Darksiders II PS3 Review – Death Becomes You
Developer: Vigil Games
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U (Not yet released)
Release Date: August 14, 2012
ESRB: M – Mature
In an industry that feels as if it’s been overrun by generic, repetitive action-shooters, a studio willing to take a leap of faith and bring a fresh new IP into the fold is more than enough to garner some attention. With the release of Darksiders in 2010, gamers who have grown weary of endless Call of Duty sequels got a taste of what used to make gaming great: an imaginative story, challenging gameplay, fun combat, and a worthwhile experience independent from online multiplayer gaming. There just aren’t enough good, well-known single player campaigns out there.
At first glance, Darksiders II is a compelling package. The game is heavily improved from its predecessor and shamelessly borrows elements from some of the best games in the industry- Portal, The Legend of Zelda, God of War, Diablo, and even Gears of War. The main protagonist, Death (yes, as in the scary shadowy figure with the scythe, only more badass), is much more agile and acrobatic in combat in comparison to his other horseman brother, War, from the previous outing. Vigil has made some great refinements to the story, characters, and gameplay in this sequel. But are these adjustments enough or does Darksiders II prove to be a shallow grave?
Darksiders II is set in the same world and time period as the original Darksiders, but follows the journey of Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, on his quest to redeem his brother, War, by undoing the crime for which he has been condemned. Hoping to restore humanity to existence, Death seeks the wisdom of a scorned and mysterious old man, the Crowfather, who sets him on a path to the Tree of Life. Of course, it’s not a simple stroll through the woods to get there.
In true Legend of Zelda style, the immediate world has been overrun by an unknown evil force, and Death must work with the local characters to undo the damage and continue on his journey. And just when you’re getting close to your objective, you get your first face-to-face meeting with the mastermind behind the spreading corruption. Contrary to expectations (and name), the Tree of Life places Death in the Land of the Dead. Here, the locals aren’t so happy to see him. Mostly because they were sent there by the blade of Death’s scythe.
One of the most admirable qualities of Darksiders II is how it adopts characteristics from other popular franchises and effectively blends them together. Players can expect to solve challenging puzzles akin to the Zelda series, rack up deadly combos in combat God of War style, and even collect tons of loot similar to Diablo. It’s not unusual for new games to borrow elements from other successful series. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery. But what’s really impressive about Darksiders II is that all of these appropriated mechanisms are combined seamlessly without sacrificing the franchise’s core identity.
However, Darksiders II is nowhere near perfection. Perhaps the most noteworthy problem resides in its repetitive nature. The other elements of the adventure fail to mask the game’s fetch quest nature, making it blatantly obvious and a chore especially by the midpoint of the story. During numerous interviews, the developers continuously mentioned how this game would be much larger than the original Darksiders; but bigger doesn’t always mean better… or, in this case, more expansive.
Despite a fairly mid-range play time, the game feels as if it’s carried on for far too long. One linear quest after another until the story comes to an abrupt end. Death may look, talk, fight, and act like the badass hero we all want him to be, but more often than not he takes on the role of errand boy for whoever happens to be standing in his path at any given moment. Most of these quests are fun (and appropriate for a quest-driven adventure game), but Darksider’s II steps over into the territory of “too much of a good thing” far too often in that regard.
This seems to be a trend in this game, as its soundtrack shares a similar quality. It starts off incredibly strong, with a sweeping grandiose piece near the end of the first icy temple leading to Death’s meeting with the Crowfather. But after awhile, it is reduced to a smattering of repetitive, though notable, location-based themes. The quality of the music shows a lot of promise for what could have been a great soundtrack, given just a bit more variety.
From an artistic perspective, Darksiders II‘s visuals are impressive. Since the adventure is no longer confined to Earth, Vigil was able to design unimaginable environments, stretching their creative muscles. However, not all of the game’s offerings are a work of art. Some areas feel bland and dated, even with the game’s grim fantasy approach.
Darksiders II may not be quite the amazing triple-A title many were hoping for. The whole thing feels like it was rushed onto the shelf, a trend which I desperately hope publishers will move on from sooner rather than later. Despite this, the overall experience is a positive one. The story and dialogue are well-written, even if the playthrough is a bit drawn out. The characters and environments are well-designed. The gameplay and music are stimulating. The game is simply very good, with a few underlying issues. Players who decide to take the plunge and pick up this title will be rewarded with a great combat system, fun boss battles, challenging puzzles, and a plethora of collectibles and sidequests.
+Great use of elements from other top franchises within the industry
+Mostly well-written story and characters
+Tons of extra content
+Does a good job of establishing its own identity
-Repetitive quest nature
-Graphics sometimes feel dated
-PS3 version did show minor glitching
Special thanks to editor Joe Puopolo for his input on this review.