Many people who've never played Darksiders II will compare it to God of War and say it is inferior and a shameless clone. They'll say it copies Zelda and is a terrible copy at that. I would say "Where in God of War do you fight a Corrupted Angel, A Stone Giant, and a Demon Prince?" I'd also ask "Where in Zelda do you slaughter waves of Zombies and behead Ghouls?" If Darksiders is a Zelda clone then SoulCalibur is a clone of Streetfighter. Their only similarity's are the fundamental basics, but everything else is completely different - Don't believe me? Then keep reading...
Or switch off and go back to God of War 3, it's your life in the end not mine.
For those few of you who will keep reading I warn you this review will probably contain some minor spoilers though I'll try to keep it to a minimum.
(SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS? DIDN'T YOU GET THE MESSAGE? SPOILER ALERT!)
Good now that that's out of the way. On with the review!
I should probably take this moment to say I haven't actually played God of War much beyond a demo and some time round a friends and likewise I haven't played a Zelda game in, oh probably getting on for a decade now so I didn't really go into this game expecting it to be like either of those nor was I comparing them all the way through so if you want a comparison look elsewhere.
Presentation and Graphics
The visual art style for Darksiders was conceived by Joe Madureira also known as Joe Mad and it looks unbelievably good. In a time when the majority of games these days are trying to look as realistic as possible Darksiders II's comic book like art style is rather refreshing, not that that means that this makes the graphics any less detailed then realistic games like Call of Duty (yeah right!). In particular I have to give credit for Death's character design which is just breathtakingly different from the stereotypical cloak and bones routine and given the context of how the horseman came about and what they actually are in the Darksiders universe also makes a lot of sense.
Another point to mention is the size and scale of the world around you. The last time I saw worlds this huge I was in a MMO and it rarely if ever gets repetitive. I won't spoil it too much but Darksiders II is split into several worlds with the first world you start in being a sort of tutorial world and then you end up in the first proper size world which is the Forge Lands. The Forge Lands are huge and are the home of the race known as The Makers, an ancient group of world builders who apparently 'laid the foundations for many worlds' and are in a bit of a crisis and need the reapers help. All of the main realms in Darksiders follow a sort of theme which is constant throughout, in the case of the Forge Lands this means many wide open spaces and mountains with some very medieval like dungeons.
I should also point out when I started playing the game I had no problems with frame rate and such but after the 1.02 patch I have noticed some stuttering issues but that's small price to pay I suppose since I haven't had to suffer any major glitches early on like others or locking up.
There is always two parts to a soundtrack; the Voice Acting and the Musical Score and Darksiders II is no exception with both being done remarkably well. The voice actor for Death is Michael Wincott (The Crow, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, etc) who does a superb job of conveying the emotion and personality of a being who always where's a mask and in doing so makes Death one of the most likeable characters I can remember in a long time. By the end of the game you will greatly care about Death and his fate. There are various enemies that Death has to overcome each with voice actors ranging from good to plain excellent and the supporting cast that Death will encounter are likewise voiced from good to great. This is especially important when you realise that every cutscene and piece of information spoken to you is voiced from full explanations about various lore to Karn's ever constant "I dunno. I'm just a pup"
Then we have the musical score. Now I am not an expert on music or indeed musical scores, I know what I like but I couldn't tell you who sings what or when. The score in Darksiders II is very orchestral, you've got some really huge, loud and epic tracks that really set the theme of that area and are really cool to listen to why you navigate dungeons and solve puzzles, as well as some really nice battle tracks. I especially like the theme later in the game that plays when you are on Earth, fighting off swarms of undead in what might as well be an endless dungeon and the Boss theme that plays later on in Lostlight. There's no voiced tracks in this and nor is there any need for them, the theme music here is more than enough you'll be humming along before you know it.
Darksiders II's gameplay can be split into two main parts: Puzzles and Battle.
The puzzle elements in Darksiders II are large, clever and later on quite challenging, the only complaint I have and it is a small one is that the last dungeon for lack of a better term in the game feels rather uninspired. It works, but it introduces a new gameplay mechanic that never feels as if it was completely realised and this leaves that dungeon feeling fairly easy, but given that its near the end of the game its not a big deal. Besides that one dungeon near the end though the rest are gorgeous and inspired. You'll traverse walls, scale large timbers, throw bombs, pull levers, push switches and that's just the start; by the end of the game you'll have gained several abilities that will allow you to use an ethereal arm to swing across distances and grab bombs from a distance, shoot objects otherwise unreachable with your gun, split yourself in two and create portals between two points.
The combat elements in Darksiders II are something a lot of people are going to be familiar with, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. For starters you've got your basic hack'n'slash formula, square button is a light attack with your scythes and triangle is a more powerful attack with your secondary weapon such as a slow moving hammer or lightning fast claws and of course you can chain these two presses in various ways for combos. The transition between these two weapons is fast and surprisingly fluid. On top of that you have the more complex moves you can acquire through the two skill trees and map to a shortcut palette accessed by L1 or you can use the down button on the D-pad to pause the game and bring up a larger menu where all your skills and such can be accessed.
The two skill trees can be divided up into your powerful melee skills aka the Harbinger tree and your spellcasting aka the Necromancer tree. Both feature some very different skills and require several playthroughs to complete. Why? Because each skill tree has at least a dozen skills and each one needs three skill points to be maxed out and at full power. Since the level cap is currently at Lv30 your going to need several playthroughs via New game + to complete this quest that allows you to get five extra skill points per playthrough from a merchant named Ostegoth. The skills vary from things like teleport slash to summoning ghouls to back you up and they have a good few branch skills such as corpse explosion to back them up.
Fortunately a merchant named Vulgrim will sell you something called a Respec that will basically un-assign all of your skill points so you can re-assign them however you see fit. If the skill set you have isn't working out, respec yourself and develop a new one.
I'm really only skimming the surface of the combat as it can get very deep and challenging later on, but in a good way. The kind where afterwards you feel deeply satisfied for surviving.
A section that perhaps deserves special note is the glitches or lack thereof in this game. I am aware that a good number of players have complained of various glitches such as NPC's getting stuck or vanishing or puzzles elements crashing the game but as of this review and the 1.01 and 1.02 patches the only glitch I suffered was near the end of the game during a boss fight. A mid boss fight cutscene that would have changed the layout of the area where I was fighting the boss was supposed to occur but did not and as a consequence the boss kept falling into a pit of lava and after I beat him I was unable to leave. I thought it was a game breaker and restarted from an earlier save but it happened again so I tried to look for a solution.
I have to give mention of the Darksiders II community who were very helpful and were very quick to provide a solution that fixed the problem and allowed me to complete the fight properly, get the trophy and continue the game. Whilst it wasn't a big thing for me as not everyone has this glitch and it was the only one I suffered through the whole game, I still hope it gets patched at some point and no one else has to deal with it. If any of you do suffer from any glitches I can almost guarantee there'll be a solution on the Darksiders II forums on the official site.
Re-play Value AKA Enjoyment
Perhaps the most important part of any game is whether or not you'll want to go back to it again. Like a good book or movie the ability to enjoy a game again and again is probably why were so passionate about them in the first place.
Darksiders II is a thoroughly enjoyable game with deeply satisfying combat and a engaging and intriguing story that'll hook you right from the start. The game takes easily 20-30 hours to complete for a single playthrough and and has a new game + feature for those of you want to get those trophies/achievements for the harder difficulty's and deeper challenges; plus there is specific equipment that can only be acquired on a second playthrough.
On top of that we have the crucible for a most satisfying challenge of 100 rounds of increasingly harder and more challenging enemies from every corner of the game which is a really good way to earn high level loot as well as a secret boss on floor 101. As of this review I am up to floor 50 and will be definitely trying to complete this very enjoyable challenge.
There is a number of side quests scattered throughout the game most of which take place is some side quest exclusive dungeons and are a nice additional challenge as well as something to do if you want to take a break from the main story.
I will be reviewing the DLC content at a later date.
(SPOILERS END HERE! SPOILERS END HERE! YOU ACTUALLY MADE IT TO THE END!? SPOILERS END HERE!)
Well time for the verdict is it Buy It, Rent It or Leave It:
Darksiders II is an amazing game that is a joy to play, and to explore and whether you played the first one or not, is more than a worthy addition to any gamers collection. Compared to many big budget releases of the time it was pretty affordable and the DLC only expands the universe and is not necessary to finish the game or get a 'True' ending.
Thank you for reading and as always your comments are a joy to read. Till next time everyone, have fun!