Quantcast
Posted by Raine Hutchens on Aug 14, 2012

Review – Darksiders II (Xbox 360)

Post Rating

Product Information

MSRP: $59.99

Developer: Vigil Games

Publisher: THQ

Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Genre: Action/Adventure/RPG

Two years ago in January I remember driving my truck out to a GameStop in town. It was the first time I went out to a midnight release for any game. I’d been excited for games before, but I’d always just picked them up on their release day once the game store opened. The first game that got me up and out that late was Darksiders. Vigil had created a game that showed a lot of character, and took some great gameplay ideas from old favorites such as The Legend of Zelda and God of War. The game’s storyline was woven magnificently and it turned out being on my to favorite games list of the year. Now here we are, two years later, and Darksiders II has just released. Since its announcement I have been enthralled and the excitement of anticipating a game had struck me once again. Vigil has simply blown me out of the water with their attention to detail and approach with this sequel, and it’s surprised me like never before. Let’s get into the review and I’ll tell you why.

Story and Visuals

Darksiders II takes place during the first game, only this time you’re in the boots of the horseman Death, brother to War – the protagonist from the original title. Death is on a quest to clear his brother’s name as he’s been setup for failure by the Charred Council. Death embarks on a giant quest to help reset humanity so that War can be cleared of his accusations.

Early in the game we meet a man called the Crowfather. We learn from him that Death and his brethren were once part of a race called the Nephlim. The Nephlim were a race of both angel and demon, and they were vastly powerful. These people were raging across the land, fighting everything in their path. At one point they wanted to take Eden for themselves, but Death rose up against the masses, claiming that the idea was tainted. The four horsemen went in front of the Charred Council, where they were given immense power in return for working under the Council’s word. They were then sent out to destroy the rest of the living Nephlim. Death did so, rending their flesh from one to another. He trapped their souls in a pendant which the Crowfather was sentenced to bear for eternity.

Over the course of many years the Crowfather is driven mad by the voices of all the trapped souls within the pendant. When Death comes asking for help to aid his brother, the Crowfather isn’t eager to lift a hand. He ends up forcing Death to fight a shadow of his brother War, and he eventually falls to a blow from a magical blast sent by the Crowfather. Death doesn’t die from this attack, he is instead sent to another world. This is where things start getting a bit hairy. The storyline jumped so much after this that it was hard to keep up. Apparently Death needs to seek out this Tree of Life so that he may be able to use it to restore humanity to Earth, resetting the deeds that had been done to put War in the position he’s in.

From this point forward you go on to meet plenty of new characters, traverse giant worlds, and start putting the pieces together that will unfold the story at large. You’ll find that Death will pay a severe toll for destroying the remaining Nephlim, and not all fell the way he assumed. My only real problem with the game comes with the storyline. I feel that things happen really fast with little to no explanation. One minute you’re here, the next you’re there. You’re doing things for one guy, just to go do something for someone else. A lot of the time I felt confused with why I was doing what I was doing, and it eventually got to the point where I just played the game with little care for the “why” of the situation. It didn’t make the game any less enjoyable, but it did cause some hiccups where I needed to go back and replay what’s happened.

That aside, let’s take a look at visuals. The original Darksiders looked amazing. From the wondrous world that was crafted to the crazy characters that inhabited it, there was always something cool to look at. Darksiders II followed up on this and turned the knob up to eleven. The amount of scenery in the game has been easily doubled, offering new landscapes and inhabitants to see. You’ll travel from massive snowdrifts to crazy undead cities on your way to save War. Vigil has a way of using subtlety to their advantage, and in some of the most creative ways. There’s one location in the game where everything is grayed out except for Death’s horse, Despair. The green glow of Despair’s flames lights up the area really making Death pop. In short, it’s pretty.

The enemies in Darksiders II are much different than ones seen in the first game as well. Though some may reappear, there have been many more added to the field. Corruption plays a big role in the game, and it has a way of twisting foes into some sort of biological infestation. Enemies look sickened yet menacing, and they send a chill up your spine. Other enemies are huge and provide a unique challenge for Death. Their scale and amount of detail is exponentially bigger than that of enemies in the original game.

Facial expressions have been drastically improved in Darksiders II. Characters move their entire jaw and other facial muscles when speaking, which shows more attention. Even the stone constructs look as if they are speaking like normal humans do. There are bigger enemies, bigger environments, and bigger details that make Darksiders II a much bigger sequel.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Darksiders II is really where the game sets itself apart from its predecessor. When Vigil said that they were making Death his own person and that he’d be much different than War, they weren’t pulling our legs. Almost everything about him – from the way he walks, to the way he fights, to the way he talks is nothing like what you’d see with War. This is in no way a bad thing, either. It really does help you distinguish that, while this game is set in the same world and time as the first one, it’s most definitely not the same. Let’s take a look at some of the gameplay aspects in detail.

First we’ll go over movement and gameplay progression. You’ll still have objectives that need to be completed to gain progress through the game. Think of these as quests you need to complete in order to move further in the storyline. Once you get through them, you’ll eventually get another set and so on. One thing I’ve noticed about this game is that a lot of these quest objectives come in threes. Either you’ll collect 3 stones to resurrect a guardian, collect 3 stones to summon a champion, revive 3 servants to persuade a king, or something of the sort. It doesn’t really get old, it’s just something I picked up on. So when it comes to story progression and completion, the game follows the same rubric.

Movement is huge in Darksiders II. Vulgrim shows up in the game but you won’t be making use of his Serpent Holes. This means you’ll be trekking across the different lands on foot, or with the help of Despair. Death makes use of vertical climbs and descents just like War did, only he is much more agile. He sacrifices the brute speed and drive that War had for a more able-bodied approach. Death will scurry up walls, cling to beams, hop over wooden struts, and run along walls all in his exploration of the environment. The cool thing about Death is that he is quick and able to get around more easily than War. Some areas of the game don’t have a straightforward approach, as they have hidden paths and ways to maneuver through them. When I first started playing the game the world was so big and presented all at once that it made me feel a bit overwhelmed. You’ll have a marker that points out the correct path to take, but aside from that you’re free to explore each nook and cranny you come by. Once you’ve gotten past a chunk of the game and picked up some gear you’ll notice that there are plenty of places to return to in order to pick up treasures.

Speaking of treasures, Darksiders II has an entirely new loot system that wasn’t in the original title at all. Where War was able to pick up different pieces of gear for use in his travels, he was limited to his main weapon and side weapon. He had a sweet suit of armor, but that was about it. Death, on the other hand, isn’t limited by such means. All throughout the world you’ll come across different pieces of equipment, that being armor and weapons. Enemies will drop this loot, and you’ll find it everywhere in chests. Where War collected souls and traded them to Vulgrim for items and skills, Death collects gold. You’ll find gold in chests, barrels and crates in the world, and by defeating enemies. Death can use this gold to purchase armor, weapons, and skill upgrades. Throughout your trip you’ll find merchants and trainers who can offer valuable goods. You can also sell items you’re not using for gold.

Death has the ability to equip a main weapon, a sidearm, a shoulder piece, waist armor, gauntlets, boots, and a talisman. Equipment found and placed in these slots will help buff Death’s stats, and some give extra abilities. For instance, you could find fist weapons that regenerate health over time as well as deal lightning damage to enemies. The possibilities are endless, and the coolest thing about the armor is visual. Each piece you equip looks different. Death’s appearance will change with each piece of armor he dons.

Something that’s also brand new about this loot system is the addition of possessed weapons. These are weapons that follow the system War had in the first game, but with some twists. Possessed weapons level up over time, but only by sacrificing other items to them. Once they gain enough “experience” to fill their level bar, they ascend to the next level. Their base stats increase, and you get to select one new stat to add to the weapon. This is a really cool feature because you can tailor weaponry to your liking. Plus, possessed weapons seem to be high in power and you won’t need to swap out for a while. Also, you have the ability to name these items. You can literally make them whatever you wish.

Finally let’s take a look at combat. This aspect of the game has taken a drastic turn from where we were in the first Darksiders. Like I mentioned above, Death plays out much differently than War. Where War was stout and could take damage, Death focuses more on evading and getting out of the way. War could block attacks, Death cannot. So this makes you open up to a different play style than you are used to. Instead of standing in the middle of enemies baiting them, you need to be moving around and staying on your toes.

Death makes use of quick attacks and is able to shunt in, lay on some damage, and get out before an enemy can retaliate. This is the main premise of Death’s combat approach. His scythes act as a main weapon, and you won’t see any other type of weapon in that spot. As for secondary you can pick up hammers, glaives, bladed gauntlets, and more. These weapons all have a different speed and effectiveness, so you’ll have to try them out before making your selection final so that you can get the best tactics with each type.

Executions show up once more in Darksiders II, but they aren’t as prevalent. In the first game you were able to perform an execution on any enemy who had their health drop to a certain point. In the sequel it comes up by chance, but it’s still always fun.

Death also has his own unique way of leveling up. Where War purchased and used each of his abilities, Death has two skill trees. You can either choose to be more combat-oriented or use wrath abilities to your advantage. As you kill enemies you gain experience. Once you gain enough you level up – it’s typical of an RPG title. At each level you gain a skill point that can be placed into one ability on the skill tree. The combat side has Death using new attacks and gaining the prowess to stand toe-to-toe with his enemies, while the other sees him summoning minions and using his wrath to his advantage.

Like War’s Chaos Form, Death has a Reaper Form. This works the exact same way as War’s, only I think it looks much more badass. Death gains a strength boost as well as a buff in defense. Once he drains his reaper power he can build it back up by making attacks, just as before.

In the original Darksiders War has The Watcher to help aid him, and hinder him, along the way through his journey. In the sequel we’ve got Dust – a raven of sorts that acts as a pet to Death. Dust doesn’t speak, nor does he help offer information. He simply flies to where you need to head on the map. This is where I encountered an issue with the game. Dust, when summoned, never seems to go the same way twice. If you are lost and summon him for aid, he flies one way and sits. Call him again and he will go another way. He seems to consistently not help when you need it, which is the entire reason why he is there in the first place. It’s annoying, but not game-breaking.

Since Death needs to get around a lot, there is plenty of equipment to help him do so. You’ll gain items that help you traverse environments such as the Death Grip, and others that help you with your target practice like Strife’s pistol. In the first game you could easily switch between equipment with the D-Pad, though in this game it’s different. The D-Pad is used for health and wrath potions, but can also be used to map wrath abilities. The problem here is that the only way to switch between equipment is to hit down on the D-Pad, highlight what you need, and hit A. Then to switch back you need to do the same. It’s cumbersome.

Darksiders II introduces online functionality, and with that comes a variety of things. First up are the Serpent Tomes – an in-game messaging system. Friends can send each other messages in the game by approaching a Serpent statue. From this statue you can create, send, and receive messages from other players. This is also the way that your pre-ordered items will arrive to you. Other online functionality comes through the Crucible Mode, which is an arena-type mode where you can face wave after wave of enemies in the pursuit of awesome loot. The New Game+ mode also adds to the game’s replayability, making this something much more accessible than the first title.

Conclusion

I can’t say this very often, but Darksiders II is a perfect sequel. It’s come leaps and bounds over its predecessor, and it satisfies in every way. From the awe-inspiring scenery to the crazy new boss battles, there’s always something that will make your jaw drop. The in-game voice acting helps bring each character to life, and though this is a sequel both the first and second Darksiders feel more like separate chronicles that take place in the same world. I was right to wait in line that night for the first title, and even more right to anticipate this one. I’m a die-hard fan of the series and if you’ve not played it yet this game alone will turn you into one as well.

Despite some issues like the in-game menu which loads slowly between screens, the HUD that makes switching between your equipment a hassle, and a few glitches here and there, Darksiders II performs above its class.

Death is the yin to War’s yang. His attitude, approach, and mannerisms are different in every way. He’s egotistical, lazy, and sometimes overly grim. He’s determined, strong, and cunning. He’s a complete badass, and it makes this game worth having.

The Good

  • amazing visuals
  • hours of gameplay, and plenty of replayability
  • fun, fast combat
  • huge bosses, environments, and amounts of loot
  • gripping storyline
  • excellent presentation and gameplay

The Bad

  • story comes quickly and can be confusing
  • HUD is cumbersome at times
  • in-game menu loads slowly
  • Death has a tendency to be obnoxious at times
  • issues with Dust working improperly
  • can be overwhelming at times

Post a Comment