Darksiders II Review

Darksiders 2, being the sequel to 2010’s Darksiders (obviously) surprisingly changes things up quite a bit. Not Zelda II changes, but changes nonetheless. Where the original Dakrsiders was a rather well executed equation of God of War combat, 90’s comic book art and story, and Legend of Zelda dungeons/puzzles/items/world layout/gameplay…. basically, it was  a mature Legend of Zelda clone.

For the most part, Darksiders 2 remains true to this formula. Well, kind of. DS2 adds in a much larger and more open world(s) to explore, and most notably, adds in Diablo-style loot drops and weapon upgrades.

From the get-go, Dakrsiders 2 throws you into this apocalyptic world of angels, demons, mythic creatures and elder gods. You don’t need to have a strong understanding — or any understanding at all, in fact — of the previous game’s plot in order to follow Death’s quest to redeem his brother War, the main character of the previous game. Death is a cool, somewhat devious counter balance to the brooding warrior of War. Almost like the Deadpool of this universe.

The story revolves around Death trying to restore humanity, after earth was mistakenly destroyed by War. The story is good, exactly what you’d expect from a game like this, but in all honesty there’s much better out there, and as a guy who likes less story and more gameplay, I wasn’t that drawn in, save for a few rather badass moments. The art direction, however, is wonderful. The art and design of these worlds and dungeons give the setting an strong identity. Sadly, other than the dungeons and hub zones, the rest of the world feel bare and boring, despite the fact you don’t see much of it. Darksiders 2 spans two giant worlds (The Viking/Tolkien-esque Forge Lands, and the Kingdom of the Dead), but the inclusion of a fast travel system means you’ll mostly be popping between objectives, dungeons, and merchants, and not spending much time exploring. What little exploration you do embark on happens within the few optional dungeons scattered about the map.

Thankfully, Darksider 2 plays magnificently well. Everything from combat to traversal feels fluid and intuitive. The God of War-style combat makes use of light attack/heavy attack combos, dodges, and special abilities. The traversal is like a mix between Uncharted and God of War, playing a lot like 2010’s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, making exploring dungeons quite fun.

This is all rather par for the course as far as Darksiders goes. Where the game deviates from it’s predecessor is in it’s items and loots system. Where in Darksiders players worked through puzzle-laden dungeons in order to find a new item or new ability, use said item to defeat the dungeon’s boss, and then use the item to access a new part of the map.

Darksiders 2 does things differently. Most everything is open fro the outset of the game, at least in terms of the first over world. You don’t gain nearly as many special items, though there are some, and you do use them to uncover secrets or secondary areas. Instead, the focus is on loot and equipment. Often enemies will drop loot and gold. This loot can be anything from health potions, to new weapons and armor. Like with any loot-based game, certain items will increase your stats, and other may even have a special effect, such as stealing health or ice damage. As you might expect, better loot can make a difference in combat, especially boss battles. There are even special weapons that can “eat” other equipment and level up, allowing you to increase damage and add extra buffs.

In addition to this, Death has 2 skill tress to develop — one for melee attacks, and one for summoning minions. As you level, you earn skill points, yada, yada, yada. It’s action RPG 101. And if you don’t like your choices, you can spend a few gold to respec at any time. I found I didn’t use the melee attacks much, but the minion tree proved to be quite useful, especially for life steal. Thing is though, the system feels odd. I didn’t feel all that compelled to upgrade, even to the point of forgetting to use my points for about six levels. In terms of progression, I hit a wall about halfway through and lost interest in the RPG aspects of the game. The base gameplay was good enough, and my progression through the dungeons quick enough, that I still stuck with it though.

All in all, Darksiders 2 is pretty great. It diminishes a lot of what I loved about the original game, but many of the new additions are pretty cool (even if the RPG elements feel tacked on a bit). Darksiders 2 represents a type of game that is slowly dying out: the B-level, super “videogame-y” videogame, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, knows what it does well, and offers a great experience that doesn’t have to be a AAA blockbuster (and shouldn’t). If you’re in the market for a new God of War, or action RPG, or Zelda, or Legacy of Kain, or Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, then you’d do well to pick up Darksiders 2.

Score: 3.5/5

Pros: Awesome combat; great dungeon design; fun exploration and puzzle solving; really great artwork and setting.

Cons: Story is a bit bland; the overworld is bare and boring; the RPG elements can be hit or miss.

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