Game Review: Darksiders 2 [Xbox 360/PS3/PC]
The original Darksiders, which came out in 2010, suffered from the lack of its own identity. It copied far too much from other popular games without really creating anything original. Even though you won’t find any new original ideas in Darksiders 2, it still manages to be a fresh experience that is a faithful nod to old school gaming.
Darksiders 2 takes place during the events of the original where we see our new protagonist, Death, trying to prove that War is innocent of starting the apocalypse early by trying to restore humanity. The synopsis would make you think that this is a story to be taken seriously, but when you come to a point of story progression with a character, you are always tasked with finding different items to further the story. As a result of this it convolutes the seriousness of the topic at hand. Along with this, it takes hours to further the plot of the story, so the story never develops the way it should, at least in the original you had The Watcher to snigger remarks now and again.
Death is a lot more agile than War, and because of this he performs Prince of Persia-like acrobatic moves, such as wall running, and his combat feels a lot more fluid because of his agility. Problem is though, seeing as Death steals so much from other video game characters in the way that he plays, he never really feels like he has his own identity, which is a huge shame considering the potential that Death’s character should have. His voiceover is great, but the writing for the character is not as sharp, he never has anything interesting or philosophical to say.
The open world of Darksiders 2 is massive at least three times the size of the original Darksiders. Whilst the art direction of the world is sublime for the most part, it’s not a world that you will want to explore for hours, especially when it comes to the dungeons. Both Darksiders 1 and 2 revolve around exploring dungeons for different items, basically they follow the style of all Zelda games. This is certainly not a bad thing, but the difference between Zelda and Darksiders 2 is that the dungeons in Zelda always remained fresh and exciting with different challenges in each one that offered unique puzzles and enemies. Darksiders 2 never really breaks the formula that can be seen in the first few dungeons.
Although you get new toys to play around with in each new area, it still doesn’t do something different to keep the experience exciting. In each dungeon you will traverse some platforms, hit a switch, get locked in a room with enemies and then the process will repeat. The fact that the game can take around 25 hours to beat means that the experience lasts far too long and can feel repetitive, fewer dungeons with unique twists would have been a lot better. Instead Darksiders 2 plays it far too safe.
In every dungeon, Death will come across chests that no doubt will contain some form of loot, whether that will be weapons or armor, you will always find something different to play around with. It does add a strategic element to the game and can make the combat more enjoyable because of it. The only problem I found with the loot system comes in the form of levelling up your weapons, seeing as you always come across loot, every ten minutes or so you are bound to find a better weapon that you are going to want to use, the problem with this, is you don’t have anytime to level up your current weapon, making that aspect of the game partially ineffective.
The combat in the game has seen a vast improvement to that of its predecessor. As Death is a fast and agile character, he moves around the screen in elegancy and precision making the combat feel fast paced and exciting. You have two kinds of weapons in the game, the default scythes that Death is associated with and a secondary weapon, which can range from clawed gauntlets to heavy hammers that carry an electric shock upon impact. Scythes act as your light attack and secondary as your strong attack. The combat never feels challenging and is perhaps too simple compared to the games Darksiders 2 tries to emulate such as God of War and Devil May Cry. The boss fights however are excellent and prove to be the stand out moments when it comes to the combat system as they utilise all of your abilities and skill.
XP is earned with each mission completion and enemies killed, and when you earn enough points you will eventually level up. Everytime you do, you are rewarded with a skill point that can be put towards a skill move such as murdering crows,and it’s certainly fun to see Death as a character become more powerful and perform even more devastating attacks as the game progresses. It’s a well implemented addition to the game that feels fully-fledged in the way you would expect from a high class RPG game. It’s something that I would like to see more of in a potential sequel.
As previously mentioned, Death plays a lot like Prince of Persia when it comes to traversing the world. This is one aspect though that is absolutely nailed in Darksiders 2, performing wall runs and jumping from column to column has never felt easier than this, it feels fluid and second nature and for a game that has a lot of these aspects, this is a fantastic achievement.
The highlight of the game though is the presentation. The art direction is phenomenal for the most part, I say this as most dungeons don’t really fell distinct enough to be memorable, but apart from this it oozes with style. The soundtrack as well is fantastic offering some epic sounding scores that really propel you forward. However, loading times in the game are frequent, long and can prove to be a frustration, though installing the game on the Xbox 360 version did help somewhat.
The biggest problem with the original Darksiders was the lack of originality and although this is the same with the sequel it still manages to feel fresh and is enjoyable to play for the most part. A richer story and character along with more diverse dungeons would have made this a potential for game of the year. It’s a shame then it never really adds up to anything special and is just a good adventure game. If there is to be a sequel to this, it needs that originality to stand out amongst the gaming world, but for now this is a vast improvement to the first one and is worth a check if you’re a fan of adventure games.