Darksiders 2 Review

Platform: PS3/PS4/360/XB1/Wii U/PC
Originally Reviewed: 2012

To paraphrase Shaun of the Dead – we shouldn’t mention the ‘Z’ word. Darksiders was a reasonably well received and critically acclaimed action title that had more than a passing resemblance in style to that ‘Z’ game by that ‘N’ company. Whether that put gamers off or drew them in is a matter of personal taste, but personally it’s a plus. Borrowing elements from one of, if not the best, action/adventure franchises in gaming can’t exactly make your game suck can it? Darksiders 2 still has lots of elements that remind us ol’ green tunic himself, but the game completely outdoes is predecessor with new gameplay aspects that go a long way to helping Darksiders shed that unwanted copycat tag.

The result is definitely a positive one. Darksiders 2 is one of the better action titles of this generation. Pretty much every aspect that has been brought in to the game is an improvement and Darksiders 2 performs my favourite sequel trick of being bigger, better and longer than the first game. Death’s adventure has a lot of brilliant things going for it, but it’s definitely not without its flaws too.

Let’s start off with the story. For a game that has one clear goal – identified from the very start that does not change right up to the game’s end – Darksiders 2 has probably the most ridiculously convoluted and constantly-buggering-about story I’ve ever seen. It’s near impossible to follow unless you’re Ian McKellen. The gist of it is pretty easy – Save Death’s brother – but stone me if I can make out all the stuff in between.

There are just too many names to follow and too much mythical fantasy mumbo jumbo. Granted, the story isn’t terrible, but every NPC seems to mention some other bloke or place we’ve not heard of or seen before. Death certainly doesn’t help, as he almost always knows who the NPC is talking about and only ever seems to put out a menacing-yet -satisfied realisation of their name. Glad he knows who the hell everyone is talking about because I’m absolutely lost. We need Death to have a sidekick who asks the questions we want answered and roots out the plot from the weeds. Get Mark Hammil back in there.

Death is one of The Four Horsemen like his brother War, who accidentally brought about the destruction of mankind and whom Death is trying to save. The Four Horsemen are the last of the Nephilim, but Death killed the rest of the Nephilim and stuck them in his chest. There’s the Charred Council who tell The Horsemen what to do and their biggest problem is Corruption, which may or may not be an actual person. Then there’s also the Destroyer, which you’d think would be the devil, except there’s this dude called Samael who looks like the devil, but he doesn’t rule his throne any more because Death’s mum says so. Except she’s not technically his mum, she just merged the dust of angel and demon to create Absalom who was the first of the Nephilim from whom The Four Horsemen were formed. See? Did you get all that?

Luckily you won’t mind too much about having to learn hundreds of names, places and backstories to follow what’s going on because Darksiders 2’s gameplay is, for the most part, fantastic. This is adventure RPG gaming at a very high level. The controls are okay, maybe a little fiddly (like last time), but once you get used to them they flow pretty well and there are a whole heap of combat options at the press of a button or two. You always have Death’s scythes and a secondary weapon of your choice and these can both be combined with various acrobatic moves, magical arcane powers and even a pistol to great effect. Combat is almost always a free-flowing joy and only a few camera issues and targeting problems will spoil it. There can be some slowdown in the middle of the biggest rucks when the carnage really starts flying, but it’s nothing game-breaking.

Darksiders 2 has also added in a whole heap of Prince of Persia/Castlevania-esque free running and climbing sections which are really rather good. They usually flow brilliantly and make the player feel fully in control, but they can annoy at the most inappropriate times – mostly when speedy traversal is the order of the day – and sometimes amount to little more than one press of the A button. This is no big deal as it makes the game easy to get to grips with, it’s just that you eventually get that realisation that you pressed A about ten beams ago.

The deceptive ease of the free running is offset against some genuinely amazing level design. The art direction is fantastic; the locations are really varied and there’s a ton of cool mythology and architecture on show, even if the graphics don’t always do it justice. The levels and dungeons themselves are typically really well paced and there are some fiendishly tricky puzzles in the game incorporating everything from splitting Death in two to using portals.

The looting system is another one of the game’s strongest points. The huge amount of weapons and armour available is straight out of dungeon crawler territory and gives the opportunity to completely change the way you fight at any moment. There’s a quick equip mechanic that shows the key stats that will be affected by any new item you pick up and also give an opportunity to quickly equip it there and then without messing around in menus. It seems amazing at first but later on in the game you’ll hardly ever be using it as, with so many things to consider, it doesn’t always show all the stats you actually care about.

The RPG elements to Darksiders 2 are what sets is apart from the previous title and are a brilliant and addictive method of keeping things interesting. The levelling system and excellent skill tree keep everything fresh and there’s always something to look forward to unlocking.

There’s little about the way Darksiders 2 plays that isn’t great. The game is absolutely huge and feels ridiculously epic, but towards the end of the game it can start to feel like it’s venturing a little too far into quantity over quality. There are just too many dungeons, and the lack of interaction with the overworlds really makes it repeatedly feel like one dungeon immediately follows the last.

By the third act you will end up either fast travelling everywhere or you’ll discover a new area and basically just walk straight up to whichever dungeon you’re headed for without any enemies or even exciting scenery in between. It’s at this point that you begin to question whether the game is genuinely epic or actually just extremely padded out with dungeons. This kind of question doesn’t get asked when you play that ‘Z’ game we mentioned earlier.

Putting it out there and setting the record straight; Darksiders 2 is not as good as the best moments of the Zelda series, but it is an exciting, huge and really well designed action adventure that has brilliant RPG elements, huge dungeons, massive screen-filling boss fights, and tons of unlockable gadgets and weapons that keep the gameplay feeling fresh for the majority of the adventure.

Graphically the game is not the greatest, and the story is too overblown and hard to follow, but Death is a decent and well voice-acted protagonist that you will thoroughly enjoying controlling. A few camera and slowdown issues and one too many dungeons can annoy but certainly won’t stop you from being utterly engrossed in the fighting, climbing, looting and levelling up that make Darksiders 2 a stellar adventure title that fans of the genre really cannot afford to miss.

Alex Aldridge

 

GRAPHICS

It’s a real shame that such a huge game with a genuinely brilliant art direction suffers from lacklustre textures, which really impact character models and certain areas of the game world. The animations are solid but there is also slowdown and lip-syncing problems.

6/10

GAMEPLAY

The ace in the hole. Darksiders 2 harks back to the item-based progression of Zelda and throws in a brilliant looting system, great levelling skill tree, massive boss fights, superb combat and incredibly huge dungeons with some terrific puzzles. It’s brilliant fun to play.

9/10

STORY

Get a pen and paper ready because there’s a lot to follow here. It does a great job of blowing smoke up itself. Too much mythology, too many names thrown around and too much fantasy jargon. Well voice-acted and still reasonably engaging, just a tad silly.

5/10

REPLAYABILITY

It’s huge. There’s also a whole heap of side missions and collectibles that will keep you going back after the main quest is done to get that 100%.

8/10

VALUE FOR MONEY AT

The sheer length and number of side quests give will keep you going for ages, but when a game plays so well that it keeps your enjoyment levels high throughout then it’s one of those rare gems that really pushes value for money. Adventure fans should make those shopkeepers shut up and take their money.

 £35

OVERALL

One of the best adventure RPG titles this generation has seen. Darksiders 2 goes to great lengths to throw off the shackles of the Zelda comparisons and adds in a whole heap of new features that produce hit after hit of quality action gaming. It has something for everyone – free running, dungeon crawling, looting, and hacking and slashing. It’s not quite up there with the Nintendo’s best, but it’s a fantastic title that will keep you going and going until the end.

8/10

GREAT

 

 

 

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