Darksiders 2 Review
As with all our reviews here at Gamers Heroes, this is a 100% honest and unbiased approach. We don’t accept favors or anything similar from video games publishers to offer a high score, so you can be sure you’re getting an honest opinion. We always do our best to avoid any serious story spoilers but you will find reference to a few of the locations and characters within the game.
After reading a number of reviews on the original Darksiders I decided to try to avoid it as much as possible. Alas, one of my friends picked it up which resulted in me watching a few hours of game play. To say I was surprised to hear of a second would be an understatement. Granted, there was hundreds of ways they could improve on the original, but I didn’t think it would generate any interest after such a lackluster introduction to the series. However, after several hours in Darksiders 2, it was clear I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
Darksiders 2 Review
Darksiders 2 begins with a brief introduction into a few of the characters from the original, as well as details on where the previous game left off. Unlike the previous title, you assume the role of Death, on his journey to try to clear his horse brothers name. War has been imprisoned by the Charred Council after apparently making the entire human race an extinct species, quite a feat if I say so myself. I was disappointed with the lack of character from War in the original Darksiders, he didn’t really seem to have any individuality and his behavior failed to stand out as a main character, which retracted a lot from the immersion within the game. This is just one of the many areas that THQ have improved on. Death is quite a cynical character, as you would expect from somebody that harvests souls for a living. He has a very tongue in cheek attitude and he’s not afraid to insult even the most infamous of characters within the game. I quite often found myself chuckling away as Death insulted the King of the Land of the Dead. He’s a great main character to play as he’s totally fearless and speaks his mind on a regular basis, there’s no beating around the bush for this pale rider.
A few mechanics within the game did manage to confuse me a little bit. Darksiders 2 stinks of speed, from the combat and wall running to the milliseconds it takes to mount your horse, it all uses very fast and fluid animations. But then in other areas certain features seemed to slow the game right down. The most common ones are the animations used to open chests and doors. Granted, they’re really cool animations summoning large spectral arms to do your bidding, but I would have been just as happy kicking the door down in half the time. There’s also quite a fair amount of random loading times that causes your character to freeze. It’s usually during transitions but there are a few areas in the game where this 3-4 second loading time happens 2 or 3 times in a single corridoor, again retracting from the essence of speed that makes the game so exciting.
One of the aspects I enjoyed most about Darksiders 2 was the pure size of everything. I quite often felt I was playing a Shadow of the Colossus remake instead of a Darksiders title. Some of the environments and characters are huge, dwarfing anything from the original game. While exploring the first realm, Forge Lands, you meet a variety of Constructs. These larger-than-life stone monstrosities were created by the Makers, the hands that helped mold every realm and give life to every being and they’re everything you would expect from the creators of the universe. One in particular, The Guardian, presents one of the most exciting boss fights I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. He’s huge, and when I say huge, I mean you can’t see past his shins if you’re at his feet. Riding around on Despair, doing my very best to avoid the ground crunching blows from his monstrous hammer, my mind was torn between taking the beast down, or just running around in marvel as he smashed the environment to pieces. Sadly, I had to kill him as I wasn’t doing too well at the dodging his mighty blows part. Similar to many of the boss fights within Darksiders 2, you have to utilize a number of unique mechanics to bring him down. These include true Shadow of the Colossus moments, running up his arms to slash at vital parts of the body and dodging through its legs to force it to hit itself.
It’s not just the enemies that are massive, but the scale of some of the environments is breathtaking and one in particular stands out. During your travels in the Kingdom of the Dead, you have to visit the Eternal Throne. It’s basically a flying fortress that is pulled along by two huge Leviathans. The developers didn’t take any shortcuts. It would have been quite easy for them to hide the Leviathans away after you actually enter the main area of the Eternal Throne, but instead their long bodies are intertwined with a large portion of the environment and they’re not just static objects, they breath, drool and growl as you approach. This small portion of the game is probably the best way I could explain my experience of Darksiders 2. The developers had plenty of opportunity to avoid cut-scenes and other features that result in huge changes to the environment, but there’s no dodgy camera work here. As the player you can experience the full glory of the great cinematic’s that see shattered bridges rise from the depths, or monstrous Constructs smashing their way through mountains.
Loot, Combat & Abilities
Anyway, away with all of that stuff and focus on the real goodies. My personal favorite addition to Darksiders 2 is the loot system. Unlike its predecessor Darksiders 2 is filled with hundreds of items including primary and secondary weapons, different types of armor and talismans. Obtained by completing quests, looting treasure boxes or defeating enemies, the pure variety of the item system allows for players to mold Death’s combat abilities to their own liking. This is where another part of the loot system comes into play, Possessed Weapons. These are quite rare, only discovering a dozen during my personal adventure, but they add great depth and excitement to an usually mundane item system. Possessed Weapons start out as normal items, but you can sacrificed other items and weapons to improve its power. It takes a few items to improve the weapons level, but once you’ve done so you can choose from a selection of enhancements to put on the weapon. You can combine these on both primary and secondary weapons to create an almost unstoppable Death. I was lucky enough to have Critical Chance, Critical Damage, Execution Chance and Health on Execution spread across my two weapons, which allowed me to enter endless fights without the need for potions or retreat. I spent countless hours just searching for strong items so I could improve my ridiculously over sized axe, and it was well worth it. By level 15, I had totally given up on my ability trees and primary weapon, instead focusing on charge attacks with my axe. Although a boring and somewhat easy approach, I felt endless joy as I smashed Skeletons into a thousand pieces after a 5,000 hit critical attack. The combat works in a similar way to the original. Death has access to a large variety of combination attacks and can unlock abilities from two separate ability trees. I chose to raise my Summon Ghoul skills so that I could summon undead souls to do my bidding. Although in reality, they were merely cannon fodder to attract the attention of my enemies long enough for me to stick another large crit in their back. I think the ability tree could have done with a little more diversity as the majority of the abilities are either buffs or they focus on improving previously obtained abilities, so that’s definitely one area I think could have used a little more attention but some of the combination attacks can be quite difficult to perform in the midst of heated combat, providing a unique feeling of self gratification when done correctly.
Dungeons & PuzzlesOutside of the combat and stunning environments, Darksiders 2 is home to a huge array of dungeons. Using a typical Zelda approach, Death explores each dungeon room by room, fighting enemies, solving puzzles along the way. The variety of the enemies is very impressive. Right up to the last dungeon you’re still encountering monsters for the first time, and each have behavioral patterns and abilities that can be mastered to dispatch them quickly. The constant ambushes and attacks from monsters is a great break of pace from the puzzle filled, and slightly infuriating wall running, dungeons. They’ve managed to create a perfect balance between difficulty and appeal with the puzzles within the dungeons. They’re not so easy that you can breeze through without thinking, but they’re not so difficult that you want to smash your face through the TV screen. When approaching puzzles I usually spent a few minutes gazing around the room, taking in the various pressure plates, traps and statues, and quite often found myself finding a solution pretty quickly. It really reminded me of the early Zelda games, especially one of the dungeons that involved traversing a number of levels in order to change the flow of water within the dungeon, Water Temple anyone? Throughout the dungeons Death will have to use his acrobatic ability to complete puzzles, locate hidden chests and progress to the end. This is arguably one of the weaker aspects of the game. Although the wall-running, jumping, and puzzle solving can run as smoothly as a babies backside, attempting to do any too quickly results in a long fall back to where you started. When using various hand grips to travel around walls, and other objects, you have to wait for an animation to finish before jumping to another platform. Trying to make myself look as cool as Altair, I quite often found myself knowing exactly where I had to jump but my haste resulted in Death jumping in totally the wrong direction or falling to his doom. This is another area of the game where the standard pace seems to slow down, creating quite a frustrating cycle of attempting to climb the same location multiple times.
If you’re a completionist, you’ll find Darksiders 2 a total nightmare. There are literally hundreds of collectibles, dozens of side-quests and potentially hundreds of hidden treasure chests and areas. I’ve spent at least 10 hours just backtracking over previous areas checking dungeons with previously inaccessible parts. Throughout the game you’re given extra abilities to help you solve puzzles and reach the hard-to-get spots, but many of these are hidden throughout the dungeons. Darksiders 2 is definitely not short of content and could easily keep you entertained for upwards of 30 hours of game play.
Overall, Darksiders 2 combines the intricate acrobatic abilities from Prince of Persia and Assassins Creed and combines them with an action-packed combat experience supported by Zelda-like dungeons and boss fights. Forget your opinion of the original, this is easily one of the most improved sequels of all time.