Back in 2010, THQ and developer, Vigil Games, released Darksiders. They were able to accomplish what all game developers and publishers dream of: release a new IP that is well received by both critics and consumers alike. With their new title eventually moving over one million units worldwide, it was just a matter of time before we eventually saw a sequel to the gory, action adventure game. Enter Darksiders II; a game that shows us what a real successor should be, and one that satisfies both fans and newcomers to the series.
At the end of the original Darksiders, we were treated to a scene showing War’s fellow horsemen blazing through the sky to come to his aide. It was this scene that left fans anticipating Darksiders II, itching to continue that story. Vigil Games took a different approach than expected, however. Instead of Darksiders II picking up where the original left off, we get to see what War’s brother, Death, is doing during the timespan of the original game. It’s an interesting decision to make, but Vigil Games knocked it out of the park with a story that—albeit convoluted at times—is as epic as its cynical protagonist.
Realizing that his brother, War, stands falsely accused of inciting the apocalypse and now stands in judgment of the Charred Council, Death rides to clear his brother’s name and restore humanity. The world that Vigil Games has created is rich in graphical detail and teeming with life. The open environments of the original Darksiders were fairly large, but it always felt a little confined as you played through it. Darksiders II fixes this problem with not one, but several different hub worlds to traverse, each one larger and more expansive than its predecessor. As you progress, you will come across an impressive number of NPCs consisting of both friend and foe alike. Many of them will offer you interesting sidequests and as you search every nook and cranny for missing pages from the Book of the Dead, to the body parts of a Stone Giant, you’ll begin to appreciate the depth and scope of this world. There’s an ever growing list of quests to be done in addition to the lengthy main story line, and the user friendly mission and item screens makes keeping track of it all a breeze.
There’s also an insane amount of loot to be found in the game. From the beginning of your journey until the end, you’ll find yourself constantly picking up armor and weapons from hidden chests and fallen enemies. Every piece of weaponry and armor comes with its own set of stats, and the game always lets you know how it will compare to what you currently have equipped. Couple this with the ability to automatically equip gear at the press of a button, and you’ve got yourself an incredibly intuitive system here. You can even sell your unwanted items to any number of shopkeepers in the world and thankfully, these guys always have an unlimited supply of money to purchase your things. Did you hear that, Skyrim? Every item change is also reflected cosmetically on Death, and while this doesn’t change the gameplay one way or the other, it allows you the freedom to make Death look exactly as you want him to. Kind of like a hulking, skull-faced Barbie.
In addition to the addictive looting, Darksiders II also introduces a nice RPG system that allows you to power up Death’s offensive repertoire just the way you like. There are an impressive number of special moves to be unlocked as you gain experience points, and players are free to level up two unique fighting styles: the Harbinger, which is more melee focused, and Necromancy, which focuses more on magical and supernatural abilities. Choosing one or the other, or even a combination of the two, results in plenty of over the top moves that are both satisfying to pull off and a treat to watch. Of course, all of these fancy additions would be wasted if the gameplay wasn’t any good, but fortunately for us, Darksiders II is as much fun to play as it is to look at.
In the original Darksiders, War was a slower, lumbering powerhouse. Death, on the other hand, is a quick moving assassin that flies around the battlefield and environments as swift as a cat. Well, not Garfield, I guess… but other cats. Fast ones. This franchise has always been compared to games like God of War and The Legend of Zelda, but now you can add Prince of Persia to that list of comparable titles. The world is populated with an impressive number of dungeons and traversing all of the hidden rooms could be a daunting task, but guiding Death through with actions like wall running and climbing is about as effortless as it could be.
Combat is also extremely polished and is complimented by a perfect system of enemy lock on and evasive maneuvering. Sometimes the game will throw multiple enemies on screen at once, but Death is so easy to control that it never becomes an issue as everything is tight and responsive. The trade off here is that with such a fast pace, you can sometimes lose track of what’s happening on screen, but everything looks so fun to watch it barely becomes a frustration.
Dungeons aren’t only made for combat, though. There are an enormous amount of secrets hidden within each one, and more often than not, there’s an ingenious puzzle that must be figured out before accessing them. Some are more obvious than others and some take some real thinking to crack. Although we didn’t figure out all of them right away, it never bogged the experience down because of the difficulty, as the answers were always somehow right in front of us. They’re the kind of puzzles that make you feel stupid after figuring them out because you realize that the answer is generally a lot simpler than what you were making it out to be.
We could go on and on about this game, but we won’t. You just need to buy this one and try it for yourselves. There have been complaints that most of the missions are nothing more than glorified fetch quests, and while that can’t really be argued with, we can say that every aspect of the gameplay is so fun that complaining about doing any of it is kind of like a kid complaining about being sent to the candy store over and over again. We enjoyed every minute of our thirty+ hours with Darksiders II, and we can only hope that THQ will give us another installment for each of the other two horsemen. Darksiders II is a top shelf gaming experience in every way, and besides being an early candidate for game of the year, it has also cemented its place as a staple in my gaming rotation for years to come!