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Review

Darksiders II Review

  • Game release: August 13, 2012
  • Reviewed: November 20, 2012
  • WIIU

Darksiders II comes with a few extra technical foibles on the Wii U, but the fluid action and intriguing exploration are still front and center in this expansive adventure.

by

The Wii U version of Darksiders II may suffer from some additional technical hitches, but this vast adventure is so absorbing, it's still easy to lose yourself in its oppressive world. And what a world it is, with architecture so sharp that every spire threatens to puncture the heavens and make them bleed. You needn't worry about too many confusing story details if you missed out on the original Darksiders: this sequel's narrative isn't so much about plot as it is about place and tone. And that tone is what sets Darksiders II apart. The skies are ominous, the armor is impossibly chunky, and the game's star--Death himself--speaks with gravelly, somber tones, save a few moments of sarcastic humor that betray his agitation.

This port isn't the finest way to lose yourself in Darksiders II's fantastical universe, however. On the bright side, the Wii U release includes Argul's Tomb, downloadable content delivered for the earlier versions. The tomb isn't Darksiders at its best, with a protracted shooting segment lasting too long to be fun. (Though to be fair, you could take the melee approach in spite of all the guns scattered around.) This content can be accessed at any time, and provides you with the abilities necessary to complete it if you haven't unlocked them in the main campaign. But significantly, the game suffers from some frame rate problems, distracting loading times as you move through the overworld, and longer loading times when opening doors than in the other iterations.

Technical hiccups aside, Wii U owners get the same experience as everyone else, though with some gamepad tweaks: menus are accessible on the touch screen, special abilities can be (but don't have to be) activated by touching their icons, and tilting the pad changes your direction when swimming and pushing boulders. As for the basic mechanics, an icy opening introduces you to 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. There are also role-playing elements: 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.

It's a good thing Death is half naked in this dungeon--it must be a hundred degrees in there!

Darksiders II is clearly reminiscent of other games you have probably played. It recalls the structure of The Legend of Zelda, the parkour of Prince of Persia, and even the dimension-bending puzzles of Portal. Yet in spite of how heavily it wears its inspirations, Darksiders II establishes an identity all its own. The game's large scope and thoughtful pace allow you to breathe between battles, and each new mechanic has time to settle in before a new one is introduced. The leisurely sense of pace is obvious in the first level, where you can take in the frozen chasms beneath you, and enjoy the slick motion mechanics that have you defying gravity in heady flights of fancy.

If you played the original Darksiders, 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.

This big boy looks intimidating, but show a little patience, and he's annihilated before you can break a sweat.

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 balance for a developer to maintain: making environmental puzzles feel challenging without unduly impeding the player's steady progress. 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.

Sometimes, when a giant demon explodes, it's best to just bask in the glow.

Fortunately, you don't often need Dust's services, given each dungeon's natural progression. Nor do 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 the interface to switch between items and abilities, which is just as well, considering the sluggish performance of the main-screen menus. 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.

The shooting sequences get a little tedious; thankfully, you can drop the gun and hack away if you get bored.

That isn't to say that Darksiders II's combat is all that challenging on normal difficulty, though it is energetic. You can occasionally perform a single-button finishing move if you whittle an enemy's health down enough, though the option isn't overly frequent, and 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.

Remember, kids: don't use steroids.

The Wii U version's execution problems are a disappointment considering the overall quality of Death's dark adventure. Yet the frame rate jitters and loading hitches don't greatly detract from the bloody appeal of Darksiders II's combat, nor the gradually evolving complexity of its enjoyable dungeons. Death may have plenty of contempt for the denizens of this burning world, but the game he appears in tempts you ever onward with its promise of new abilities to exploit and new paths to explore.

The Good
Role-playing elements give combat a great sense of progression
Clever environmental puzzles with a consistent learning curve
The promise of new loot keeps you pushing forward
A lot of content to uncover and secrets to unearth
Atmospheric presentation draws you in
The Bad
Too many frame rate hitches and loading pauses
Most battles are too easy, even those against enormous bosses
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
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Discussion

0 comments
kingken1986
kingken1986

The reason Wii U has framerate issues is because the Wii U is a graphics intensive system, not a cpu intensive system.  The Wii U has an excellent next gen graphics chip and a good tri-core cpu.  The cpu is on par with xbox 360 and ps3 but it just has a different instruction set and processes out of order instructions.  The 360 and PS3 both do in order instructions.  I have a hunch that games that were ported do not take advantage of the out of order instruction set.  But the Wii U also has an extremely powerful graphics chip.  Developers are used to developing on systems that require more from the cpu than the gpu.  Where the GPU in the Wii U actually assists the CPU.  This is because nintendo was smart in developing the Wii U, they saved money by giving the Wii U a cpu that has enough power, and a GPU that has more than enough power.  It will take time for developers to understand this and focus the power for their games on the GPU and not the CPU.

monkeypants
monkeypants

Wow, I thought the only reason to get any of these ports on Wii U would be for BETTER graphics and HIGHER framerates... And now you're telling me ports of current gen games are actually UGLIER on Wii U!!?!  What's the point!?

uchihasilver
uchihasilver

I really hope people dont think the wii u is a bad console cos of some technical problems on ports =/ i only say this because of the ignorance of people these days, its a new console it deserves some time to come to grips with its capabilities. Also i wish people would stop with the ps4/720 remarks lets face it people we will not see as big a difference as we did in previous gens and if we do you will more than likely need to fork out some serious cash to do so. Developers are currently losing money all the time on current gen graphics hell naughty dog almost went bust moving to the ps3 who cares honestly we dont need better graphics any more, we need better games can anyone honestly say todays graphics are bad?

dino77c
dino77c

game wasn't built for the Wii U its a port on a new system the fact it has minor problems is no surprise.  The first Madden on the 360 was worse than Madden on the original xbox.  These things take time 

Fursnake
Fursnake

Seems like this review could have been cut from 2 pages to 2 lines:

Same game. With controller tweaks and more techinical problems.

 

Glad I waited to get this until it went on sale on Steam.

LAboy06
LAboy06

So let me get this straight. The Wii U is a "next gen" system, that has trouble running games for the current gen? Is it just me or is Nintendo behind? By the time the PS4 and 720 comes out they will overshadow the Wii U for sure.

angeloti83
angeloti83

i got no intention  to play this game whatsoever.

xgalacticax
xgalacticax

Most battles are too easy! Hehe. You play as DEATH for crying out loud. Doesn't get any easier than that. I never did get the game for 360 or PS3. Might just pick it up for Wii U when I get one.

kiramasaki
kiramasaki

Why are they doing another review? I have never seen them review the same game twice even if it is on different systems, usually hey just give the same rating for all systems.

robbiejones
robbiejones

batmans framerate on the wii u is also the worse of the consoles

nintendoboy16
nintendoboy16

Well, good to know that with all it's flaws, it's still a good game on Wii U.

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

It's going to take some time for devs to adjust to optimizing for the Wii U, like anything that's new.  I think this is especially the case with ports.  You can do a hack-job/bandaid-fix with the source code and get things working on another system or you can gut all the system-specific code and write things from scratch(within reason). 

 

I'm more inclined to believe that the hack-job is what devs are doing with the ports.  I don't know how long they've had the dev kits for but I certainly wouldn't devote more dev time than necessary on an unproven platform, especially if it's a port of an older game.

jer_1
jer_1

This game is friggin badass on PC, shame to see that it is having any kind of framerate issues on this console.

 

Play this game on hard, it's a must!

Panda-Pat
Panda-Pat

Hated how the game got more and more half assed as you progressed... the 1st and 2nd world was huge and luscious ... from then on ... it just a speck and they called it a whole other world ... especially the last ...  crap ending too

thom_maytees
thom_maytees

Quite surprised that the game received a 8.0 even with the technical issue which the PC version also suffered.

Rivboets7
Rivboets7

Kevin since you are a reviewer I was wondering from the WiiU games you have played do they all have bad frame rates occasionally?  Also nice review.

megakick
megakick

 @kingken1986

 Guess what publishers are not going to take the time to learn how correctly progrm for a very long time. PS3? MONEY NOW FIX LATER.

theR34p3R
theR34p3R

 @monkeypants Because the Wii U has its power in the GPGPU and not the CPU, what is where most of these ports are focussed on. They're not properly Wii U modified, just lazily ported over.

LAboy06
LAboy06

@uchihasilver The graphics this generation are great, but as consumers, we would like to see a noticable improvement in new systems to validate spending the money on a new console. The PS4/720 would have to be photo realistic, which is why I think we won't see these systems until 2015/16 at the earliest. Of course I could be wrong since Sony and Microsoft want to compete with Nintendo, but I sure won't be excited for next gen consoles if its only a slight improvement.

patcoghlan
patcoghlan

 @dino77c remember gun? the hardware in the Wii U is far more powerful than the current generation and these ports are just not doing it justice.

bunbun343
bunbun343

 @LAboy06 It's just a bad port.  PC ports have trouble like this all the time but you don't see anyone saying they're behind.  In fact, the PC port of this very game has the same performance issues.  This game serves as no indicator for the WiiU's performance capabilities.

jark888
jark888

 @angeloti83 If you're God of War fan, you may want to try out (in case you haven't yet). The first game took a lot from God of War games.

megakick
megakick

 @kiramasaki

 Thast not true the game is a AAA title they review it for every system.

Lord_Python1049
Lord_Python1049

 @kiramasaki I don't think they've ever done that before, that would be against their guidelines. Usually the games work as well on all systems but they do check them...

TTDog
TTDog

 @kiramasaki You do see seperate reviews if the scores are different, generally to explain what is at fault with the poorer scoring version... look at the Sega Racers Transformed reviews... 6.0 for the WiiU but 8.5 for PS3/360

nintendoboy16
nintendoboy16

 @kiramasaki Because it may be worth it to NOTE the DIFFERENCES? If I was to do a multiplatform review of a game I played multiple versions of games (like Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, both of which I played and beat on N64 and GameCube), I'd note stuff like that.

josecer
josecer

 @Whole-Lotta soooo you think you're an "skill" gamer because you play on PS3, Xbox 360 or PC...

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

 @thom_maytees 

 

which technical issues? frame rate hitches or loading pauses?

because that's problem simply solved once you get better hardware (Processor, RAM, or GPU), I play games on SSD drive,, there's no frame rate hitches, but the otherwise the game run with the lightning speed.

-_-

GamerOuTLaWz
GamerOuTLaWz

 @thom_maytees played through the whole game on PC when it was released,never had a single issue,game is awesome I highly suggest it

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @Rivboets7 In the multiplatform games I have played so far it's been a noticeable issue. It will probably take some time for developers to figure out the best ways to get their games to run well and still maintain the quality they are pushing for. 

Atermi
Atermi

@bunbun343 PC ports? Seriously? All the multiplatform runs more smoothly on PC and has better visuals. It is ridiculous to compare Max Payne 3, Spec Ops or Skyrim visuals on consoles with outstanding ones on PC. 

Bad port is just a bad port, not dependent on where is it being ported. Dark Souls and Darksiders 2 run much, much more smoothly on PC than on consoles, though. 

LAboy06
LAboy06

@bunbun343 Thats true, however almost all the Wii U's ports have the same issues. Sure they are just bad ports, but I guess my point is that this console is supposed to be next gen, so wouldn't that mean it should have better graphics and whatnot over the PS3 and 360? Its like when the Wii came out it had outdated graphics compared to the PS3. I just feel like Nintendo is behind in that department. Sure they are adding new gimmicks, but visually they are behind imo.

TrueProphecy22
TrueProphecy22

 @Lord_Python1049  @kiramasaki  When a game is re-released on a new system much later, like these games are, they do new reviews.  There are numerous examples with 360 games that were later released for the PS3. 

kagento
kagento

 @Ladiesman17  @thom_maytees I got the occasional fps drop and it is the only game I've suffered it with so far. Check forums and other, many people are affected. It's not gamebreaking though, and the game is really good!

SolidSnakeFan
SolidSnakeFan

 @Kevin-V  @Rivboets7 That's a damn shame. Considering that these ports are full priced, it's hard to excuse a publisher/developer's "experimentation", so to speak.

 

Hope they patch this stuff up.

Rivboets7
Rivboets7

 @Kevin-V 

Thanks for that I was just wondering because I really hate it when games have bad framerates and I am considering buying a WiiU.

ronnieo54
ronnieo54

 @LAboy06  @bunbun343 no. its a different processing architecture. and I don't see the issues anyway, everything i've played on the wiiu looks better than the ps3 counterpart. I even did side by side comparisions. find a system without damned glitches and i'll buy 3 of them.  

josecer
josecer

@SythisTaru Oh a PC fanboy who thinks he has the best computer in the world

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

 @shadow580 @kagento 

 

I'm lucky then =P

 

the last time I suffered major hitches that's when I play RAGE (fps drop), The Witcher 2 (uber-sampling), and CryoStasis (water ripple)

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
Please Sign In to rate Darksiders II
Developed by:
Vigil Games
Published by:
THQ, Spike Chunsoft
Genres:
Open-World, Adventure, Action, 3D
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