It’s no secret that I was a huge fan of Darksiders; an Epic action RPG with a rich storyline and some amazing gameplay, my time with War one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse was a grand time! The only problem was the journey unfortunately had to end. Never fear though as stories are never truly over, they just change shape or even perspective and this is where Darksiders II steps up.
Running parallel with the events of the original Darksiders, your story kicks off during War’s imprisonment and eventual conviction; you control an extremely angry Death, next in line of the four horsemen. Knowing full well that his brother War is possibly the most honourable and incorruptible of the four, Death believes his brother to be at the centre of a mad conspiracy and sets out on a mission to find proof of his brothers innocence, travelling to the Nether Realms and beyond in order to do so, reaping the souls of anyone foolish enough to stand in his way.
As a character Death plays a stark contrast from his brother War. Throughout your time with Darksiders II you will quickly come to realise that Death does not value honour like his brother and is more than happy to use his cunning and break the rules in order to get what he wants, he is Death after all. This change in personality makes for some brilliant dialogue and great cutscenes, Death has a dry cool wit with a big sarcastic streak running down the middle, giving you the chance to invoke some big reactions from those around you. When I first met the Makers, I truly enjoyed Death’s scathing remarks and sarcastic jibes which quickly made me warm to him more so than I did with his brother.
These differences also extend to the overall feel and control of Death. Instead of being a serious and heavy beast of a fighter, like his brother, Death feels a lot more fluid with a greatly defined speed. Traversing the world’s environments shows just how smooth and stylish Deaths movements are; with a lot of inspiration taken it seems from a certain Prince somewhere in Persia maybe? The staples of swimming, jumping and climbing are all back but while you’re controlling this horseman you’ll have the ability to wall run, wall bounce and run across beams leaping from pillar to pillar. This really opened up the world for exploration, especially during side missions, which give you an excuse to search every nook and cranny you could possibly see (although I’d suggest doing this anyway, just to see the glorious level designs). Fights feel a lot less cumbersome this time around too, with blocking removed to be replaced with dodge and counter moves, which give combos greater scope while making said fights look intense.
As I mentioned in my recent preview, Darksiders RPG elements have been greatly expanded upon, with a lot more thought and time given to character customisation. As you explore the world you will find loot hidden throughout as well as dropped by enemies which you can choose to utilise or sell on, this is a feature that for me was sorely missed in the first game and I think its great to finally see it make an appearance, but just how well is this facility handled?
Throughout your journey you’ll discover pieces of armour and weaponry, which allow you to customise Death giving him different edges in combat as well as secondary weapons ranging from Claws and Tonfas to Axes and Hammers. The idea works really well, taking some cues from Borderlands it seems with just how much equipment you’ll find hidden in chests or left after reaping the sole of a savage beast, I often found myself spending serious time customising Death or even just hunting the area for any secret items or Legendary weapons I may have missed. The key factor to this constant flow of loot is the possessed weapons, which may be rare to find but once you wield one, it will make a huge difference on the battlefield. Possessed weapons, which you’ll be pleased to hear that you can name, each have their own unique attributes and the ability to level up along with you if you choose to “feed” them other standard weaponry… yep that’s right, these rare and magical tools of Death need to feed! This was indeed a brilliant little idea, which goes some way to explaining just why there is so much loot lying around.
Levelling up Death himself is handled in a much more straightforward fashion, as you would expect, for every level progression you’re awarded with a skill point which you can then attach to a particular ability, with all abilities split between two skill trees. The Harbinger tree, which essentially houses combat skills such as Teleport slash and Frenzy, and the Necromancer tree which handles all of Death’s more magic centric abilities such as raising armies of the dead to creating a spirit shield around him. Overall this is handled as well as expected with enough choice there to keep your RPG thirsts sated but not so much as to get you bogged down in spreading your numbers across the board in an effort to create the perfect being, this isn’t Skyrim after all. Darksiders aims to get you back into the action as soon as possible!
With such a change in protagonist and a focus on customisation there’s already a lot to think about when playing Darksiders II, and all of this is even before thinking about the vast array of side quests to fill your time in between Deaths journey to clear his brother’s name of the atrocities linked to it.
Visually Darksiders II has an excellent artistic style, really pushing those dark comic book visuals, which really come into their own when you first enter a dark flame lit dungeon and with such an expansive brooding soundtrack (by none other than Jesper Kyd) it really is a treat to experience as a whole. The story sees you travel far and wide through the Nether Realm, and as you progress it’s clear to see the amount of effort that has been put in to create some really cool dungeons littered with tricky puzzles, but for me I was truly impressed by the epic boss fights that were thrown at you. Within the first 10 minutes of the game I was already clashing swords with a hard ass shade, and this trend continued on throughout each dungeon, the highlight (or nightmare) was battling a gigantic stone construct hulk which had me despairing and ready to rage quit like the child Inside wanted me to.
The true success of this however lies in the fact that no matter how close you come to quitting that, “just 5 more minutes” mentality keeps you going back in every time!
As you journey through the world you won’t be expected to spend all of your time in dungeons, being taught lessons by 20ft monsters, no-no, you’ll meet plenty of inhabitants quick to ask you for a favour, any excuse for a respite from the beat downs right?
These quests vary from person to person, for example Vulgrim, your favourite salesman from the underworld, quite early on charged me with hunting down some missing pages from the book of the dead (sloppy to lose them if you ask me) with a hefty reward offered of course, if I was to find these elusive scriptures. These types of quest come fairly thick and fast, from finding components to build yourself amulets and better equipment to helping gather healing stones, there will be a lot of back and forth, however with the obvious item collection tasks aside there are on occasion varying tasks offered to you. For example, I was challenged to best Thane, one of the makers, in one on one combat purely for his sporting pleasure, which is no small feat I assure you! Now I’m sure this could sound to others like a bad deal, lots of covering old ground and collecting items, same old, same old right? Well actually no, this isn’t Skyward Sword I’m talking about, nothing is over used and somehow Darksiders manages to keep the collection quests exciting, enticing you to go further into dungeons to find what you’re looking for and on many occasions forcing you to go headfirst into a fight rather than skirt the perimeter in order to reach a hidden place or collect Scales from a savage stalker.
Outside of the story you’ll be playing through, Darksiders offers up Crucible mode, to keep those of us who may have cleared the game and challenged for a little while longer. Playing a lot like horde mode you’ll go up against wave after wave of enemies collecting equipment and gold from their carcasses, but as you’d expect there is a small catch. The moment you die, you will lose everything and go straight back to the first stage, you are offered a life-preserver as such however as after every 5 stages you are offered the chance to save all your loot at a cost of losing your multipliers and missing out on the chance to score bigger prizes…are you the gambling type? If you are then crucible mode aims to test your skills and addiction! Now I thought this was a nice little addition, as the combat in Darksiders II is so vastly improved it deserved to have its own focus in some ways and that’s exactly what crucible mode gives you as well as adding yet more longevity to an already huge and expansive title.
So after finally getting my hands on the full version I was truly enraptured in every moment of Darksiders II, it manages to blend some deeper RPG elements with classic dungeon crawling and tips its cap quite firmly to a large and wide handful of inspirations ranging from the much beloved, although now wayward, Zelda series to the more recent incarnations of Prince of Persia. There are on occasion minor bugbears such as a few dodgy camera angles but overall there really aren’t any bones to pick with Death’s epic adventure. Expect to be kept busy for a long time, with the main story easily swallowing about 20 hours of your life, all of which is without attempting all of the varied side quests. If that’s still not enough (if you’ve got a lot of free time?) then there’s Crucible mode, ready to keep you occupied for a long time after you’ve completed the game.
If you like RPG’s or your fancy your hand at some decent platforming action with a sprawling world and a Dark story then Darksiders is for you, it’s a truly great sequel to the series and definitely worth picking up!
Death rides again!