Developer: Vigil Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: 14th August, 2012
Darksiders surprised the hell out of me. What I assumed was going to be a generic God Of War clone turned out to be an incredibly adventurous and engaging experience, featuring a beautiful open world and masterfully executed combat.
Darksiders 2 follows the journey of Death, a Horseman of the Apocalypse and the brother of War, the protagonist of the first game. It has a lot to live up to as well as a lot to build on, which makes it even more depressing that this is easily the most disappointing game I’ve played this year.
The Journey Begins…And Never Stops…
Death’s journey sends him to many massive locations that rival those in Darksiders as far as look and scope go, but lack the atmospheric context the prequel gave them. Everything in Darksiders 2 can only be described as ‘a magical place that’s magical because it’s magical’, and nothing feels like it has any history or life to it.
nothing feels like it has any history or life to it
And the world itself is just too big, forcing the game to include a fast travel mechanic which barely gives the player incentive or even much of a chance to explore non-story related areas. Fast travelling works in games like Skyrim because the area is flat enough for you to see locations around you. But the land Darksiders 2 takes place in is far too mountainous, so fast travelling feels less like travelling a distance, and rather jumping in and out of very big boxes, making the game claustrophobic and unintentionally linear.
Virtually every mission is a favour to someone else, and if I’m being brutally honest, Darksiders 2 may just be the most tedious game I have ever played. It feels like the writers couldn’t think of interesting steps and choices for Death to make, so they just threw barriers in front of his final objective to pad out the story. Every task completely lacks any sense of urgency or drive, since Death’s progression is constantly halted by ‘walls’ of tedious fetch quests.
• You have to activate a giant stone guardian? Find three jewels.
• You have to summon an Arena Champion? Find three jewels.
• You have to open a door? Find two keys.
• You have to gain the trust of an NPC? Navigate three tombs.
• You have to purify water? Activate three waterfalls.
Remove every pointlessly lengthened quest from Darksiders 2 and the game would only be three hours long, at most. There’s even a quest which involves you collecting three objects and returning them to someone who is one of three collectable objects himself. That is incredible.
You never have any idea how close you are to your next objective because you’ll automatically expect to be thrown into more unrelated missions, fights or worst of all, another freakin’ puzzle. Speaking of which…
Another Freakin’ Puzzle
If you intend to play Darksiders 2, be warned that you are definitely not getting an action game, rather a puzzle-platformer with combat moments arbitrarily popping up in-between.
It made sense in Darksiders that Earth’s twisted terrain allowed War to use tools and the environment itself to navigate himself towards objectives, but because hardly anything in Darksiders 2 is ‘broken’ the level’s design seems confoundingly cooperative with the abilities Death currently has at his disposal. It’s as if the architects of the towers, tombs and walls specifically intended Death to navigate them.
Having the ability to separate into three forms and shoot portals (Yes, the Portal Gun is back) can be overkill, and the sheer size of later puzzles can become excruciatingly confusing, especially when they loop around each other, often causing the player to accidentally start the whole process over again. Also, your bird, Dust, is a distraction more than anything else, frequently pointing you towards completely unrelated doorways or, at best, where the puzzle will obviously lead you but not how to get there.
Puzzles and plat-forming may as well be all this game is
But transporting objects and opening gates by executing specific actions is rather satisfying, especially when you have to use the Prince Of Persia wall running ability which feels graceful and makes Death feel like a capable character and not just a guy who can place a giant lamp on the floor. Plat-forming can be a little too easy since the player doesn’t even have to press or hold a button to keep Death running or climbing along a wall.
Puzzles and plat-forming may as well be all this game is, and each area is needlessly repeated and stretched out. This can be extremely taxing on people like me who wanted to play Darksiders 2 for some hack ‘n’ slash-y fun. Speaking of which…again…
Hack ‘n’ Slash-y Fun
Firstly, just like Dante’s Inferno and the first Darksiders, enemies take way too long to die here, and I recommend setting the difficulty to Easy just to speed up the process a little bit.
Instead of copying War’s sword, scythe and gauntlets, Death has a few extra weapons like axes, hammers, maces, glaives and claws to collect which all attack in relatively different ways, allowing the player to experiment to find what suits their specific fighting style. And my exploding imp minions became surprisingly useful later on as I was essentially throwing homing grenades at enemies.
But not only are weapon bonuses like Arcane, Gilt and Piercing never explained, but Darksiders 2 just has too many items to collect and there came a point where I had over 600,000 coins, no desire get anything new and a whole bunch of ‘crap’ to ‘dump’ onto a merchant. It’s Assassins Creed 2 all over again.
Because every mandatory fight traps you into an arena (This happens A LOT), combat can become cluttered very quickly. This can be extremely satisfying in a visceral way if you get a chance to ‘home-run’ a bunch of skeletons with a mace, but you’ll often have to dodge away from enemies just to see where you even are. The boss battle with Samael in particular genuinely looks like somebody shoved fireworks into a slab of red jelly.
The lock-on mechanic returns and is just as awesomely cinematic as ever, but only reaches its full potential against single enemies and a few bosses like Archon and Gnashor, both of which have beautifully telegraphed attacks and were monumentally refreshing to fight, mainly because I didn’t have to stand on a pressure plate to lower spikes that are clearly wide enough for Death to walk through…
Darksiders 2 suffers from Lost Planet 2 syndrome. It fails to address the problems of its predecessor and crudely shoves in useless ‘improvements’ that do nothing but create clutter.
Darksiders 2 feels awkwardly isolated from its own franchise
Tedium flows through Darksiders 2 more than anything else. Every quest is stretched out with meaningless puzzles and fights that flood the entire experience, to the point that doing anything else feels like you’re playing a completely different game.
Characters are introduced only to completely disappear later, and Dust, Despair and even Death himself aren’t given nearly enough time to develop, if any. War never shows up and is only mentioned about four times in a 16-24 hour play through, and overall, Darksiders 2 feels awkwardly isolated from its own franchise.
There are definitely worse games, and I can think of many that attempt what Darkiders 2 is trying to do and fail even more. This is not a disaster. Definitely flawed, but still functional for the most part.
BoG’s Darksiders 2 Score: 7.1
Why so high?:
- Combat is mildly hectic and engaging
- Plat-forming flows, for the most part
- Many locations have nice graphical design
- Some boss battles are epic and fun
- I like Death’s voice
Why so low?:
- Boring and underdeveloped story and characters
- Tedious and drawn out objectives
- Too many puzzles makes progression unclear
- Combat can get clustered and annoying
- Enemies have too much health
- Dust is close to useless
- Not enough Phil LaMarr!