Game play - 9.6
Presentation - 9.5
Story / Creativity - 6
Lifespan - 9.2
What we get is a bulging action RPG in the third person that is incredibly fun to play and a visual treat to behold. Even though the story is a complete let down, it shouldn’t stop you from blocking it out and just immersing yourself in the world of Darksiders 2. This is definitely an example of how gameplay can ultimately carry a game that has little to no story.
After a 25+ hour binge this week on THQ’s newly released Darksiders 2, I am finally able to give my opinion. After the great beginnings of the Four Horsemen’s journey through the apocalypse in DS1, does the highly anticipated sequel make the on-going battle worth fighting for?
Darksiders 2 follows the adventures of Death, the second of the four horsemen who is on a personal quest to prove his brother’s innocence no matter the cost. What follows is a story of kind of epic proportions that ultimately falls flat when trying to engage the player in its very expansive tale.
The story starts a little bit after the beginning of the first Darksiders. War has been accused of starting the apocalypse and is now forced into exile while trying to find those responsible. His legendary brother thus decides to take it upon himself to I guess do the same thing. This is where problems begin to surface. While the original Darksiders gave its protagonist an epic introduction full of CGI wonder, Death gets nothing more than a set of still illustrated images. To nit-pick even further, he kind of just begins his journey without that much explanation.
For starters you begin the game as Death (voiced by the incredibly talented Michael Wincott) is making his way to see the Crow father. This individual has some form of connection to the story and its characters, yet we never really find out why. The game doesn’t even try and give us a reason to care. Why does Death need to see this guy? Some form of solid hand holding through the premise is sorely missed here and it kind of feels like a piece of story is missing from the beginning of the game. Things only get worse as you near the end of the game’s second massive open world environment. See the game’s story is incredibly paper thin. After the 15 hour mark you will be begging for some form of outstanding story progression but ultimately it feels like Vigil didn’t really know where to go with the story this time.
Throughout your journey you will meet a stream of interesting characters that sadly get washed aside as the game’s writers sit in the background wondering what to do. This is very obvious in Death himself who seems to not realise that he is wasting more time than he should when “helping” War. Constantly he will go up to people announcing that he is “Here to prove his brother’s innocence” he actually says it quite a lot only to be forced into doing someone else’s dirty work. After doing the task he will once again state the same thing only to be forced to once again be made to do another task or go see another person who “is the key to saving his brother”.
Everyone in this game is supposedly the key to saving War yet none of them do anything beneficial apart from playing secretary to the next upcoming cast member. It is a shame the Death himself is wasted to such a messenger boy role with the attention span of brooding task addict. Even though he is so determined to help War, he seems to get so distracted by other people’s problems that we end up just getting rather bored half way through. I basically kept running through my head this scenario below:
Death walks into room. Death shouts “I am here to save my brother from eternal damnation!” Evil looking man grins and replies “Indeed, but maybe you would like to go find the magic flying bunny rabbit of unimportance?”. Death then rubs his chin and finally ends up replying with “FLYING RABBITS?! I’m sure War can wait”.
If you cut out half of this on-going quest teasing you would probably have about a 10 hour story instead of a near 30 hour one. Finally you have some form of antagonist behind the whole thing called The Corruption but he is pretty much forgotten about until the end of the game. It is a shame really after everything the first game set in place with its great narrative structure. It doesn’t even help that we end up not even having a proper conclusion to the game’s finale. It honestly just feels like the writers were either too busy having fun playing the actual game or just got bored with trying to find some form of conclusion for it. It also doesn’t help that Death and War never make contact once in the entirety of the tale, something fans of the series have been dying to see happen but once again never comes to execution.
This doesn’t mean the game is bad though. While the story is a massive disappointment, it is the world that it inhabits that is the real star of the show. First of all the game is incredibly beautiful and this is proven once again by the game’s Creative Director Joe Maduieria. The guy is a genius when it comes to the Darksiders universe and everything in it is just so gorgeous and breathe taking. It is obvious that Joe knew what he wanted when initially conjuring up Darksiders and the pure love and attention to its art style is a real testament to comic book inspired video games.
Everything from characters, to enemies types, and even the lands you fight them in are bulging with detail. With 3-4 hub worlds to go adventuring in you will be spending a lot of time just wanting to explore what wonders Vigil have created for us on just one disc. The game is massive and you will get totally lost in its wonders at times that you will generally just forget all about what Death is supposed to be doing.
This is all backed up by an incredibly excellent voice cast and collection of background music. It was a surprising delight to see my dream voice actor do the voice of the main protagonist. Personally though it is a shame that we have had to wait so long for Michael Wincott to get into the video game jig, but after an also outstanding performance in this year’s Syndicate; it is proof that Wincott has a knack for voicing a certain type of heroic anti-hero like Death. As mentioned the music presented within the world of DS2 is also a true treat to listen. I especially loved the music for the Land of the Dead and Last Light hub worlds, while finding the initial prologue combat music in the Forge Lands to be rather annoying. I just seem to have a problem with out of tune bag pipes.
The game is bulging with content from countless dungeons to explore, hundreds of pieces of loot, a survival arena, a levelling system and a large variety of different kinds of enemies to fight. What needs particular attention though is the game’s combat and loot system. While the original Darksiders took on a hybrid formula of God of War/ Zelda, Darksiders 2 takes it one step further by replicating the gameplay of both those games but also Prince of Persia and…Diablo 3.
You see, instead of having a predetermined character like War was, Death can be two completely different types of fighter. From the get go as you begin to unlock your level up skill points, you will find that Death can either follow a warrior specific skill tree, or a more mage type combatant. This doesn’t force players to pick a certain type either, as the skill tree can be mixed and matched with a heap of different useful abilities. Not only that but if you feel that you would rather try focusing on a different play style for Death then you can even respec your entire skill tree with the help of shop keepers later in the game.
The combat gets even deeper with the inclusion of the rather large loot system. During your quests through the countless dungeons you will be relieving enemies of weapons, gear, or plundering chests with the child-like anticipation of getting a super powerful weapon. All these different pieces of treasure come together to form the large stat table of Death’s damage output, defence, critical damage, etc that either strengthen his hand to hand combat or magic abilities. It is an incredibly nice change over the generic hack and slash concept and also allows players to come back after completion and try different combinations of weapons and outfit pieces.
Getting round the worlds that Death visits is so much easier this time too. While War was a hulking brute of a man that slowly clambered up walls, Death gives players the ability to travel around the maze like dungeons and environments with a surprising amount of grace that has only ever been seen from Ubisoft’s own Persian prince. Towards the later parts of the game you will be finely taught in the ways of wall running and death grip swinging that it nearly ends up looking rather poetic and fluid. Saying that though, it is a shame that the game didn’t implement a dedicated platforming button as you will sometimes find yourself either not sticking to walls and accidently falling to your death, or running up the completely wrong direction. It is something that never really gets in the way though, but still becomes the occasional annoyance.
To boot the combat and stats they feed off are also surprisingly balanced. Everything from the combos you use, to the necromancey spells you conjure up all feel like they give the right about of oompf. You will probably die a few times in along the way but combat deaths will always feel justified as you come to accept the fact that you missed that key dodge moment or health potion press.
For more information on Darksiders 2, click here.