I can recall being distraught at the conclusion of Darksiders back in 2010. A cliff-hanger ending that begun the marketing for Darksiders II outweighed any of the fun or sense of completion that I got from the game. Watching on as War’s brothers decended from the heavens as glowing meteors did bring some questions, but left little room for guessing at whether or not there would be a sequel to the original. When we left off, War was at the center of a battle between Heaven and Hell and getting to the bottom of a premature extermination event of mankind. The Charred Council has framed War and painted him as the sole reason behind this, and in Darksiders 2 you’ll play as Death who is looking to clear his brother’s name.
Darksiders 2 has a great base to build off of for the sequel. An interesting storyline, a beautifully tailored world and characters, and gameplay that ranges from hacking & slashing to solving devilishly clever puzzles. If this sounds like a formula that you’ve seen in the past, it’s probably because Darksiders was an homage to some of the best games in the industry today. Building off of these tried and true pieces from The Legend of Zelda and God of War, Darksiders 2 takes it next level, and begins to shape itself as Vigil’s own masterpiece.
Gameplay is still somewhat similar to the original. You’ll be navigating dungeon after dungeon, filled with baddies and puzzles to solve. The brutal combat system is notably similar as well, with a few added enhancements and style changes for the new protagonist. There’s often little warning of an oncoming attack in Darksiders 2, so you’ll definitely want to keep yourself topped off with health potions that can be acquired from vendors throughout the world or found in the nooks and crannies of each level. There are a ton of variations that you can use in Darksiders 2 as far as combat is concerned.
This is really led on by the new looting mechanics in the game. More prevalent than ever, you’ll be snatching up all the goodies you can find in Darksiders 2. You’ll find weapons that can deal specific types of damage to enemies alongside their “normal” damage capabilties. You’ll also find an equally large variety of armors and other equipment in your journey. With each item having a visual on-screen effect, the paper doll possibilities are only bound by your imagination or preference in play style.
Like his brother, Death’s skill-set is multi-faceted. He carries his scythes as his primary weapons, and a secondary weapon can be selected from a variety of death-dealing tools that fall into either the melee or heavy class. As Death’s adventure wears on, he’ll learn skills that can be combined with these weapons to make him an even more proficient fighter and add a lot of eye candy to any given battle. Assigning these skills to preset buttons allow for seamless integration into your combat mechanics, but can also be accessed from the games radial menu system.
Each corridor you enter will have some type of puzzle to solve. Whether that be of the simplistic variety, like finding your way to the next corridor by sniffing out a new route or ledge to grab, or the more cerebral (of which there are many), Darksiders 2 will always keep you thinking. Like the original game, as you continue you’ll consistently earn new skills that allow for you to expand your exploration capabilities a little more. These range from a pistol named “Redemption” to a Soul Splitting mechanic that lets Death leave his physical form behind him to traverse areas he couldn’t normally get to. These puzzle mechanics get increasingly harder as the game wears on, and some are going to take a good bit of brain-power to complete without help. As much as the fighting is visually stimulating in Darksiders II, the puzzle element is equally stimulating for the brain.
Leaving it there you would have a pretty deep action adventure title. However, there is a bit more customization that can be done to tailor your adventure. Darksiders 2 features a two sided skill tree which allows you to spend points as you level your character. These points are used to purchase skills from the Harbinger and Necromancer skill trees. As a Harbinger, you’ll be focused on dealing damage to enemies, meaning most of your attacks will be strengthened to do just that. As a Necromancer, you focus on the defenses of your character and can summon demons to help you in your fight. Furthermore, you can respec Death at any time if you don’t like the way that you’ve customized him, by visiting a merchant that offers this service.
Needless to say, Darksiders 2 really shaped up to be a deep and engaging adventure from a gameplay perspective. It is however brought together by a great presentation as well. From start to finish the game is littered with imaginative characters and locales, some which are truly awe-inspiring when first seen. The combination of art, color, imagination and music prompted comparisons to Blizzard and its World of Warcraft franchise if just from an aesthetic point of view. The new character is also more colorful, not just on the outside, but Death has a bit of snark to him that makes his brief voice parts remember-able and at the same time make him more likable than he probably should be considering he is the angel of death and all.
Darksiders 2 definitely feels like a more complete experience this time around, and one that feels more of Vigil’s own. On the bright side, boss battles are little more thoughtful, and combat has been improved by new features and the added benefit of rewards awaiting you once complete. On the unfortunate side, some of the nuances and problems with the first game are still around. The story telling is somewhat better than the original, but there are still very long lulls in how its conveyed. Often times, camera tracking issues make it feel like you can’t quite see what your’re trying to look at, and in a game that forces you to be fully aware of your surroundings this can be a somewhat annoying but minor problem.
In the case of sequels, it’s always nice to see when a game goes from being good to great. As is the case with Darksiders 2. Vigil learned a lot in their first offering, and while they may have borrowed many of the game’s core pillars from other franchises, they’ve proven that with some added spice of their own, the Darksiders franchise could stand up to any comparisons going forward. A refined formula of the original will get its hooks in even deeper in Darksiders 2. Whether you enjoy basking in the spoils of your victorious battle, or get more satisfaction from completing a puzzle that’s been troubling you, Darksiders 2 gives you the best of both worlds, and it does so, beautifully.