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Review

Darksiders II Review

  • Game release: August 13, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

Darksiders II merges action, exploration, and loot-driven progression into an excellent and sizable adventure.

by

First comes War; then comes Death. Appropriately enough, Darksiders II turns its eyes from its predecessor's protagonist to a new one: Death himself, War's brother and one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. His story plays out over the same time period as War's, but Darksiders II's narrative isn't so much about plot as it is about place and tone. The original Darksiders set a darkly fantastical mood, but the sequel hones its edges. The armor is still chunky and the sound of steel on steel still rings across battle arenas, but the skies are more ominous, the shadows grimmer, and the architecture sharper, as if every spire threatens to puncture the heavens and make them bleed.

And so Darksiders II draws you in not by narrative, in spite of its characters' frequent and raspy soliloquizing. Rather, it uses sights and sounds to impress upon you the importance of your deeds. While one level harks back to the angels-versus-demons, Christian apocalypse themes of the original game, Darksiders II springs forth from a more inventive vision. The dusky dungeons and desert expanses are more diverse than before, and the character designs are more imaginative, as if they've wandered in from biblical legends you've never heard. The characters you meet--undead rulers and impossibly proportioned behemoths among them--speak with humorless gravity, and Death often responds with a sneer and a verbal challenge.

The joylessness of Darksiders II's characters is a contrast to the pleasure of existing in this world. An icy opening introduces you to the basics of combat and movement. In traditional action game style, you slash away at clawed creatures with primary and secondary weapons. You run along walls and jump across beams like a devilish Prince of Persia. But most importantly--and in contrast to the original--your enemies drop coins, armor, and weapons. You can don equipment, sell it to a merchant, or sacrifice it to level up rare possessed weapons, which you can customize at certain thresholds.

Your combat instructor makes for an effective training dummy. The problem is that he fights back.

If the original Darksiders was an action/adventure/puzzle game, then the addition of loot drops role-playing elements into that mix, which brings to mind a potential concern: Darksiders was already a heavy mixture of recipes that had come before, recalling games like The Legend of Zelda, God of War, and even Portal. There were so many mechanics and so many tools to keep track of that the game struggled to find its own identity.

In Darksiders II, a funny thing happens on the way to the apocalypse: it establishes an identity all its own, rather than one defined through the games that inspired its existence. The game's expanded scope (about twice as big as the first game) and thoughtful pace (about twice as long as the first game) are most responsible for this. You now have a chance to breathe between battles, and each new mechanic has time to settle in before a new one is introduced. The more leisurely sense of pace is obvious from the very beginning. Darksiders' first hour was front-loaded with explosions, angelic cries, and the bloodcurdling sights of demonic forces swarming across the earth. Here, there are moments to take in the frozen chasms beneath you, and to enjoy the slick new motion mechanics that have you defying gravity in heady flights of fancy. (You won't miss War's wings in light of Death's fleet-footedness.)

The game's platforming mechanics are as smooth as molten lava.

You might miss the up-front barrage of action at first, but Darksiders II is more about adventure than constant onslaught, though there are plenty of battles waiting ahead. As you ride your steed to the first main dungeon, you can relish the green fields of the first of multiple major regions, and simply enjoy the act of being. If you want, you can explore some of the surrounding ruins, where treasure chests protect valuable pauldrons and cloaks. Or you can slash up the baddies that roam the land, even from atop your horse. But once you get into the dungeons, Darksiders II becomes special--more cerebral than your average action game, and more energetic than your average exploration game.

As expected, each dungeon requires that you puzzle out how to get from one point to the next. At first, this involves scaling walls, throwing the naturally occurring bombs you stumble upon, and pulling a few levers. Then, you get a phantom grapple hook that allows you to swing from glowing hooks and extend your wall runs. Later, you split yourself in three, petrifying your main form and using two doppelgangers to stand on switches and move platforms. Ultimately, you fire portals to travel across great ravines and even through time itself--and these are hardly the extent of the tools you use to make progress through Darksiders II's clever self-contained puzzles.

Where the original Darksiders' puzzles could drag, Darksiders II's are more expertly crafted, each one a little more difficult than the last--but never too difficult as to be frustrating. The learning curve is silky smooth, and once you reach the final dungeons, there are some outstanding moments when puzzling out a solution makes you feel remarkably smart. It's a tough tightrope for a developer to balance: making environmental puzzles feel challenging without becoming a roadblock to progression. Darksiders II's dungeons get it just right, giving you enough hints through camera angles and other subtle cues, and then trusting you to work out the solution. The only cue you can't rely on too heavily is your crow, Dust, who is supposed to point out your final destination should you get stuck, but might lead you astray, or flutter high above you and then teleport back.

Fortunately, you won't often need Dust's services, given each dungeon's natural progression. Nor will you need to worry about using a spinning blade to play connect-the-bombs, which was part of Darksiders' less appealing puzzles. You also needn't constantly fiddle with menus to switch between items and abilities, which is just as well, considering the sluggish menu performance. Given the sheer breadth of abilities, you still do a bit of controller micromanagement; you might need to switch between an ability and your revolver often in a particular level, for instance, though the related ability wheel is easily accessed with the D-pad. Nevertheless, managing your abilities and equipment is smoother than it was in the original.

Combat skills are divided into two trees and allow for powerful offensive moves (a vicious spin attack, for instance) or for summoning creatures to assist in battle (a murder of crows, perhaps). The action is largely satisfying: it's smooth and responsive under the fingers and is colorful and bloody onscreen. Death's primary scythes make for fluid combat, while his secondary weapon provides rhythmic diversity. That weapon might be a huge axe that sets wraiths on fire, or superfast gauntlets with an electric charge. Your grapple and your gun can also be valuable assets when certain foes join the fray, and battles are at their best when you confront multiple creatures with diverse attack patterns.

Death's steed makes open-area travel a breeze.

That isn't to say that Darksiders II's combat is all that challenging on normal difficulty, though it is more energetic than in the original. No longer can you whittle down a demon's health and perform a single-button finishing move almost every time. You can still perform such finishers, but they are far less common, though some equipment can raise your chances. Provided you have enough health potions (and there's no reason you shouldn't, given your easy wealth), you won't often feel in danger. Even certain bosses can be conquered in a single go, in contrast with Darksiders' more challenging endeavors. That's a particularly disappointing development when you reach the final monstrosity and realize it's an anticlimactic pushover.

The challenge is hit-and-miss, but the thrills are unmistakable. Easy as many are, the bosses are often enormous in scale, and some require the use of your special abilities--your grapple, for instance--to succeed. With only a couple of exceptions, Darksiders II doesn't use quick-time events to elicit excitement: the torrents of blood that spew across the screen are the direct result of your combos and volcanic fury. The biggest battles are pure power fantasy, reinforced by Death's ever-more-threatening armor and ever-more-potent weapons. Even the way Death opens doors and chests is part of this power trip, with the horseman summoning ghostly arms to perform such lowly labors.

All that green will be spattered with red in mere moments.

If you want to further beat your chest and bellow, you can do so in the crucible, where you earn new equipment--or sacrifice it for the possibility of better loot--by taking on progressively stronger waves of baddies. Alas, you won't feel so powerful when coming head-to-head with Darksiders II's uncommon (but pace-breaking) execution foibles. Sluggish menus and occasional loading hitches aren't major issues, but annoying ones. Ditto for some invisible walls and unhelpful camera angles during platforming sequences. More important are the system crashes possible--though not inevitable--while playing the Xbox 360 version.

Don't let the scattered execution snafus be of great concern: Darksiders II is remarkably well put together, particularly in light of its impressive scope. Bigger doesn't mean better, of course, but this isn't a "more of the same, just bigger" kind of sequel. The game uses its expansive geography to cultivate a poetic tempo in which your intellectual triumphs are rewarded with the immediate pleasures of fleet-footed platforming and demonic brutality. In Darksiders II, Death is not an end, but rather, a portal to a memorable saga of snarling brutes and stolen souls.

The Good
Fluid, colorful action that evolves over time
Clever, progressively more challenging environmental puzzles
Allure of new, cool loot pushes you onward
Expansive adventure, with lots of dungeons to explore
Great audiovisual presentation sets the right apocalyptic tone
The Bad
Performance issues and execution foibles
Disappointing bosses, especially the final boss
8.5
Great
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0 comments
morbius3
morbius3

I was pretty sure I was getting this game for Christmas so I bought #1 and played though it. I really enjoyed it, a good mix of slash them up guilty pleasure & mind bending adventure puzzle. When I started #2 I was really worried that they changed things up too much, Death is much more agile, you can't block attacks you can only dodge them. Plus the addition of the RPG aspects like money, equipment, and potions (in place of health & wrath chests). I soon came to appreciate the differences, it really gave the game a different feel without completely going away from the first one. This game is a lot bigger and allows for a more free roam style of game play, which I find appealing. In #1 you were always pushing forward, in this one you can slow down and really take in the environments, which are very well done. I haven't finished it yet, but I really really enjoy this game, hours of game play pass with little recognition. This series of games is definitely worth buying & playing, especially at the now discounted prices.  

narutod2
narutod2

This game is amazing got it for free. Points2shop is amazing the reason why being cause it ships fast and well really amazing. I just bought cod black ops 2 hardened edition for free with my points . And it normally cost about 90 dollars great deal huh? Thee best if y'all don't believe check my referral link and join. Check my stats.

SkaiNett
SkaiNett

Outstanding visual design? Really?

Gliave
Gliave

....This game belongs in the outdated bin.....Infact, after finishing the first chapter, i tossed it aside, and re-played God of War III, to bring about to myself, and make myself understand......How the heck is DS2 anywhere near an epic AAA action game...? An 8.5...?  In your dreams.....I give it a 4....And that' being generous.

Justforvisit
Justforvisit

I'm a huge fan of the first Darksiders, and just yesterday got Darksiders II, haven't played too far yet but so far I'm a bit disapointed about how they just changed way too much in the game...it doesn't feel as great as the first Darksiders anymore, especially because what's here written under "The Good": "Allure of new, cool loot pushes you onward" I have to completely disagree. If I want to play an RPG, I play an RPG. When I play an action game, I want ACTION and NOT hanging in the inventory every 5 - 10 minutes ._. It takes so freaking much speed out of the game and misses the fast and great amazing action that DS I was in my opinion. I only can hope it get's better after a while, but so far, Death also seems not very well thought out, War had a much better, cooler character that made more sense.

tjsmoke63
tjsmoke63

Liked this game, but didn't love it. Had some issues with the camera and the controls not always being responsive, which were some of the same problems I had with the first Darksiders. Also encountered some glitches, where NPCs didn't show up like they were supposed to or respond to commands like they were supposed to (actually had one character that was supposed to help in combat and just went and stood in a corner). Also found the constant fetch quests to be a little tedious. On the plus side, the game design looks great, the music and voice acting are terrific, and the story is fairly well done. Just didn't have as much fun with this as I hoped i would. It is better than the first, but only by a slight margin. would've given this a 7.5. Just my opinion.

digi-demon
digi-demon

Does the PS3/Xbox versions suffer much screen tearing? seems like the video footage highlighted a noticable amount. Hate screen tear :(

Kituco
Kituco

So is it worth it for me to buy Darksides (I & II) is it really a good franchise, or is it just hype, thanks for everyone who answers me, I appreciate it.

gix47
gix47

the game itself looked and felt the same as the 1st one,which is fine,  the plot is...like a summer action moive, not much of one but lots of silly fun..

but i did notice a massive amount of glitches and heard of a massive game breaker one with the elevator, haven't gotten that far it but have heard others speak of it..

eh, in short..as fun as the 1st one,hope the glitches get patched soon

adam1808
adam1808

Kevin tell me about the possibility of a bad framerate. I hear whiffs of it in Jeff's review. How does it hold up for those console versions?

glez13
glez13

Sounds okay. Other reviews  also point in the same direction.

ej_2010_ej
ej_2010_ej

game spot ppl always write extra long reviews, its still gud but long, also da game sound great but ill get it pre-owned so if i don't like it i can return it

ManatuBeard
ManatuBeard

Interesting game, some of the visual look "Amalur-ish". However, i am not paying 50 Euros for a 20h length game that has annoying bugs. In 4 or 5 months the game will be half-price and (hopefully) the bugs will be patched, i will get it then.

Another one added to my wishlist, thanks!

Shengali
Shengali

Wish I could leave work early! GF just picked up my CE, and now I'm chomping at the bit to rush home to it! Uh, I mean her... the GF...   lol   :P

bryceeey
bryceeey

Great review! Cannot wait to get this game :D

Venom_Raptor
Venom_Raptor

Great score, looking forward to this now. My only slight gripe about the sequel is I hope the puzzles aren't too demanding. The first game threw some truly mind-bending and tricky portal puzzling towards the end. Still, loot system sounds excellent.

Septagon7
Septagon7

 @SkaiNett I don't think KVO awarded it for the raw graphics, rather the design of the various elements: environments and backgrounds.  In that regard, I agree, they are quite striking, especially the demon world (forgot the name).

Warsilver
Warsilver

 @Gliave 4 is too harsh, I'd give it a 6.. 7 if I'm generous.

Gliave
Gliave

 @Kituco Mate, it is NOT....Save yourself the money, and get the God of War Saga, or even play Devil May Cry HD remake 1, 2, and 3 for god's sake if u're looking for a real epic action game...

 

This is nowhere near a good game at all..

 

In fact, play Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands instead, it's WAY more interesting and exciting, and relevant come to think of it...

awoody17
awoody17

 @Kituco I haven't picked up my copy of DS 2 yet but DS 1 was a great game. It's got a lot of action but throws in so many other elements for good measure. It plays a lot like a Zelda game, so if that's down your alley I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Raykuza
Raykuza

 @Gelugon_baat That's a bit cynical don't you think? I've been reading KVO's reviews for a long time, and I trust him to be honest in his praise and criticism. Besides, don't you want to hear that every game is good (only if it's actually good, of course)? It's always disappointing to hear when a game sucks especially if you've been looking forward to it.

Gliave
Gliave

 @Warsilver Mate, my intention was not to be harsh at all.

 

I'm simply considering it in today's terms, and I safely find it to be a 4 as a result.

Come on, they can do better than that ffs...

 

Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands, was no special game at all for example, but the effort it made renders it comparable to AAA games to say the least.

 

This one though, it's so monotonous, feels like a PS1 game..

 

It's not Darksiders as such I'm talkin bout here only, but rather how we're paying for outdated or invalid titles these days, especially considering the price tags they come with.

_Nolan1_
_Nolan1_

I see no point in playing past games over and over for years when there are so many new games to be played.  

 

If you like part 1, i see no reason you wouldn't like this.  Lots more to do, bigger world, more ambitious etc. etc.  Its not perfect... but definitely every bit as fun as Darksiders 1.

Darksiders II More Info

First Release on Aug 13, 2012
  • PC
  • PlayStation 3
  • + 2 more
  • Wii U
  • Xbox 360
Darksiders II follows the exploits of DEATH, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, in a weaving tale that runs parallel to the events in the original Darksiders game.
8.3
Average User RatingOut of 1891 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Vigil Games
Published by:
THQ, Spike Chunsoft
Genres:
Adventure, Action, 3D, Open-World
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms
Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Violence