Giant Bomb Review

92 Comments

Darksiders II Review

4
  • X360
  • PS3
  • PC

Darksiders II builds upon the previous game in some really exciting ways, but even people who can't make that comparison will enjoy the weighty combat and multifaceted character development.

You'll start with a horse from the very beginning.

2010's Darksiders was a cool surprise, an action-heavy apocalyptic epic that beat The Legend of Zelda at its own game by freshening up the combat and pulling in a lot of ideas that trace back to a lot of different places. It sparked a lot of conversation about the blurry line between the honorable homage and the straight-up jack move, and it felt like most folks ended up on the homage side of the line. Honestly, it was easy to feel that way because Darksiders was a really good game. So how do you produce a sequel to all that? Rather than staring at someone else's playbook, Vigil Games has taken the core ideas of the original Darksiders and built upon them in a natural way. You can still pick out a few things here and there that tie it to the products of gaming's past, but those inspirations aren't quite as clear cut, making Darksiders II feel like a smart, original evolution of the previous game's concepts with plenty of new things to see and do, from its new protagonist to its faster combat and engaging loot system.

In Darksiders II you play as Death, one of the other four horsemen of the apocalypse. War, the "hero" of the last game, isn't too popular in this battle between angels and demons, and Death is out to clear War's name and, assuming he can figure out the logistics, resurrect humanity along the way. You'll have a better time with the game if you're at least somewhat familiar with the original game's story, though if you're hazy on the facts, the game references just enough of them to bring you back up to speed. But other than setting out to put right the things that went wrong in the previous game, Darksiders II feels like its own adventure. The ties to the previous game feel more like nice bonuses for people who played that game than absolutely crucial details. Instead, much of the game deals with Death's attempts to reach the Tree of Life and/or the Well of Souls, powerful places that are said to be capable of bringing all of humanity back to life--the blame for that action currently lies at War's feet, after all. Of course, it's not exactly a simple A-to-B-to-C sort of story.

The Crowfather holds many secrets, and he's a key figure in Death's adventure.

Everyone wants something and no one's going to help out a horseman for free. So like any other proper video game protagonist, you're going to spend most of the 20-25 hours helping out the people around you. It starts by getting a forge going and discovering that much of the world in Darksiders II is overcome by corruption. This force is creeping across all the realms, infecting enemies and even the land itself, which is peppered with glowing rock formations that can be destroyed with bomb flowers. You'll work your way through multiple realms, each with its own version of the Tree of Life (or Death, as the case may be) and its own unique landscape and features. The story pushes you from one quest giver to the next, and everyone seems to have a few things for you to collect, be it the two keys, three parts of a staff, and so on. Though the story may be pretty straightforward, the dialogue is well-written and acted well, giving the game a weighty feel, overall.

Getting around the world is made easy via a very lax fast travel system, which has positive and negative impacts on the world. It's great to not have to ride your horse across huge, empty areas just to get to where you're going, but fast traveling from the realm's shopkeeper to the dungeon you're currently fighting through and back again robs the world of its sense of scale. It's almost certainly a gigantic world when compared to the first Darksiders--but it doesn't feel especially big, moreso if you're not focusing on every single one of the game's side quests, which can add a substantial number of hours to your play time.

Combat is fast and offers an upgradable combo system that makes it about more than just mashing the buttons, though if you're properly equipped and have spent your skill points in a complimentary way, mashing the buttons works pretty well around 95 percent of the time. Much of the combat focuses on landing a bunch of hits and dodging out of the way when a counterattack is headed in your direction. But if you've got faster weapons equipped and carefully curate your statistics to keep your health up and enemies staggered, combat is never a chore. Even many of the game's boss fights don't require specific mechanics to succeed, so you can skip the tricks and face your enemies head-on, if you like. Many of those boss battles get a lot easier if you're thinking outside of the box, though. One section of the adventure attempts to change things up by turning the game into a third-person shooter, but the camera system and controls just weren't built for this feat, making the entire section feel pretty terrible. It's one of the few blemishes in Darksiders II.

The menu screens are a little sluggish in the console versions of the game.

As you kill, you earn experience points and gain levels. This earns you skill points that are spent on a two-sided skill tree, with one set of abilities focuses on direct damage and strength increases and the other offering a more magical route of spawnable ghouls that fight by your side, defensive bonuses, and crows that show up to attack on your behalf. Yet another meter controls your ability to activate "reaper mode," which turns death into a large, more traditional take on the Grim Reaper that swings scythes around and does more damage. It's neat, but sort of a mess, as it's usually difficult to make out what the hell is going on. Just keep the Z-targeting button held down and mash the attacks, everything will be fine.

Some of the game's loot is also keyed to your character level, but the loot that drops is usually right at your level, so cases where you're picking up something you can't use yet are few and far between. There are several armor points on Death, so you can equip shoulders, a chest piece, boots, arm wraps, and a talisman. Death's primary weapon is always a set of scythes, but you can equip different secondary weapons, like huge hammers, maces, and axes or smaller arm blades that deal fast damage. The loot is color-coded and comes with a lot of different statistical bonuses, like "thorns" and "health on crit" or more standard upgrades like strength and defensive upgrades. The game also has a weapon upgrade system that lets you take special possessed weapons and level them up by feeding your other weapons to them. As you feed a possessed weapon, it increases in power and inherits some of your old weapons' special abilities. So if you have stats that you really prefer, you can feed those stats to a possessed weapon to keep it growing in a set direction. It's a cool system that makes each piece of loot meaningful, but if your playthrough is anything like mine, you'll probably only find two or three possessed weapons over the course of the game. Since possessed weapons cap out after leveling up five times, you'll eventually reach a point where you have no more abilities to buy, no more weapons to feed, and no real reason to keep collecting inferior loot at all, since it's so easy to earn money as you play. I finished the game with more money than I could ever reasonably spend and nothing to spend it on other than the occasional health potion.

Here's yet another key for you to collect and take on your trip.

Though Death isn't as bulky as War was, the Darksiders visual style remains intact. Even the townsfolk and shopkeepers in this world look incredibly tough and thick. But the game never lets its tone fall too far into generically grimdark territory. There's a lot of great design and art to look at as you work your way through the realms. The technical side of Darksiders II isn't as laudable, especially on consoles, where the frame rate gets rough when the action picks up and little things like shadow detail are noticeably drawing in as you run around. The PC version is a sharper, better looking game, but people who like to go overboard on the options will find Darksiders II's lack of checkboxes and sliders to be a little disappointing.

The adventure has its rough spots and the technical issues are disappointing, but these are relatively small issues in the grand scheme of things. Darksiders II is an exciting and lengthy adventure with interesting characters and a host of items and features that make its mix of combat and puzzle-solving very attractive. It's better if you also played the original game, but even if you didn't, Darksiders II is definitely worth looking at.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
92 Comments
  • 92 results
  • 1
  • 2
Edited by dekkadekkadekka

Excellent! I look forward to playing this when it's unlocked in the UK.

Posted by FieryPayne

I'm Ron Burgundy?

Posted by Talis12

pc version heading my way pretty damn soon

Posted by therealminime

I still have to play the first one. Glad to see this turn out to be good, hopefully it sells well because THQ really needs it.

Posted by TheYear20XX

Presently awaiting my copy.

Posted by csl316

Cool. Loved the first and what I've seen of 2 looks like an improvement Can't wait til it shows up.

Online
Posted by Maajin

Isn't that a spoiler on the picture? Just sayin.

Posted by Sackmanjones

Gotta get the first one. Steam sale come on!

Posted by MarkWahlberg
"This force is creeping across all the realms, infecting enemies and even the land itself, which is peppered with glowing rock formations that can be destroyed with bomb flowers."

Videogames, you guys.

Posted by FCDRandy

Darksiders 2! Yeah!

Posted by Mint_Kjell_Olav

Gotta play the first one too, sounds like a game i would like both in terms of theme and gameplay.

Posted by Cyrisaurus

Wow, really expected 5 stars. Oh well, game looks to be the best action/adventure game this year.

Posted by Shaanyboi

Anyone else find it funny that he refers to lock-on as Z-targeting? Oh Zelda...

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

I'm curious what thought about the controls around climbing (I found them clunky and particularly unnatural given the fact I had just played through most of the original again to catch up) and the camera in combat, which is pretty close up as compared to the first one that liked to pull back a lot during combat so you were plenty aware. Otherwise, really digging the game so far, looking forward to enjoying more of it!

Posted by phrosnite

Expected as much after hearing about all the technical issues.

Posted by YOUNGLINK

@therealminime said:

I still have to play the first one. Glad to see this turn out to be good, hopefully it sells well because THQ really needs it.

Funny, was going to type this exact sentiment but then I saw this. So THIS.

Posted by Rincewind

The pc controls are so janky and weird.

I'm having a hard time with it.

Posted by Duxa

Awesome! I was scared that it may be bad.. I loved the first one, and am looking forward to this one now that I know its good!

Posted by GenghisJohn

I'm playing the PC version with an xbox controller. loving it so far

Posted by thevigilanteoflove

Glad that this turned out well. I loved the first one so definitely going to pick this up.

Posted by Benny

@Cyrisaurus said:

Wow, really expected 5 stars. Oh well, game looks to be the best action/adventure game this year.

Fairly bold statement to make with AC3 on the way.

The stars are based on how recommendable the game is too, not necessarily how 'good' the game is, I interpret 5 stars to mean "You should really play this no matter what your tastes are" where 4 stars is "fans of the genre should really play this and newcomers could discover a passion for this type of game too."

This is why I hate what metacritic does with the scores, cause very well executed specific genre games might only warrant 3 or 4 stars but are extremely awesome for fans of the series and 60% on metacritic isn't a fair reflection of the quality... Anyhoo I'm rambling, solid looking game that I'll definitely pick up at some point.

Edited by phrosnite

@Rincewind said:

The pc controls are so janky and weird.

I'm having a hard time with it.

Have you played the first game on PC? What's the difference in the controls?

@Benny said:

@Cyrisaurus said:

Wow, really expected 5 stars. Oh well, game looks to be the best action/adventure game this year.

Fairly bold statement to make with AC3 on the way.

The stars are based on how recommendable the game is too, not necessarily how 'good' the game is, I interpret 5 stars to mean "You should really play this no matter what your tastes are" where 4 stars is "fans of the genre should really play this and newcomers could discover a passion for this type of game too."

This is why I hate what metacritic does with the scores, cause very well executed specific genre games might only warrant 3 or 4 stars but are extremely awesome for fans of the series and 60% on metacritic isn't a fair reflection of the quality... Anyhoo I'm rambling, solid looking game that I'll definitely pick up at some point.

That is just stupid. More 5 stars(9+/10) games have disappointed me than 4(8+/10). If I followed this I would have wasted a ton of money.

Posted by BeefyGrandmole

Nice. I hope this sells well for THQ.

Posted by iAmJohn

@Sackmanjones said:

Gotta get the first one. Steam sale come on!

It's consistently $5. You'll be able to get it in no time.

Posted by GamerGeek360

I may have to check this out. Didn't realize how much playtime there would be.

Posted by radioactivez0r

@Sackmanjones: There was this sale about a month ago...it lasted 12 days. Steam Summer Sale. Happens annually, maybe you've heard of it?

Posted by Marz

i'm 6 hours in, it's a really good game. Unfortunate console versions have framerate problems but i'm having no technical issues on the PC other than having to fiddle around with my Nvidia Control panel to force on antialiasing and stuff. I do wish the save system was similar to the first game as this second game only lets you use one save slot per playthrough.

Posted by JayCee

"You'll start with a horse from the very beginning."

BOOM- 4 stars.

Posted by TekZero

Calling it now:

Darksiders 3 will be a co-op game with a friend or AI partner and you're controlling Pestilence and Famine.

Optional bro fisting.

Edited by blackichigo

Yeah, I will probably pick this up soon. Crap why did my car have to go to hell this week of all weeks.

Posted by heatDrive88

@Benny said:

The stars are based on how recommendable the game is too, not necessarily how 'good' the game is, I interpret 5 stars to mean "You should really play this no matter what your tastes are" where 4 stars is "fans of the genre should really play this and newcomers could discover a passion for this type of game too."

This is why I hate what metacritic does with the scores, cause very well executed specific genre games might only warrant 3 or 4 stars but are extremely awesome for fans of the series and 60% on metacritic isn't a fair reflection of the quality... Anyhoo I'm rambling, solid looking game that I'll definitely pick up at some point.

Or, instead of having this rather ridiculous opinion, you could be a sensible human being and actually read the full review to give the appropriate context of judgment to the "star" or whatever arbitrary number rating system.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

I enjoyed the first one despite its flaws, and this looks to be even better. Bizarre to read that they have a third-person shooter sequence lodged in there somewhere.

Posted by Deranged

@phrosnite said:

That is just stupid. More 5 stars(9+/10) games have disappointed me than 4(8+/10). If I followed this I would have wasted a ton of money.

I have to agree with this. I've played games that have been given 2 or 3 stars and I've enjoyed them as equally as much as I did a 4 or 5 star. It's simply just preference and you can't determine the worth of a game until you play it yourself.

Posted by JoeyRavn

@TekZero said:

Calling it now:

Darksiders 3 will be a co-op game with a friend or AI partner and you're controlling Pestilence and Famine.

Optional bro fisting.

There are no Pestilence nor Famine in the Darksiders universe. The remaining two Horsepeople are called Strife and and Fury, who is a woman... so, at most, it'll be sibling fisting.

:P

Posted by BuzzBR

Operation Finally Finish Darksiders begins NOW!

Posted by Supercancer

I'm about five hours in on the PC version and it's a blast, aside from a handful of minor technical bugs. I'm using a mouse and keyboard so when I go into the fine aim mode the sensitivity is insanely high. Also the button to pause the game and the button to open your inventory are right next to each other, which is kind of a pain in the ass.

Posted by TekZero

@JoeyRavn: Wow, really? I don't remember that at all, and I played the hell out of the first game when it first came out.

Oh well, at least we can have sibling fisting hopefully.

Posted by Sary

Ahh, can't wait to play. Of course I'd have to finish up the first one already though.

Posted by 50hzShinsen

@JoeyRavn said:

sibling fisting

Thought I'd just remove context on that for you. No need to thank me.

Posted by Pop

I wish the notification when you pick up an item was smaller, that thing occupies too much of the screen.

Posted by mrcraggle

I played the first game on PC so i'll continue that trend with this one. Gonna have to wait for a couple of months until I can afford to pick it up but I only picked the first one up because it was cheap on Steam and never gave it much attention even after that until Jeff and Patrick were saying how good it was.

Posted by bybeach

For some reason I thought the Pc version wasn't out for another couple of weeks. Oh well, bought Sleeping Dogs last night, not a bad choice but again it was because I didn't think this available (going by GS's new release dates)

No biggie, will get this game, probably sooner than later.

Good review by the way, comes off as solid.

Posted by morrelloman

I've been blessed by gamefly to receive this on release week, probably tomorrow. I loved the first one. I'm pretty sure I mainlined it and it still took 20 hours. So Bring on whatever the hell this thing is throwing at us. The forced shooting sequence in the first one was somewhat laborious as well, but I guess they felt the need to throw it in cuz the mechanics were already there. I foresee myself delving into some side stuff here and hopefully having even more fun than the first time. Thanks Jeff. Let's hope THQ can keep this ball rolling.

Posted by RampageAssassin

It looks way more improved than I thought it would be. I hope this does really well and after all the feedback I can see this on peoples list at the end of the year.

Posted by sixpin

Just started the first one recently. Looking forward to playing straight into this one after I finish the original. That's what lazy weekends are for right? This sudden influx of quality releases is causing my wallet to go into shock. Two games in one day!? Summer really is nearly over.

Great review, Jeff.

Posted by Damian
Posted by JoeyRavn

@50hzShinsen said:

@JoeyRavn said:

sibling fisting

Thought I'd just remove context on that for you. No need to thank me.

Wait, there's another context for that?

Edited by project343

This is, so far, the best post-OOT Zelda game I think I've ever played.

@Rincewind said:

The pc controls are so janky and weird.

I'm having a hard time with it.

Playing this with anything other than a controller sounds pretty dumb. Just saying.

Posted by DryvBy

I'm in love with this. If I could, I'd make Horseman babies with the disc.

Posted by FujiSyusuke808

Very exciting. I'm glad Darksiders 2 worked out, I was worried it was gonna be a disappointment after the first one came out to such strong fanfare.

  • 92 results
  • 1
  • 2