The lights are on
I tend to think of the first Darksiders as being a bit like Frankenstein’s monster: It was a little ugly thanks to its technical flaws, it had a hard time telling a story, and it was stitched together using pieces of other legendary games. However, unlike the mad doctor’s monster, Vigil Games’ creation was worth spending time with, as is its sequel. Darksiders II improves upon its predecessor’s blend of barrowed gameplay mechanics by adding a few more, but it still suffers from many problems found in the original Darksiders. For example, while combat is smoother thanks to the smart decision to replace the hulking War with his more agile brother Death, it still suffers from the same camera and occasional targeting issues that were present in the first Darksiders. Nevertheless, experimenting on the game’s myriad enemies with new combos and the countless different weapons you’ll find on your journey is inherently fun.The game’s story is less consistent. Death as a character is well-realized and his goal and motivations are clear and relatable, but the same cannot be said of the story’s antagonist, or indeed any of the other characters players will encounter. Despite Death being a total ***, he is often forced into the role of an errand boy, having to fetch keys, souls, or whatever mcguffin his current quest-giver desires. Additionally, while there are some scenes that are so over the top that they border on the absurd (like when Death rides his spectral steed onto the back of a giant serpent which is in turn pulling a huge castle through the sky), these fantastic moments are few and far between, and players may go for long periods without any real plot progression at all.While the game’s plot may be shallow, it is set in a large world filled with deep dungeons containing numerous hidden areas to explore. Observant players will find their curiosity well rewarded as Darksiders II’s dungeons are crammed with nooks and crannies filled with loot and secrets waiting to be uncovered. Navigating to these areas is a joy unto itself since Death’s agility extends beyond combat, giving him creative options for stylish environmental traversal. My only complaint concerning Darksiders II’s dungeons is that they lack challenging puzzles. While there were a few over the course of the game that were interesting and made me feel clever, most were overly simple and felt like little more than busy work (the same could be said of many of the game’s boss fights). Darksiders II shines in areas not directly related to gameplay. The game features one of the most memorable scores I’ve heard in years thanks to the work of composer Jesper Kyd. Comic book artist Joe Madureira also lent his unique style to the game which has resulted in some truly inspired art direction. Unfortunately, you may have a hard time appreciating it thanks to the game’s lack of graphical fidelity and general glitchiness. Screen tearing is a problem on the 360 version and I was forced to reload several times due to the game crashing, as well as Death falling through the world. Overall, these issues did not hinder my enjoyment of the game, but they were distracting at times.All told, Darksiders II is a very good game, and one that is more than the sum of its parts. It could be a truly great game, but there’s at least one caveat for everything it does right. Vigil Games has crafted an experience that’s worth your time, but I can’t help feeling like they still haven’t quite found the spark needed to truly bring their creation to life. Much like its predecessor, Darksiders II has left me hungry for a sequel that lives up to the promise this series has shown.