Developer: Vigil Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PC
Genre: Action-Adventure, RPG
Darksiders II is the sequel to 2010’s sleeper hit, and one of the most well-received original IPs of this generation. Vigil Games have gone all out with this one, taking on a far bigger and bolder scope than that of the original title, and to say the least, their ambition has truly paid off. Read on to find out why.
The storyline in Darksiders II plays alongside that of the first game, with players this time taking control of the most feared of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death. The last game seen War being accused of inciting the apocalypse prematurely, and having to fight to clear his name. This game follows a similar path with Death riding out to set the record straight and help his brother. Without spoiling anything, Darksiders II isn’t just the story of Death fighting to clear Wars name, but rather a revealing personal tale that will grip you and pull you in once it hits full throttle.
It was no secret that Darksiders was heavily compared to The Legend of Zelda series, with an almost identical game structure. Darksiders II distances itself from such a comparison though, instead building on that formula and delivering a much bigger experience. There are far more dungeons to explore and conquer this time around, and although most of them are significantly shorter, the sheer volume makes up for this, and even helps pace the game really well. You won’t get too tired of the same environments, and even when you have to return to areas you’ve explored before, new puzzles and secrets can be opened up or solved by coming back with new skills and equipment, which makes for an incredibly enjoyable time, rarely becoming stale. For a game of an immense size and length – which itself is easily double that of the first title – Vigil have really done a great job of ensuring a consistently fresh and rewarding experience.
One of the more significant additions to the game is the loot mechanics, which now has players able to find and pick-up new weapons and armor from fallen enemies, purchase from various merchants or find in chests. This has added a whole new level of playability to the game, where you can now really feel as though you’re crafting your own character in Death. Couple this with a new leveling/skills system, and you have some great light RPG elements that really suit the open-world adventure style, without putting too much focus or time requirements onto it. What I like about this is that it keeps the action steady without forcing you to spend lengthy times sorting out your character or inventory, which can be a massive bore, like many games that venture into the RPG territory suffer from or fail to get right.
Darksiders II also features a fair amount of sidequests, which can gain you experience, money and unique items. You’re not overloaded with missions and things to do, but the delivery is paced well and will give you a good deal of entertainment when you want to take a break from the main quests, or complete alongside them. I think this goes hand-in-hand with the other RPG elements, in which you aren’t bombarded with the content, but its enough to make a big difference in the game experience.
Vigil Games was formed by comic book artist Joe Mad, who any fan will know has some truly superb work. This translates to Darksiders II being a genuinely artistic game, much like its predecessor, with a unique style and some stunning character and environmental work. The game takes places in various planes of existence, allowing for more creativity to be expressed than the war torn Earth of the first Darksiders. The different realms have very unique styles, and everything from enemies, to dungeon design and puzzles, are all made to play along with the setting.
The overall design here is excellent, and not just from an artistic point of view. Death often finds himself faced with some epic set pieces, through boss fights and some of the most complex puzzle moments.
I did find that the general modeling and texturing of the game wasn’t up to scratch though. It’s not necessarily poor, but it certainly looks dated when I found constant jaggies on characters and scenery, and some very bland textures with a real lack of detail. Animation is smooth and fluent though – and almost surprisingly varied – but that just makes the graphical shortcomings clearer.
I love a good musical score, especially when backing a title with epic set pieces and a story to tell, as it can play into improving almost every aspect. Darksiders II has such a soundtrack, which is expertly used through cutscenes to improve drama, as well as most notably during boss fights, giving a feeling of awe rarely seen in action-adventure games today. Playing the first true boss fight of the game is akin to the first time you watched The Battle of Helms Deep in The Two Towers – it’s something that someone who appreciates a perfectly crafted moment won’t soon forget.
The voice cast in the game is spot on too, and they deliver their characters performances to a T, especially from the leading man behind Death. He’s a seemingly calm and collective character, but as the story progresses, we see a lot deeper into him than we previously thought. This part of the story is something I felt was missing from the original title – a human element, if you will. The scripting here allows for a little more character study, although this is still made hard due to the setting and characters themselves. Still, I think given the subject matter, the writers have done a great job at crafting a blend of utter badass and lovable hero in Death.
- Massive improvement on an already solid formula
- Perfectly challenging and paced
- Light RPG elements are welcome
- Beautiful musical score
- Some dated visuals
Darksiders II, plain and simple, is a sequel done right. It’s bigger and better than the previous installment, and a definitive benchmark of the genre, with perfectly executed RPG elements complementing the action-adventure gameplay, and an awe inspiring and beautiful musical score sealing the deal. A gem of a gaming experience.