War might have been hell… But Death is final. Yes friends Vigil has blessed us with its holy light once again as the videogame apocalypse rages on. The real question remains. Is Darksiders 2 a worthy sequel to 2010’s surprise hit?
As those familiar with the first game will know the end of mankind and the final end of days was brought about by War being tricked in to riding out before the real end of days. The second game picks up from a short time after War is charged with bringing about the fall of mankind. His brother Death rides out to try and negate War’s crimes by bringing about the re-birth of Humanity and find out who has set his brother up to take the fall. Previous knowledge of the series is advantageous but not essential. You’ll find you might get that little bit more out of the plot twists and turns if you have played Darksiders but the game does a fine job of standing on its own feet.
Over the course of the 20 – 25 hours of game play you will traverse a map many times larger than that of the original title. As with every game of this type you will need to talk to a large number of the worlds inhabitants and gain their help. As ever nothing in life is free so to secure the relevant help you’re going to need to do the usual array of fetch, carry and unlock puzzles.
A large map with free and easy access to a horse sounds great fun but can get a little tiresome riding from point to point. Luckily the game introduces a fast travel system that is very similar to that used in Diablo. Simply return to the area of the map that acts like a hub, purchase supplies, sell items etc, then return to the same point in the dungeon you’re in and keep on trucking. It makes the game feel a lot more immediate – it does however ruin the sense of scale a little. It just depends on your point of view. Personally I was glad of the feature.
Combat is once again a real bonus of the games. Improving over War’s more stoic fighting skills Death can get around pretty sharp’ish and it makes for a more satisfying combat experience all round. As you take down foes there are just as many wild combos to learn as before but you do see the finisher icon (O on the PS3) a lot less than the first title. As you progress you can use skill points to compliment your armoury with killer crows or demonic imps to fight at your side. You can also power up your meter until Death reveals his alter-ego the Grim Reaper. In this mode all hell breaks loose as you scythe your way through the enemies. It gets more than a little manic at these points!
Where are Darksiders (cough) borrowed a lot of inspiration from other franchises (God of War, Zelda etc) Darksiders 2 manages to hone a lot of these elements and add new. The game now feels a lot like God of War meets Zelda by way of Diablo. You see one of the most gleeful things to come out if this update is loot drops. That’s right each time you take down an enemy they will drop something (well 80% of the time). Be that currency, potions or a weapon. You can then pick all these up and sell them to the store owners or use them to equip Death. It’s a simplistic upgrade mechanic but it gives just the right amount of character modelling to the otherwise combat heavy title.
Graphically the game looks great. The same art style has been used throughout which is somewhat comic bookish in tone and execution. Characters are not as stocky as the previous title but they still have plenty of beef on them. Frame rate is a mixed bag I’m sorry to say. When the going gets tough, the tough drop some frames. This doesn’t spoil the game play at all but you will notice a fair amount of “chug” when screen pyrotechnics get going. Also, weirdly, the menus are ridiculously sluggish. Pressing the Select button to bring up the menu is a few seconds pause in game play. Then flipping screen to screen is almost as sluggish at times. The wide open world, as large as it can be, is a little sparse in places and riding across an expanse of land can feel very flat and unlived in at times. All these issues appear to be in place on both console formats so it’s not just a PS3 issue.
Sound once again is well produced and the overall score is again a real triumph. Voice work is just as top notch as the first outing, if not better in most places. Spot effects, foley work and environmental sounds too have all been given a similar polish.
Difficulty wise Darksiders II feels a little flabby in places. Like perhaps a few more weeks or months honing the combat or set piece sections might have made things a little more even. As it is you’ll find that you’re breezing through many sections but just getting you bony arse handed to you repeatedly in others. Spec’ing your character out correctly will play a little to this so make sure you level up the weapons and armour to fit you play style. Darksiders had its fair share of irritating battles, so much so you might want to hurl the odd controller out of the room. Darksiders 2 does a far better job of things this time.
One final set of notes. Story wise things get a little tedious at times. It falls a little short of Darksiders for overall narrative but what’s there does serve well enough. Final thought? Don’t shoehorn a third person section in to your game if it really wasn’t designed for it.
Darksiders 2 is a superb sequel to a game that took me (and many others) by complete surprise. It improves over Darksiders in every single component, apart from maybe story.
It’s not essential to have prior knowledge of the Darksiders universe but it will benefit you if you have.
Despite the minor rough edges, and the graphical inconstancies, Darksiders 2 is still a superb action adventure title with plenty of great characters and action to satisfy all. The new loot drop system, the seamless addition of Diablo’esque game play elements and overall polish to the title do it great credit.
Who knows if Vigil will work on more in the series, one can hope that they do get to carry on in this fantastic universe they’ve created.