joeyravn's Darksiders II (Limited Edition) (PC) review

Something went wrong here. Very, very wrong.

Disclaimer: This review is solely based on my personal experience with the game. I understand that other people probably have had a different relation with the game. So, yeah. Take it as you will.

Darksiders was a great game. It took some of the most entertaining features of some of the most well known franchises of all time and mixed them together to create a very cool and original game: the exploration of a Metroidvania, the dungeon-and-item-based gameplay of a Zelda, the ledge-grabbing-column-hopping platforming of the Prince of Persia reboot, the fast-paced combat of a God of War... even the portal-based puzzles of, well, Portal. The game had a personal sense of style that, even if it was similar to other "big dude with big shoulder pads" games, it suited perfectly the overall aesthetics and tone of the game. The story was, if not original, at least engaging, and the ending provided some sense of closure while, at the same time, leaving the door open for a direct sequel.

Fastforward to Darksiders II, aka "Yo, dawg, I heard you liked fetch quests, so we put a fetch quest in your fetch quest so you can fetch while you quest". Everything that could have gone wrong with this sequel did, indeed, go wrong. Death, your new protagonist, is as bland a character as they get. Not that War was your run-of-the-mill Hamlet or Willy Loman, mind you... but at least he had attitude, he was consistent throughout the whole game. Death tries to look badass, then spends the vast majority of the game doing other people's chores for them. Snarky comments aside, he doesn't put that much of a fight, really. The whole game degenerates into a chain of fetch quests and boss fights that block your progression on said quests. You get to a point in which you need to get three NPCs to come with you, but to get the third one you have to get, you guessed it, there items in return. A fetch quest inside a fetch quest: brilliant. All this going around from point A to point B to point C to get items X, Y and Z relegates the free exploration aspect to a secondary, or even tertiary, position. That's not much of a problem, really, since most areas in the game feel empty and devoid of anything worth exploring. The game is so linear that backtracking becomes completely optional, and I wouldn't have even needed to resort to it if I hadn't been aiming for an S-Rank and hadn't needed to get all the (non-mandatory) collectibles.

The story, which takes place at roughly the same time as Darksiders, feels too much like filler content. There's no gravitas to everything Death is doing. Yeah, sure, he's trying to revive humanity to absolve his brother War... but even if at the end he does manage to resurrect humankind nothing seems to have been of any consequence at all. Even his own sacrifice feels unimportant, since he is clearly revived at the end of Darksiders II, since he (along with his siblings Strife and Fury) is summoned to Earth when the 4th seal is broken at the end of Darksiders.

The most radical departure from the original Darksiders is the inclusion of a skill tree, paired up with an inventory system, that brings the game closer to a loot-driven action RPG like Diablo. The combat is better, no deying it, but I felt that the extremely narrow FoV did away with whatever improvement Vigil had done with the combat. Having an arsenal of new skills is pointless if I can't use effectively them because I can't see more than half of the battlefield because the camera is almost stuck to my shoulder. The loot mechanic, on the other hand, felt unnecessary, if you ask me. There's just not enough variety in the items you're getting to justify having to worry about the system. I would have prefered that they gave you just one pair of scythes that you can upgrade throughout the game (like the Master Sword in a Zelda game) and that they had used those they had freed into making a third alternative for the secondary weapons. A projectile-based weapon would have been great, for example. I didn't even bother with the heavy weapons (like maces or axes), because the speed and damage output of the faster weapons (claws, gloves?) is just that much better.

On top of everything, the thing that really grinded my gears was the insulting quality of the port. Vigil had promised a ton of PC-specific features and options that were never included in the final game. Not only that, but the game shipped in a nearly-unplayable state for many, many people, myself included. The in-game VSync option did not work at all, and forcing it through the NVIDIA Control Panel introduced massive amounts of stuttering. The only way to fix this was to force the game to run in borderless windowed fullscreen mode, using a nifty utility called GameCompanion. Vigil never addressed these problems. Then they even had the nerve to "release" (or, actually, accidentally leak) the first DLC for those who had bought the Season Pass some days earlier than it was expected, as a way to apologize for the rough launch of the game. Needless to say, this was also a fiasco, and the DLC was completely broken for a myriad of users... once again, myself included: upon loading the DLC, Death would fall through the ground into an infinite void. We had to wait until the actual release date of the DLC to get it fixed, making Vigil's "apology" utterly moot.

So, yeah. I didn't like Darksiders II. Not even a bit. It's a chore from start to finish, and by the time you actually finish it, the game feels utterly unconsequential and aimless.

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