More of the same but it fills a hole
Darksiders II might not be the game you were hoping for after finishing the first game a couple of years ago.
The sequel was screaming out for a four player co-op game featuring all Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (War, Death, Fury and Strife), but what you get here is some more of the same.
The first game very much wore its influences on its sleeve, heavily borrowing from games like The Legend of Zelda and Darksiders II is no different.
This time you play as War’s brother Death and the story plays out concurrently with the first game, although this is only really alluded to a few times.
Death is looking to clear War’s name by resurrecting humanity at the Well of Souls. Cue dozens of fetch missions to retrieve objects which are usually broken into three pieces and scattered across dungeons guarded by big bosses.
Combat is the main area of improvement in Darksiders II with a selection of moves which are easy to pick up but feature enough depth to keep things interesting. Again, Vigil has borrowed heavily from Devil May Cry and God of War in how it has approached the fighting system.
Death’s primary weapon is a scythe split in two allowing him to approach combat with Kratos-style blades. There’s also a secondary weapon slot which lets you decide if you want to get in close and fast with claws or slow and punishing with giant hammers or axes.
Slicing up bad guys gains experience points and Death can be upgraded across two skill tree paths to improve Harbinger attacks or Necromancer black magic skills.
Death is much more agile than his lumbering brother and the emphasis is on zipping about the battlefield to get the drop on foes. Unfortunately there’s not a huge amount of variety with the enemies you face so the combat system is actually more complex than anything you come up against.
Even the boss battles are fairly straightforward as not many insist on using power ups you acquire as you progress through the game. You can pretty much approach most of them head on like any other enemy as long as you dodge like a mofo.
The other big change is the addition of a light-RPG style loot system which allows you to upgrade and change weapons and armor. There’s quite a large variety to choose from and if you’re lucky enough to find some possessed weapons you can “feed” weapons left in your inventory to boost specific stats to make some super killing tools.
The loot system does prompt you to change your load outs quite often and as a result you end up using a lot of different weapons. This helps to keep things fresh with the combat as you switch between arm blades, maces, axes and hammers.
Repetition is ultimately Darksiders II’s biggest downfall. The process you go through with each dungeon lacks variety and while there are some challenging puzzles along the way, there’s not much to do beyond fetching keys and opening gates.
While the high-fantasy style world is large and well realised, I never felt the need to explore it. This was made worse by the fact that you can fast travel to any location in the world, even within dungeons, which is great for eliminating loads of back tracking, but it sells the world Vigil has created short because you just skip through all of it.
If only it was possible to skip through the story too. The first game left me intrigued about where Vigil would go with the sequel but Darksiders II doesn’t really offer up any answers to the questions raised by the first game and pushing through the final third felt like a chore. There’s a third person shooter segment which is excruciatingly tedious to play through.
I would describe Darksiders II as a bit of a filler. Are you missing God of War? Frustrated by the lack of frequency Nintendo churns out a new Zelda? Darksiders fills that gap, but only while you’re waiting for the real thing. There’s no real element of innovation, more a respectful imitation of solid combat and dungeon puzzles influenced by great games of the past - if that’s enough for you then Darksiders II will do.