You ever play a game and revisit it a while later and question why you did not notice the many flaws it had? Well, this is one of those reviews, as I previously looked over Darksiders II when the game was fresh and THQ was still alive. But now that the company is no more, I got a free copy, and felt like giving the game another whirl, I feel the need to verbally express my opinions on a game that is already more or less forgotten. Also, I didn’t actually beat it a second time through, I just got right up to the final dungeon and decided that I wanted to play something else.
Darksiders II Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), PS3. Xbox 360
Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: Formerly THQ, now Nordic Games… ?
Darksiders II centers around Death, a Horseman of the Apocalypse who is surprisingly not on a quest to pursue his namesake, but is rather trying to resurrect humanity after they were accidentally murdered. Such actions were attributed to War, who Death believes to be innocent, and is willing to risk just about anything to try and prove his brother’s innocence. Unfortunately, the journey cannot be that easy, with many a narrative speed bump along with way, with a tilted head being my reaction to most of them.
The problem I have with Darksiders II’s story and world overall is that is just feels far more complex than it needs to be. Death is part of a race that is a blend of angels and demons called the Nephilim, most of which he killed as ordered by the Charred Council, except Death placed the souls of the Nephilim in an amulet that he gave to the Crowfather who he hopes to be able to direct him to the Tree of Life. None of which has any sort of codex to explain the meaning of these terms or detail the world, which is interesting to a certain degree. For example, worlds were forged by giant deformed scotsmen and scotswomen called Makers, but their existence is more duly noted than anything, as Darksiders II quickly leaps between worlds or increasingly less depth as the game progresses.
Said game is one I’d mentally describe as Twilight Princess meshed with a Character Action Game, paired with a randomized series of equipment to balance a long list of stats. From Twilight Princess, it takes the very large scale and time consuming dungeons along with a nicely sized overworld between them. With the puzzles being rather simple as they are very linear in their design, and often involving a series of switches, plates, sockets, and the like in order to progress. Perhaps my distastefulness towards the structure is due to how I recently played through A Link Between World, which did not have a single dungeon that lasted over an hour, but the almost mundane nature of progression at display here was a bit hard to bear. Though, that could be in part due to how I remembered most of the environments I was going through.
The one I did forget, however, was forgotten with good reason, as when Death is dropped off on a destroyed Earth, the game regresses to a crawl-like pace where Death is fully equipped with one of two Fisher-Price looking firearms. A move that doesn’t sound so bad, until you consider how Death lacks any form of sprint, the environment is massive in the worst way, shooting feels rather canned, and everything is grey. A move that does strike me as a bit remarkable, considering how the rest of the game does maintain a very dull set of colors. With stone being the building block for most of the words Death visits, the very keen comic book-esc art style feels more than a little bit wasted, as the game shines the most when using next to anything but its most common color.
However, the art of visual communication of actions is also one that I felt was a bit lost in terms of combat, meaning I did not think combat was very well displayed. Under the guise of my favorite genre title of a Character Action Game, the combat in Darksiders II is on the slightly more frantic side of the combo heavy genre. Yet, combos are relatively useless from what I could perceive, while managing crowd control of a large group of enemies is difficult due to how I naturally want to make use of the targeting system, so I am often left unable to notice when a rock monster is going to swing his hammer at me. Though, I happened to fall into that trap while targeting enemies, due to how overzealous and flashy the animations are, not helped by how numbers fly out of every enemy knocked down to size by a scythe or one of Death’s many other toys.
Featuring four oddly introduced items in the form of a pistol, a magical claw for grabbing and swinging, a device used strictly for puzzles that is actually rather clever, and a Portal gun that is introduced with an achievement titles, “I Can Has Cake”. With the gun being the most useful in my experience, if only for how it allowed Death to build up his wrath meter quicker and throw some icey crows that leech health at enemies. A strategy I often fell back on due to the visual confusion when enemies cluster about, regardless of whether you are using a big hammer or some spiky armbands for your secondary weapon. Or perhaps I just had very poor luck of the draw with my equipment when it grew to be several levels inferior in a game where the maximum level, which can only be gained through obsessive grinding or a New Game Plus.
A mode I would have likely done if I hadn’t up and sold my 360 copy and instead settled on the PC one, which is a rather poor port might I say. I experienced massive framerate dips to the point I had to look for a lone file to play within the game’s many folders in order to have my actions correlate to what was happening on screen. When having the shadows on at max settings, panning the camera around causes the environments to flutter. Even after that, there were still horizontal lines that broke up whatever was the environment half the time I tried to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the world of Darksiders II, which I must admit is rather impressive all things considered. With the set pieces housing quite a large scope and quantity of detail, though making stone stylish is a task a bit more difficult than one would presume.
I recall recently comparing something as less than a jack of all trades, and more of a seven of all the trades at play, and to a certain extent that is how I also feel about Darksiders II. It is not a bad game, far from it, but is is also a slow, not particularly unique, and not entirely realized action game, that is, in the end, competently made. Perhaps I am just getting more demanding with age, or am less invested in the title when I’m not paying $60 for it, but… eh. It’s a decent game with a lot of care put into this craft from a studio that did not deserve to be demolished instead of bought for something as measly as $5,000.
By no means something that must be played, but not entirely worth pushing aside forever. The title is ultimately above average and keeps the good balanced with the bad by a noticeable enough margin to still be worth picking up… for large a discount.