You might be forgiven if you haven’t played or even heard of Darksiders before, after all the first title wasn’t a very well publicised game and it came out amidst a sea of high budget, highly marketed titles. The game itself though was a critical darling and did garner a loyal fanbase amongst those who played it. Darksiders followed the story of the Horseman War who had been blamed for triggering the apocalypse too early, he was sent out by the charred council to uncover the truth and clear his name.
Darksiders drew many comparisons to Legend of Zelda for its action RPG/dungeon based, somewhat open world gameplay. The style of the title was fairly unique especially in the graphical department and as far as the action went comparisons could be drawn to titles such as God of War although the idea of chaining combos together was much more limited. Without going into too much detail the game itself was one which cried out for a sequel and Vigil have delivered us one.
As far as aesthetics go not too much has changed for the shift from Darksiders I to Darksiders II. The first title while looking good was not, nor was it ever marketed as a graphical powerhouse. The second title has gone along the same lines. The graphics won’t really wow you at any points in the game but instead they will paint a picture of a stylish world which these characters and creatures inhabit. There is uniqueness about the world of Darksiders which speaks to me much more than photorealism and the best physics engines ever can.
One area which I can definitely commend Darksiders II is its imaginative character and creature designs. Death himself looks fantastic and coupled with the actual characterisation itself has quickly became one of my favourite protagonists in a video game. I will talk more about the characterisation later on in this review but the look alone is great. The other characters you’ll find scattered around are also great, the same could also be said for the first title in which everyone from War to Vulgrim and beyond looked incredibly unique.
The game has a somewhat cartoon visual going on which is more noticeable within its environments. Technologically it might not be the best out there but it certainly does the job. As I mentioned I wasn’t really in awe of anything in the game visually, I never looked off into the distance and was wowed at what I saw, I wasn’t amazing at the effects present in the particle systems or shadows but the overall aesthetic is great and the combat animations are actually quite gorgeous too.
When I look at the visuals as an overall the main things that come out of it for me is that while there are few moments where I’d be in awe of the graphics what Darksiders II does is paints a world which is visually unique. The technical side of things might not be amazing but the art direction is fantastic, this to be is more important that looking at photorealism and fancy techniques.
Aside from the unique visuals of the game the first major thing which struck me about the game was its soundtrack. Famed composer Jesper Kyd is the man behind the beautiful soundtrack to this game, in fact after just half an hour of playing the game I immediately ordered the soundtrack which is something I have never done with a video game before.
The music as with the visuals comes across a quite unique and just fits with the game perfectly. There are some beautiful orchestrated pieces here which range from battle music to general world and dungeon music and every piece seems memorable and it’s even enough to just leave it on the pause menu to listen to.
We now move onto the main component of any game review and that is to talk about the gameplay in Darksiders II. This being a sequel to what was, a fairly large but ultimately quite a linear title you might expect the same experience only perhaps on a bigger scale. It would seem Vigils idea of a bigger scale is going from a bungalow to the empire state building.
Darksiders II has added to the original in a tonne of ways. Where Darksiders had you following after and keeping track of just one objective the second one has introduced a vast number of side quests. Where the first title had you able to upgrade a selection of abilities the sequel has introduced two skill trees for you to choose from. This goes on and on, Death now has an inventory to equip weapons and armour from, Death can talk to NPCs and fast travel around the map, you can upgrade certain weapons and respect your character.
Let me just talk about Death some more, in the first title War was a badass protagonist which an impressive array of moves. One issue I had was the combat at times could feel a tad stiff thanks to the way War would dodge and hack his way. The combat was good and don’t get me wrong but it wasn’t really the highlight of my experience. Death is much slicker when he moves, he’s more graceful and he dodges in a more athletic fashion. He feels less of a tank than War did.
I can’t say combat is flawless though because there is one thing that really lets it down and that is the camera and targeting. If you have multiple enemies on screen at a time then you will probably run into some camera issues as it struggles to track you through a mass of enemies. The targeting also works fine with maybe two or three creatures but add more and it’ll start to feel like a hindrance.
Adding onto the combat side of things the game also features something which I find has maybe fallen by the wayside in recent years and that is a good variety of boss battles. Battles which make you have to figure out how to kill an enemy, that are tough and aren’t full of quick time events to do all the cool stuff, major commendation to Vigil for this one.
Combat itself is again a simple to learn affair with a button for your standard weapon attacks, another for secondary weapon attacks and you can combine them along with the jump button to create great combos against your enemies.
The skill trees you can put points in too allow you to unlock and upgrade special abilities which can help in the heat of battle.
Controlling Death is great as well and he has a few extra additions to his repoitroire beyond simply running, jumping and grabbing. The game isn’t built around jumping and exploring like an Uncharted, Tomb Raider or Prince Of Persia would be but there is enough here to keep it interesting from timing jumps from ledges, puzzles requiring quick reactions and linking wall runs, jumps and grabs.
Overall aside from some camera/targeting issues the combat in the game is highly satisfying from taking on the standard drone/simple enemies to the more complex and even the bosses themselves.
Moving away from the combat I’ll give a quick mention to the games linearity or lack thereof. Darksiders allowed for some degree of exploration. There were several hidden items to find but it was a fairly small affair in terms of the world and it was mostly about following one objective through to the end. Darksiders II has added in side quests which allow you to explore the various locations in game in more detail and unlock better loot and content.
These side-quests range from finding items to slaying additional bosses and they add that bit more lore to the world as well as advancing your character. It is a significant improvement to the game and just one of the many components which has helped to propel this game into the upper echelons.
The final section we come to regards the games storyline and longevity. I’ve made mention of the side-quests and activities the game has to offer as well as the large world to explore so you can already get a picture of how big the world is. The main storyline can take you about twenty or so hours to complete and this number will vary depending on how many side missions you complete. Extending the longevity are arena modes and of there is scope to play through it again.
As far as the story itself goes, this is a section I never like to say too much about but the crux of the plot is this. The Apocalypse has started far too early and the forces of heaven and hell are battling within the kingdom of man. When the apocalypse was triggered the horseman War rode into battle but was called out by the Charred Council who ensure balance is kept within the realms. They blamed War and stripped him of his powers.
The other Horseman Death realized something was wrong and this game follows his quest to uncover the truth and prove his brothers innocence. It runs alongside the events of the first game and those hundred years or so between Wars’ incarceration and him being charged with seeking the truth.
Death learns that set things right he must restore humanity to Earth and this is the premise. It is a great and well told tale which features some unique worlds and characters.
To round this up before I dole out the scores the title is a must own, I would recommend playing the first title to get to grips with some of the story but it isn’t essential and can be enjoyed regardless.
|Graphics||They are not the best or prettiest of this generation but they paint a unique world which speaks to me more than other titles do.||7.5/10|
|Story||A fleshed out story with some great characters and moments.||8.5/10|
|Gameplay||Aside from a few technical issues when multiple enemies appear on screen the combat is great and satisfying exploring the general world is also interesting enough.||9/10|
|Sound||Memorable score which I urge picking up separately. Voice acting in the game is great.||9/10|
|Longevity||A lengthy main quest with enough to do besides it means a 20+ hour game at the very least.||9/10|
|Overall||The first Darksiders was perhaps just a little bit out of that ‘Must purchase’ category, Darksiders II however is not. This is a must own game and one of 2012s best so far.||9/10|