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Darksiders 2 Review

Posted on the 28 September 2012 by Kirkmckeand @mckkirk
Darksiders 2 Review

Darksiders 2 Review: Kirk Mckeand.  

They say Death can come in many forms, the hooded reaper, a stalking shadow, and in this case a genetic experiment involving Mike Myers and the lead singer of a well known, heavy-rock band. His voiceover work is pretty well done and his vocal work evokes The Darkness  (as in demon tentacles not talent-less- spandex-clad- glam-rockers)  after consuming a couple of cough sweets.

     Not all the supporting cast stand up as well, but in a game of such scale it deserves some forgiveness as the performances aren’t stilted enough to compete with Skyrim’s ensemble cast of monotone doppelgangers. This sequel, as a package, is a huge step up from the first game in pretty much every way. Quite fittingly Death keeps his consumed souls in an amulet around his neck, the game, in a similar fashion, also wears its influences on its sleeve. There is a bit of Soul Reaver here, a bit of Prince of Persia there, and it is all layered over a Kingdoms of Amalur-esque open world.

The world itself is huge, when you open the world map for the first time you can see its scale and then, (five or so hours in) the size multiplies exponentially . It is not exactly a truly open world it is more like an interconnected web of tunnels, (some wider than others) with the odd secret scroll tucked away in the hidden corners of the lush fantasy landscape. The open plain sections are placed conveniently to house obvious boss fights, and due to its old school design it is very rare that you do not see these coming a mile off.

Darksiders 2 Review

I often found myself stopping, to stare at the beautiful vistas.

Vigil games made a wise choice giving you Death’s horse from the outset, your steed, Despair,  adds to the illusion of freedom as you bound along the open plains with your objective in sight.The environments are a standout highlight and you can usually see your current objective looming on the horizon, which really feeds into your sense of progression. One of my biggest problems with the first game was the environments were all very similar, also very brown, this was a consequence of the game being shackled by its earthly setting, with the sequel being set in another realm the art team have been set free. Through the world map you can fast travel to previously visited places in the world, which is a relief after Dragons Dogma made me want to eat my dualshock.

You can even fast travel back to the main hub from any of the dungeons located throughout, stock up on healing items and return to the exact spot from whence you came. This option may sound like it makes the game too easy, but it is offset by the fact merchants can only stock so much produce, so if you buy it all you  should be prepared to wait a while. The fast travel system certainly benefits the game because you will find yourself revisiting previously completed dungeons in search for hidden treasures that were previously inaccessible. The game takes some ideas from a certain Nintendo exclusive with its dungeon exploration, and equipment found later on may open up a previously closed route. This means if you have got a minor case of obsessive compulsive disorder you will be back-tracking more than the UK’s coalition government.

Darksiders 2 Review

There are a few nods to Shadow of the Colossus.

    This brings me to what I consider the best addition to this sequel and that is… random loot drops. There is a reason games like Diablo sell like miracle grow contraception, (despite not being that great on a mechanical level) and that reason is loot. Progression is addictive , watching your character grow visually and statistically makes a certain type of person want more, which is why, in this generation of consoles, we have seen numerous RPG mechanics break into completely new genres.

The downside of the random drops is that it can make the in-game shops feel obsolete, I mean why spend 30,000 glit,  (read gold)  on new scythes, when the next monster will probably drop a better one free? The game has a nice way to balance this, and that is by granting you with possessed weapons, these weapons are basically scalable in strength the more that you feed them, and their favourite snack is tasty, moreish, loot.

One of the main foundations of the game is combat and whilst it is functional and fun, I feel a few minor tweaks would have made it shine. Attacks are made by two face buttons and you can pull off different combos by either switching with your secondary weapon or pausing in between button presses. You can assign specials to the left shoulder button combined with the face buttons, most of the special attacks have an upgrade that makes them regenerate your health, which makes battles a more tactical affair.

When the game was announced, Vigil, said that War, (the first game’s protagonist) was basically, in RPG terms, the warrior class and Death would be more like a rogue. The idea behind this is so Death is more agile and concentrates on dodging and performing backstabs. You can evade with the right shoulder button and this makes you invulnerable to most normal attacks, you can perform three evades until death pauses at the end of the third vault animation, this is to stop you spamming evade, and again, makes you think, which is nice. Not having a block move is detrimental to the experience however as (due to the nature of third person action games) the camera can get a bit erratic. Dodging straight into an environmental hazard is a common occurance and in situations like that a block button would have been invaluable.

Darksiders 2 Review

When he wasn’t busy killing dead things, Death was an avid twirler.

            When you aren’t hitting things, or smashing pots for health you will be spending time platforming, and again this section of the game is functional but not as good as the genre leaders. Sometimes the camera goes into a semi-fixed state, so it can highlight incoming danger for example, this means when you try to jump in one direction Death sometimes prefers to face dive into oblivion. There was one section in particular that was frustrating, where Death had to climb to avoid a rising danger but the camera often made Death …. die. I also encountered a quest breaking bug during my playthrough where you had to destroy some corruption crystals that are holding a bridge up, I destroyed the crystals and the bridge was held in place by some unseen force, I can only assume I was stood in an area where the bridge would hit Death during the animation, so it caused a glitch. As the game has an autosave feature there was no way of rectifying the situation by loading up a previous save.

Darksiders 2 Review

Mmmm stats.

      Although the last section of my review has focused on the negative points of the game, there is a lot to like about Darksiders 2, it is a huge improvement over the first iteration and the gameplay is mostly satisfying. The bugs will most likely be patched, further down the line and it will likely be a much less frustrating experience. I cannot help but feel this is likely a contributing factor towards the decline of game retail, I mean why buy a game on release when you can buy a cheaper, more complete experience if you can force yourself to wait a couple of months. The game is not perfect, but it is certainly worth your time, especially during the summer gaming drought. If the game sells well and is granted a sequel, if Vigil continue to push and make even more of an improvement, then the next installment could be something special indeed, as long as you don’t play as Death’s brother famine, whilst riding a  donkey in a severe state of malnutrition . 70%

 


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