The lights are on
The first Darksiders game was well received by the few fans who managed to really get into the game, and it's borrowed mechanics from several other successful franchises only managed to make the formula even better- skeptic as many may have been before trying it out. With a now almost "cult" following and all of the hype leading up to the anticipated sequel, you can tell who the real fans are- the ones who would get the game no matter what. Although I believe the game has done well this time around- although it may be just as marred by some less than stellar aspects as it's original brother was, Death truly does live- and he allows me to breathe out a relieved sigh as well, after all those months of hoping and eagerly waiting...
I may not style myself as a hardcore fan of the series, but I was certainly awaiting this glowing sequel with medium to high expectations along with Andy and thousands of other gamers across the world. Darksiders had it's own unique formula- mix in some Zelda, God of War, and Portal, and then add neat enemy units, explosive scenes , and epic battles and you've got a deal going. This is also true about the sequel, much to my delight, and I must say- although it still takes a page from other games' books, it does hold it's own ground as well, and for that I am incredibly pleased. Sure, you'll see classic looting elements grabbed from Diablo, and God of war's titanic boss fights (again) in this direct sequel, but everything War did to much applause needs a thunderous round of appeasement and pleasure from fans of Death in this newest adventure. Allow me to introduce you to the new face of fear...and satisfaction as well.
Sure, the ending of the first Darksiders game pumped everybody up for either some complete butt-kicking cooperative or simply more characters in the story for the second game, and sure this may seem like a slight disappointment when you recognize the fact that this hasn't in fact been the case- but we can hope for the future, should a third installment in the series (trilogy?) appear, yes? Despite Reiner's call to bury this excitement- which is probably what most of us should and will do, let us perhaps simply put it on hold and eagerly await yet another thrilling game after we first see how this one sells, which (with all the hints we have now) will probably be a pretty good indicator of future plans. Sure Death is no War, but he fleshes himself out to be an even more engaging character, even if he is a little bit arrogant and manic at times and seeks only to clear his brother's name and advance his own agenda- one not too terribly concerned with the fate of us mortals... So sure, Death lives...
While this is indeed a sequel, you may call foul with a select few gamers when you realize that this is in fact happening (in-game) at the same time as War's troubling incarceration by the Charred Council from the beginning of the first Darksiders. This having been said, one could state that the basis of the entire story is basically set out as so: War is imprisoned, Death needs to free him and kick ass and chew bubblegum along the way. Kill these guys. The end. You'd basically be right in the long run as well. As thin and convoluted as it may have been at times, the first story in the previous game was probably much better even than the one we find ourselves experiencing currently. Have no fears however, as it is not (and wasn't the previous time as well) the main draw or attraction anyhow, as combat still reigns supreme in this carnage-filled adventure. Death may simply be an empty skeleton and a throwaway protagonist, but his adventure is as thrilling- and quite possibly even more so, than his revenge-driven brother. With his cool calculations and level head, one could easily assume that the fate of mankind and our lives (and deaths) are in- not necessarily good, but quite capable hands...
As Ser Reiner has also noted, Death is by no means a terrible, or even bad character- and the crushing of the epic final boss (not too many spoilers) is as satisfying as destroying the Destroyer (and more) in Darksiders One, however, the countless hours spent up unto that point make it all the more satisfying when the moment finally rolls around as well... Death is a much more versatile and cunning character than War in all of his brash and brazen fury, and also comes across as a calculating and eviscerating warrior- and accomplishes as much, and more than War ever could. Unlike War's "point him at your enemy and clear out" mentality, Death thinks things through before he risks his neck- if he ever truly does, and expects rewards and more than petty thanks in return. This also makes him an interesting character morally and an extraordinarily evolving one, even if he does seem quite shallow and not quite as multi-faceted as some would like. He is truly skilled in his arts- necromancy, bloodshed, and death, and it shows quite clearly from the game's first moments.
While War would be the bruiser of the "family" and the one expected to carry the most weight in terms of severed limbs and blood, you'd be quite surprised at Death's savagery and deadly efficiency, as he is just as skilled or more than his other brother- and maybe even all of them, should we ever truly meet them. Not only does he have his own devastating attacks to throw against his enemies and their grunts, but he can summon his own spawn as well to pester them into a quicker death or misstep. Combine this will his speed and agility, as well as his power, cunning, and rugged appearance and it is clear that this lord of demise is no sickly grim reaper. He is quite certainly grim however, as his appearance spells certain doom for any and all enemies alike- in the hands of a capable player, of course. His powers are many and interesting, as well as fun and easy to use to your advantage, and in the right hands, Death is more of a carnal death machine than War could even hope to ever be...
In the first Darksiders game, War had the choice to (at times) use his ranged weapons or his heavily relied upon scythe and sword. In Darksiders II things are very similar in the way that Death has his own means of ranged attacks in the form of both weapons and skills or powers. That is not to say that he can't hold his own in an all-out melee however, because his dual-wielded scythes and the staff-blade they become make for a truly terrifying sight for enemies and a fascinating anatomy lesson for players. It is easier than ever to unleash devastation and epic combos upon your enemies, and to lose yourself in the awesome action as well. There can truly be virtually no complaints over the direction combat takes in this sequel, unless of course, you simply want to complain that it is too awesome and couldn't possibly get any better in any future iterations of the game. (I wouldn't say this however, because Vigil has a great way of surprising people pleasantly.) Switching weapons on a dime is even more seamless and integrated than in the first game, with mid-combo attacks and switches a common sight for players on their quest for vengeance and retribution for the wrongfully imprisoned War, as well as the well-blended fact of evasive maneuvers and finishers being scattered easily into the mix hitherothithero as well. The finishers might not be as commonplace as in the first game, however this only seeks to add more satisfaction with each enemy struck down by one, seeing as they aren't as common and easily bored a sight as before.
One could easily say that the most satisfying fights are in fact the ones fought with a mob of enemies and the lower-on-the-totem-pole grunts and minibosses, or lovingly named nobosses of the game. This would be easily agreed upon as well, because it almost seems unfair to make the one on one bossfights with giants and titans as easy as they are without all of the interferences from the lower ranked enemies and varied groupings of types and levels of threats. It is no small matter though, as all of the fights offer a significant feeling of completion and require skill to best too. And you will be fighting a lot, as the many dungeons and roaming areas in the game's trailers and the game itself go to show players... The amount of treasures and loot you can find in these special areas, as well as the continued tradition of collectables and upgrades adds even more variety to the game on several levels- combat, story (eh, somewhat I guess), and simple looks and satisfaction of appearance. Diablo players and normal action-oriented fans alike will love the smooth integration of the looting system into story and combat, as the interesting elements such as possessed weapons (weapons that gain powers from sacrificed artifacts and loot), sheer enormity of the weapons and armor provided, and the simple rewards you gain for completing quests make it a certainly worthwhile effort to implement and a grand gesture as well.When one weapon just won't cur it for you anymore, you can always find a bigger and better one that will. Even better than all the glowing praises and slight hiccups I've mentioned above, the simple fact that all of these armors and collectables help during your second (NG+) runthroughs and perhaps even your Apocalyptic run is satisfying as well- and certainly a helping hand offered by Vigil and THQ for the arena as well.
Sure, you can argue that the basis elements for all of the game's dungeons are somewhat similar and the same as the ones within the very first game, and I suppose you would be semi-inclined to feel the need to do so, but you must take note of the simple fact that as similar as they may seem, they are filled with thoughtful puzzles, inventive combat, wondrous architecture, and perfected in earnest towards Death's skill and finesse with things. I truly must applaud Vigil on this, as the dungeons and other likewise shown areas were probably the grandest portion of the game- other than the epic quests and titanic bossfights themselves, and it truly made for a more interesting experience than when they first tried their hands in Darksiders, the First. You can almost always guarantee that there will be a bigger and better combination of puzzles and items needed with each dungeon that comes along, and you would not be disappointed. Some quests and the dungeons they pertain to may seem a tad bit longwinded, and this will probably be one of the majorly voiced complaints of players- however, they never grow stale or boring throughout like other games that have failed in the past (Too Human comes to mind), and show off a particularly impressive set of scenarios as well.
If we were to talk about levels (dungeons) that got it all wrong within the game however, i need only point you back towards the direction of where I last saw Reiner's review perched like a murderous crow, as his opinions on the "level" revolving around another firearm named after an action (Mercy,. Salvation) are spot on with mine and possibly everyone who has played the game, due mainly to the fact that it simply does not fit within the parameters set out upon it's foundation. It continues much too long, isn't much fun to begin with, is entirely too repetitive, and overall just is uninteresting and sucks. Aside from this one hiccup however (no game is perfect), the level of polish shown in this game far exceeds its elder brother and also many other games- or series' if you count the most recent Sonic and Mario games (no offense intended). Traversing the environment feels and looks like Prince of Persia 2008 (another game it borrowed from to good profit), and travel as a whole adds not only versatile action and bonuses, but locomotion painkillers as well in the form of fast travel and other handy options.
While many hoped (and I shared this hope with Reiner and countless others) that a Darksiders sequel would mean aiding War in his (what else?) war efforts against all of those who had wronged him and humanity, I must say that this sequel (lack of story as it may have in those terms) lived up to and soared farther above my expectations than I would have at first immediately thought. Congratulations Darksiders II, because I can assure you folks at Vigil and THQ that I will be playing this game well into next year, and quite probably in the few to come afterwards- and that's even without DLC. Strike one point up for Darksiders II, as it will still be in my "play now" pile along with Tomb Raider and Crysis 3 (hopefully they will be) in the following year.
Concept: This sequel may run parallel to War's handy pickle of a predicament in the first Darksiders, but with the additions of several new systems and actions, the game is by far a better quest and satisfying timekiller than it's older brother ever was.
Graphics: Once more, the beauty of the characters and their own special art style comes through to great success, and (even better) the architecture of the overworld and all of it's massive areas and environs is more spectacular and awesome than any of the post-apocalyptic bombshells were in Darksiders 1.
Sound: While the eerie and extremely catchy melodies will stick with you, and the combat sounds are even more satisfying than before, the voice acting fails somewhat this time around- although I wouldn't say it was a complete failure, it was one of the mitigating factors of the game's overall success. It didn't hurt it too much though...
Playability: All of the issues from the previous game with controls and combos seemed to have been fixed this time around, and are better than ever before. It's the small touches and the thoughts that count as well.
Entertainment: With plenty of content to consume your time and pull you back away from games such as Skyrim (what with Dawnguard) and Dragon's Dogma, Darksiders II features an impressive array of detail and content, and should be every action-loving player's destination for unparalleled fun and destruction.
Replay Value: Very High
Overall Score: 9.25