth foes. Simply button-mashing away and paying no regard to the impact on the road block in front of you won’t win you many encounters. There’s always the right tool for the job and Darksiders II certainly highlights the importance of this statement. It’s in this extra layer and depth of gameplay which the game excels, catapulting it above the simplicity of generic hack-n-slash gaming.
Although the concept certainly isn’t new, Darksiders II borrows ideas and inspiration from many successful franchises, however what separates it from the bevy of similar games out there is the clean delivery and execution of it all. The original Darksiders unashamedly did the same, reaping glowing results that translated into impressive sales figures. Darksiders II continues the tradition, dipping its fingers into the often forgotten and under-appreciated Prince of Persia series.
Vigil Games clearly saw the potential to do more with the platforming style, taking Death to new heights (pun intended). Verticality is reborn in an eye-opening take on wall scaling. Climbing, wall-running and hopping from mid-hanging pillars adds extra dimension and variety to the vertical limits. A whole new world of level design is opened up for a gratifying experience to rival the original innovators. Coupled together with clever puzzles, players are required to use logical thinking to push through a series of traditional style levers and doors hindering progression. Throughout the course of the game, Death is granted access to special abilities such as “Death Grip”, a psuedo grappling hook and “Voidwalker”, comparable to a “Portal Gun” which again adds extra depth and consideration to the tailored conundrums. Puzzles aren’t overly difficult but present enough of a challenge to make for a rewarding and satisfying experience.
Unlike the original Darksiders with its limited amount of areas to explore, Darksiders II open world maps of “overworld” is vast and full of life. Aided by Death’s trusty stead Despair, navigating the world becomes a less time-consuming affair compared to its predecessor. To make life even more easier, Death is granted access to Despair from the get-go, making roaming around between quest locations less of a time sink. With the slew of dungeons upon dungeons to raid, Vigil Games have taken this into consideration as well, incorporatin “fast-travel” as a mode of quick teleportation. Say you’re spelunking in a dungeon and run out of inventory space, players are afforded the ability to fast-travel back to the overworld surface as needed and teleport back to their saved dungeon location without the loss of any progress.
The introduction of a feature-rich loot system makes for in-depth “gearing up” gameplay. Item drops are randomised and includes seven different classes of equipment to collect and upgrade throughout the course of the game. New gear is acquired through enemy drops, looting chests and the exchanging of gold with vendors. This element adds longevity to Darksiders II, where chasing down that elusive piece of epic loot feels more akin to an MMO-experience, which isn’t neccessarily all that bad. Rare “possessed weapons” are the holy grail, absorbing “sacrificed” lesser items to transform them into even greater threats. Whereby Darksiders story campaign could be completed in about six-hours, you’ll need an average of twenty to get through Darksiders II and that’s if you don’t intend on completing quests and collecting the addictive gear along the way.
For fans looking for more depth and wondering if Darksiders II can deliver, it most definitely has and is one of this year’s must-play titles. Vigil Games have listened to what fans have said about the original Darksiders and combined all the aspects that made it such an enjoyment to play with intriguing, fully fleshed-out components they could only have dreamed about. The praise is well deserved and is a true testament to the quality of what can be accomplished by a dedicated developing studio. The most scary thought about Darksiders II is what Vigil Games will bring to top it but I assure you, you’ll be visiting Darksiders II again, and again before that happens.
Darksiders II is out now on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC. A Wii U version will also be released at a later stage in 2012 with added functionality specifically catered towards the Wii U.
9.0 – Excellent. Fun, enjoyable, engaging, and memorable but is missing that little something that will make it exceptionable. People will fondly talk about this for generations to come.