Darksiders II – Game Analysis and Review
Last Updated on Wednesday, 5 September 2012 11:44
Written by PunchDrunkGamer
Wednesday, 5 September 2012 11:44
Darksiders II – Game Analysis and Review
By Patrick Newman
Developer: Vigil Games
Composer: Jesper Kyd
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U (Late 2012), Microsoft Windows, Cloud (OnLive)
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Genre: Hack and slash, action-adventure, action role-playing
Darksiders II is one of the better examples of fantasy-based third-person action to come along in recent years, relying upon many of the tropes that made God of War such a blast to play. Using biblical myth as a template, the game can be as staggeringly imaginative and intricate as Dante’s Inferno, but with a deeper and more satisfying combat system. The game’s available loot is another boost to what is already a satisfying hack-and-slash, with an array of armor and weapons possessing varied attributes (elemental, damage, arcane) that can be leveled up, providing a strong incentive to investigate every nook and cranny in the game. However, the core of what makes Darksiders II such a blast to play is simple: As spectral horseman Death, the player can live vicariously by playing an undeniable BADASS.
The admirably dark tone of Darksiders II, appropriate considering its hell-obsessed source material, is even more fantastic and imposing than in the first game, with more attention paid to the frozen desolation and smothering heat of its environments, as well as humongous bosses that look as if the Lord of the Rings and Clive Barker’s hellish creations fell into the mixer. The manner in which Death traverses the maps, inspired by Prince of Persia’s parkour but never to the point of plagiarism, is an improvement over War’s cumbersome wings in the first game, the motion mechanics bringing some much needed levity to the dungeon-plundering that could come off as dull or repetitive.
In a storytelling conceit I hope to see more of in this age dominated by sequels and re-boots, Darksiders II covers the same span of time as its predecessor, but trades former protagonist War for his brother, Death, exploring the first game’s narrative from a different perspective. A wrongful sentencing by the Charred Council spurns Death on a mission to exonerate his brother, a process that puts him squarely in humanity’s corner. It would be disingenuous to call Darksider II’s story gripping (the characters are total ciphers, to start), but it is twice as long. What it loses in narrative thrust it compensates for with excellent gameplay, much expanded from the original.
Darksiders II is replete with both standard boss fights (most of them huge and requiring special skills to defeat) that drive the narrative forward and side bosses that provide an opportunity to stack up rewards. The standard enemies, though easy enough to dispatch in small groups, become truly formidable at higher difficulty settings when they congregate, making the constant looting a necessary dynamic. Much as with Dark Souls, plundering is of the essence, and if you’ve done your job right the gold, weapons and armor dropped by foes will make your character look like a pile of pain-inducing tech by the game’s end.
As with God of War, Darksiders II features a two-tree combat system. Death hefts both slow heavy attacks and quick light ones, meted out primarily with dual scythes that spin in deadly acrobatic combos. Secondary weapons, such as Vega-like claws and heavy axes, are also indispensable when cleaning house. Not only can weapons be leveled up, but possessed weapons can be consolidated to form bigger, deadlier implements when the going gets tough. Weapons switching is seamless when the limbs start flying, and the finishing moves this time out are more carefully-employed instead of being a routine method of dispatching enemies, as they were in the original Darksiders.
Darksiders II’s combination of RPG elements and a loot-infused combat system both accessible and complex form a pleasing package for the carnage-hungry gamer. I must admit I experienced some minor glitches, though in my post-gaming research I found that the system crashes I was experiencing are more or less exclusively an Xbox 360 issue, and there were no deal-breakers. In Death, the Darksiders series has happened upon a better protagonist, and now that the 100-year narrative span of War’s imprisonment has been visited twice, we can look forward to exploring the intriguing continuation of the Four Horsemen saga that the original Darksiders’ ending only hinted at.
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