Title: Darksiders II
Developed By: Vigil Games
Published By: THQ
Console: Playstation 3, XBox360 and Windows PC. Wii U release planned
Genre: Hack and Slash, Action Adventure RPG
Classification (AU): This title has been classified as MA15+ for Strong Bloody Violence. Gaming experience may changed online.
Review Conditions: Playstation 3, Australian Edition
Special Thanks: THQ Australia for providing me with a copy of this title for review.
Darksiders II follows the exploits of DEATH, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, in a weaving tale that runs parallel to the events in the original Darksiders game. This epic journey propels DEATH through various light and dark realms as he tries to redeem his brother WAR, the horseman who was blamed for prematurely starting the Apocalypse in Darksiders. Featuring a dramatically larger world, full weapon and armour upgrade systems as well as bigger and more challenging dungeons and vast array of new enemies and bosses, Darksiders II strives to improve on every aspect of the original hit.
Darksiders II is the latest offering from Vigil Games and THQ, serving as an anticipated sequel to their PS3/XBox360/PC release of Darksiders. Whereas the original focused on the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse “War”, the sequel follows his brother “Death”, where War has been imprisoned for the destruction of mankind. Death believes this to be all part of a conspiracy and seeks out to prove his brothers innocence alongside plans to revive humanity in order to do so.
If you haven’t played Darksiders for a while, I personally found it beneficial to read up or replay the game again to fully appreciate the storyline – as they do a relatively sub-par job at catching you up to speed in this title. I appreciated the change in character and aside from the limitations of storytelling in the genre such as getting dragged into unimportant side-quests I thought that the storyline was well thought out and worked well alongside all the other elements to deliver an overall enjoyable experience of satisfactory length (20+ hours approximately). If you have already played Darksiders in the past and enjoyed its storyline, you can expect much of the same with a slightly stronger emphasis on character development, better pacing and a few other twists and elements unique to this release which makes it the better of the two overall in my opinion.
The one major draw I think for this game design wise is that they have successfully developed an expansive world with a lot to explore, both inside and outside of dungeons, alongside some creatively thought out and implemented character and boss monster designs that suit the setting they have provided. While there is a lot in terms of content for designs, when it comes to design quality it really does vary between different areas of the game and often I found it better to admire an area from a distance than from up-close. As I mentioned above, the character and boss monster designs were one of the major highlights – with all the characters having an aesthetic that complemented the world and storyline very well and overall set the mood… alongside some small opportunity to customize Death during your adventure with new equipment, a concept which would have benefited from more depth however.
My main gripe was that the world felt a bit too MMORPG-esque in design, being a bit underwhelming with character animations and while there was certainly quantity of areas to visit, not all of them seemed to have the same attention to detail as others. But overall while the designs were not perfect and there was the odd glitch, it didn’t really detract from any other aspect of the game and was still a solid performer.
Music and Voice Acting
While the music tracks were of solid quality, Darksiders II suffers from a lack of diversity and repetitive use of certain tracks and a greater variety of them would have been beneficial given the length of the game. Sound effects on the other hand are simple but add depth to the actions of the characters and environment from the slash of a sword to an odd grunt.
The English voice acting in Darksiders II is a particular highlight, particularily with the main character Death voiced by Michael Wincott, who despite only holding a couple of voice over roles over the years (In lieu of a more expansive film career) does a great job at matching the personality and mood of his respective character. While quality of voice-overs differ between characters, overall I think they did a solid performance with some strong names such as Troy Baker, Steven Blum and Liam O’Brien in the mix.
I would consider Darksiders II to be a Jack of all Trades game, which while never being a master of one, amalgamates the different gameplay elements into a game with good replay value and enjoyable gameplay. You will find elements similar to many games already on the market – from The Legend of Zelda to Prince of Persia to something along the lines of Dungeon Siege, each taking the concepts of the genre and making them its own. The game starts off slow, with very few battles but as you progress the game slowly builds up the difficulty with tougher enemies and more of them. The battle system requires you using two types of weaponary each associated with a different button – a slow but powerful weapon and a fast but weaker one which you can chain together to perform attacks. You are more or less limited to these two attack methods until you purchase or obtain additional skills. The system is pretty simple to grasp, however aside from numbers, enemy strength and the occasional unique enemy mannerisms, there is nothing much in terms of strategy to make the enemies more unique and usually employs the task of attack, dodge, attack, dodge. Given some of their creative boss enemies, I would have liked to have seen more strategy required on my behalf.
The game adopts a sort an action RPG levelling and looting system which gives you some purpose to wander around the less important regions of the games in search of loots and stength. While the aesthetic benefit of having top quality items doesn’t meet expectations, there is a fair bit of freedom in how you obtain and equip equipment and weapons, some boasting simply higher basic attack and defense stats than others, some offering less attack and defense for more tailored benefits while some start off initially weak but allow you to sacrifice your unwanted loot to level them up. While not offering an expansive skills system you would expect in say… one of the older Final Fantasy games – Darksiders II features a levelling system which allows you to unlock skills under two specifically tailored trees – Harbringer which provides a typical “Fighter” skillset and “Necromancer” which is a typical “Mage” skillset. You can freely mix and match or go down one only… I personally mixed my selections and despite being limited, it was the best selection for a game of this type and offered a great set of skills for my arsenal.
As most games in this genre seem to be, there is a sizable portion of the game which will involve fetching quests, often with some beneficial reward at the end from storyline progression to a new amulet. Fortunately not all of these are intrusive and even the first ones I recieved in the game seemed to be progressively unlocked to stop me from running through dungeons than having me go out of my way to unlock. Dungeon crawling involves your usual Zelda-esque affair of running between rooms and solving puzzles from jumping between arm-holds on a wall two throwing bombs at switches to more complex puzzles which offer some diversity from the normal subset you would expect to find. It is a progressive difficulty curve so if you are not a casual gamer the first few dungeons may not offer anything – but soon shows you what the game is capable of delivering.
Aside from a couple of minor glitches which in my opinion did not damper or take away from the gaming experience at all, Darksiders II offers a solid 20 – 30 hour main campaign with just enough content to merit a good replay including the games Arena Mode and New Game +, which unfortunately for the sake of this review I was not able to delve too far into. If you were a fan of the first game it is more likely than not that you would enjoy this one if you have not already purchased it. It is evident that Vigil Games were hoping to surpass Darksiders with this release… and I think Darksiders II has done enough to surpass it.
Storyline/Character Development: B
Music/Voice Acting: B
Overall Score: B