Darksiders II, like any sequel, is supposed to give you more of what you liked and an expansion into new areas that still fit within the framework of the franchise. When a game is successful, that universe and those systems become set in stone. What Darksiders did the first time out; dungeon-based game structure with a nice steep combat upgrade tree; had to be back and better than ever in Darksiders II. The storyline of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the approach THQ has taken with Darksiders is ripe for all kinds of exploration. The idea that War and Death can have very human qualities and relationships to their circumstances and each other is pretty far out there. It worked last time and in Darksiders II we only build on these concepts.
The expansion of the upgrade and combat systems in Darksiders II is also an important piece of the puzzle. The moves that you’ll be using to dispatch all of those demons and monsters have to look and feel ever impressive and unique as you move deep into the game. After all, you’re Death.
The biggest things holding Darksiders II back are technical hurdles that seem to have been overlooked in the design and testing stages. However, the look, control and sense of heroism in this game are very strong. It doesn’t come off as epic because of the technical problems, but you still feel like one of the baddest badasses to ever launch a combo attack in video games.
That sense of power is crucial in Darksiders II. You’ve got a pair of scythes and a back up weapons that are upgraded to possessed and enchanted and even more powerful versions so that you’re always on the hunt for the next great item or level. These are the kind of role-playing game elements that I like. Throw in all of the boots, armor and talisman upgrades available and all of the inventory you’re managing is focused on cool stuff that looks unique when you use ‘em and slays demons like nobody’s business. There’s very little boring inventory to tinker with and that’s a plus.
Similarly the character design and the fluidity of how they move is a strength. The art design’s comic book heritage comes off as a bit cartoony but, hell you’re playing as Death, so you shouldn’t be so attached to realism when you fire this game up.
The hitch is, as cool as this game looks, the camera still gets hung up and spazzes out for no good reason sometimes. A sluggish response to button pushes or stick leans is how a game ends up feeling “loose” as opposed to reliable and tight and DSII suffers from a bit of looseness. Managing the inventory of all that cool stuff can be challenging when the descriptions are in a teeny font that makes you not even want to read about your possessed hammer. Let alone rename it (another cool detail). This is where comparing Darksiders II to a Zelda or God of War title becomes problematic because those two games are nothing if not polished and rock solid, regardless of content. Death, as the main character, sometimes feels like he’s out jumping or out “speeding” the game environment where you’d never say that about Kratos or Link.
The first thing you’ll notice is how polished Darksiders II is. From its amazing artistic style down to its smooth auto loading and auto saving feature (take note, Skyrim), Vigil has done an incredible job of bringing life to Death and his environment. While some of the Prince of Persia-sytle climbing elements can be frustrating due to slightly loose controls, combat is extremely rewarding. As you upgrade Death, his moves become more badass and devastating.
Darksiders II ties in very naturally with its predecessor. Normally, when a franchises announces a direct sequel which will not feature the same protagonist yet it happens in parallel with the previous game (looking at you, HALO 3: ODST), it's a red flag. However, Darksiders 2 pulls this off brilliantly. The stories of War and Death are significantly intertwined, with characters and events from first game playing major roles throughout. And while War was a bad ass character to play, Death's variety of moves, expanded upgrade tree, and looting system prevent you from ever missing him.
Get this game if: you need something to hold you over until God of War: Ascension; you’ve always wanted to do battle as an Apocalyptic Horseman; you can’t wait to find out what happened to War after Darksiders; you love the idea of a playable comic book with epic themes; you love dramatic upgrades to a character’s fighting ability and/or you’re into biblical themes in your video games.
Don’t get this game if: you like literal translations of the bible; you’re easily irritated by wonky controls, especially during combat; you don’t have the patience to endlessly tinker with weapon and inventory settings; you don’t like fantasy with mythical creatures and language or you like your action games to have humans, guns and cars.
Star Rating (out of 4): 3 Stars