Thursday, 6 September 2012

Darksiders II

It is ironic that while playing as Death one can feel so many different emotions when exploring Darksiders II’s beautifully engaging and captivating world.

It is appropriate that after your dealings with War in Darksiders I, it becomes Death’s turn to artfully show off his craft. Artful is certainly a word you could use to describe this wonderfully ominous sequel as Darksiders II elaborates on the dark and grim world explored in the original and expands it into gruesome manifestations that even Death himself is fearful of. Darksiders II rightfully tweaks the gameplay mechanics and intertwining this with the beautiful world before you makes this one of this year’s most entertaining fusion of action, adventure and role-play yet.

Darksiders II’s narrative while powerful and immersive, is complimented by the gorgeous surroundings you find Death visiting. This is a game that while not having the most engaging story can certainly draw you in with the visuals and atmospheric exploration. Death’s tale leads him on a quest to restore mankind in an attempt to clear his brother’s name of wrongdoing. The path you walk isn’t wholly new or enlightening through narrative, but the dungeons you explore and the places you visit, very much are.

Darksiders II introduces you instantly to the game’s fighting mechanics, using primary and secondary attacks powered by eventual super and finishing moves. The combat feels similar to God of War’s hack’n’slash style gameplay, so if you’re into that then this is right up your alley. A major addition to Darksiders II over the original is the introduction of loot, which adds an RPG element to the game. Players will now constantly be looking for the best gear, weapons, accessories, all the while trading and selling unwanted goodies. This is certainly an excellent addition to Darksiders II, providing just enough extra variation to keep it from feeling like the exact same game.

The inclusion of loot slots right in place as Darksiders II expands significantly in size over its predecessor. Weighing in at around twice the size of the original and almost twice the length, it’s certainly a testament to the development team for crafting such a well-paced game. Darksiders II gives you plenty of opportunity to explore the world around you before engaging in the story’s main quests. No longer do you have to go from action scene to action like in the original and this really gives Darksiders II an opportunity to wow you with the beautiful surroundings that befall Death.

Of course there is only so much exploring you can do before you will need to get stuck into Darksiders II main adventure. An influence from The Legend of Zelda can easily be seen with the dungeons here, but once you begin taking on these dark and gruesome areas you will begin to understand that Darksiders II is truly a well-crafted and entertaining experience. It becomes very difficult to find a fault between the wonderful puzzle design, new abilities and varied boss battles that comprise each of the glorious dungeons that you must conquer. This is certainly the point where developer talent comes into play because there’s a fine line between being able to create an engaging, smooth and flowing environment or a really frustrating and monotonous one. Darksiders II nails the idea of exploration and completion here perfectly, so if you’re looking to reminisce over lost times spent in The Legend of Zelda-esque caverns, this is the place to be.

Darksiders II isn’t all about exploration. When faced with horrific enemies and fearsome boss battles Death will need his utmost skill and best abilities to tackle these hordes. Your combat abilities are divided and mapped into two trees – summon assists and offensive attacks. Upgrading these skills and in what order is largely left to you as you begin to feel out your preferences in combat. The combat itself is smooth, free flowing and offers enough variety if you choose to acknowledge it. It is possible to smash your way through in a monotonous manner, but there are enough secondary weapons and other things you can incorporate to ensure combat doesn’t get stale. Fortunately a variation in enemies also helps to keep you from using the same old tricks, most of the time anyway. Unfortunately it’s worth considering that in terms of combat, Darksiders II is relatively easier than the original, with some of the games’ biggest enemies proving to be pushovers – especially on normal difficulty. This is perhaps due to again the pacing because you are given ample opportunity to master each new ability and powers that Death receives, making you an unstoppable monster in combat.

When you combine Darksiders II incredible exploration with the entertaining action present throughout the story, it’s unmistakable that this is a quality game. If the main adventure isn’t enough for you, the Crucible arena is also present. Here players take part in a Horde-like game mode in exchange for better loot and equipment. So altogether there’s plenty to get your teeth sunk into.

Darksiders II is definitely a very impressive game considering how well put together. There’s a load to do, plenty to find and most importantly, plenty to take in and enjoy. When a game takes inspiration from games like The Legend of Zelda, God of War and Prince of Persia, you know there’s potential for something compelling, but it’s just amazing how well all these elements have gelled while at the same time creating their own identity for Darksiders II. As a result, it’s absolutely worth your time to give this game a go because as far as action role-play goes, this is a stellar example of how the genres should mix effectively.

9.0 | Gameplay | 
The action is fast-paced, smooth and a whole load of fun. There are no nonsense quick-time events or one-hit finishers here – the combat is brutal, varied and very satisfying. If that wasn’t enough, when you enter the dungeons Darksiders II truly shines. Fantastic pacing and well-structured, these beautiful environments are full of clever puzzles and deadly enemies, making each new chasm, cavern or mountain, a dangerous delight to explore and complete. New abilities and weapons are introduced at a wonderful pace and the same thing can be said across the entire game – the pace creates the experience.

9.0 | Presentation | 
Darksiders II isn’t the most beautiful game visually, but the actual visual design is gorgeous. The areas you explore leave you with lasting emotions, be it dread, or reprieve – sometimes a game doesn’t look phenomenal at first glance, but when you take in the sights and feel how they make you tingle on the inside, you begin to understand a whole new level of visual beauty, something that Darksiders II understood and aimed to provide to us as gamers. Needless to say, they succeeded.

7.0 | Replay Value | 
Darksiders II is an incredibly enjoyable game but there’s no real incentive to come back and play through this adventure more than once. Players looking for a greater challenge could perhaps come back for another shot or to 100% complete loot collection, but the real enjoyment can be obtained in the first play-through.

8.5 | Final Thoughts | 
Darksiders II is an elegant, dramatic and beautiful experience that gets so many things right. Highly enjoyable action intertwines with wonderful exploration to really give players the best of both genres. Then the rest is simply a testament to the wonderful development team behind this project because incredible visual design, pacing and depth help make Darksiders II more than just a game, but a really engaging experience.

*Editor’s note – There has been a lot of talk about issues on the 360 version of the game including slowdown and crashes. I can confirm that the 360 version I played did suffer from two system crashes. The same has not been confirmed for PS3 & PC. It’s also worth noting if you don’t have this game and are getting a Nintendo Wii U, this title will be coming out for Nintendo’s new home console.

Igor Kharin.

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