A lot of people dismissed Darksiders as an unoriginal effort that simply copied elements from other, more popular games. Unfortunately, those voices were loud enough that too many people refrained from trying out what was actually one of the most fun action-adventure titles to come around in recent years. Its mix of genres, depth of content, intriguing plot and bad ass protagonist made for a winning combination, and Darksiders 2 dishes out a lot more of the same, along with several new elements to make your second ride through the Apocalypse even more fun than the first.
While the first game was played as the tank-like War, in Darksiders 2, you assume the role of Death, the second Horseman of the Apocalypse. Death, armed with dual scythes as his primary weapon, is far quicker and more agile than War, and this translates into more fast-paced and fluid combat. For your secondary weapon, you can choose between large, slow, dual-handed weapons like axes and maces, or faster alternatives such as armblades.
A major addition this time around is the deeper role-playing elements, almost turning the game into a light action RPG. Skill points earned in combat can be used to unlock new skills across two skill trees – Harbinger, which is combat focussed; and Necromancer, which allows Death to summon dead souls to fight alongside him. The Square and Triangle buttons control the primary and secondary weapons respectively, and you can use both in tandem to pull off combos and use collected gold to buy more combos. I chose to focus entirely on the Harbinger skill tree in my playthrough and watching a decently levelled-up Death totally decimate groups of enemies with devastating scythe, armblade and special Reaper combos is one of the game’s highlights.
The game isn’t shy of throwing tons of loot your way. You’ll constantly be rewarded with high level weapons and armour, and there’s a comprehensive inventory system in place as well. New to this game are possessed weapons, which can be upgraded by sacrificing other unused weapons in your inventory to make them more powerful. It’s a great way to get rid of unused inventory items. Aside from damage, each weapon and piece of armour also carries attributes such as defence, arcane, resistance, and so on, so you can set up Death for whatever style of play you’d like.
Darksiders had some amazing, large-scale puzzles that came as welcome respite from the combat, but this is one area where Vigil has really dropped the ball this time around. Darksiders 2 resorts to the generic crates and pressure switches formula for most of its puzzles. The one new puzzle element, which lets Death split up and be in two places at a time, just makes puzzles tedious and feel more like a chore. Platforming, while quicker, is troublesome at times, especially when traversing across beams. Death will often jump up when you want him to go sideways, and vice versa, and dropping to lower ledges is also glitchy at times. It isn’t a major issue, but can really grate on your nerves during certain time-limited platforming segments.
The game world is comprised of several realms and it’s hard to dispute the developers’ claims that each realm is as big as the entire first game. It’s so big, in fact, that there are massive areas in each realm that are completely optional and don’t form part of the main plot. These usually hold some great loot or some optional boss battle quests, so there’s plenty of incentive to visit them. The game encourages exploration and there’s lots of collectibles to hunt for as well. You’ll come across some high level bosses early on too, whom you’re best advised to avoid till you’ll levelled up a bit. To make getting around this massive game world easier, the game has a simple fast travel system that you can access from the world map itself, unlike the first game that required you to visit Vulgrim, the trader.
Although Darksiders 2 takes place at the same time as the first game, most of the locations you’ll visit here are new. That said, the game does have a very distinct art style and regardless of which realm you’re in, the environments do tend to look a bit same-y. The game held up much better on the PS3 than its predecessor did, but there were some serious frame rate issues during the latter stages of the game. Voice acting is solid overall, although some of Death’s lines, especially the ones meant to sound humorous or sarcastic, do sound out of character. Jesper Kyd’s outstanding score is easily one of the game’s highlights, especially the pieces that kick in during some of the boss fights.
Speaking of boss fights, there are plenty of them, and unlike the first game, they get progressively harder. Each boss fight requires a different strategy, but in the end, it always comes down to studying attack patterns. The boss battles are suitably grand in set up and execution, but on normal difficulty, none of them will take more than one retry to complete. Some of the ambushes comprising several different enemy types take far more skill to get out of alive. And be prepared to encounter many such ambushes, because the game keeps throwing them at you, so much so that at times it feels like it’s just being done to prolong proceedings. This especially holds true in the latter stages of the game.
It took me about 34 hours to complete the game, including all but one or two side quests, so there’s a ton of content here to explore, plus the Crucible mode to try out. The game does drag at times though, and while a lot of that has to do with the fact that platforming and puzzle-solving take a back seat to the combat, it often seems like the game has been made longer just for the sake of it. But when the combat is this good and with the role-playing elements allowing you to tailor combat to your playing style, there isn’t much reason to complain.
Even though it is set in the same timeline as the first game, this second chapter in the Darksiders universe successfully creates a personality and appeal that is its own. Sadly, it lacks polish in certain areas and begins to drag in the last quarter, souring the entire experience a little in the process. Despite all its transgressions, however, Death’s journey is ultimately a deep and satisfying one that deserves to be embarked upon.