If you’ve played through even a small part of Darksiders, you’ll know what I mean when I say that it’s not a game you play for the story. Even after playing through the original game three times, I’m still not entirely sure about what happened. What I am sure of, though, is how awesome it is to play as a badass horseman, and that’s why Darksiders 2 is such a fun and addictive game. The core gameplay of running through dungeons and killing lots of monsters is still there, but so much more has been added to the experience. Between the new leveling system, the loot that drops from enemies, and the new “Possessed” weapons (more on that later!), this sequel isn’t just reiterating the formula from the original; it’s taking that formula to a whole new level.
Before I get into details, here’s a quick overview of my review:
- The combat system
- Leveling up and choosing perks
- The Crucible arena mode
- Death’s personality
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
- Limited graphics options on PC
- Slow start, even on Apocalyptic Mode (not challenging at all for the first several hours)
- Large open areas with almost nothing to do in them
DO I RECOMMEND IT?
Only if you’ve played the first Darksiders and enjoyed the combat, or you don’t care much for a story and just want to kill cool enemies.
The story has moved the focus over to a new horseman, Death, who is on a quest to help prove his brother War’s innocence. That’s all the detail I’m going to give, since the storyline isn’t exactly the easiest thing to explain. Go play the first Darksiders if you’re really curious. While the sequel has added loads of new characters, it also retained some familiar faces (like Vulgrim, your friendly neighborhood demon merchant). The character with the best dialog, though, is Death himself. Although he’s not exactly a comedian, his dark sense of humor shows in many of the conversations.
For me, the main draw of Darksiders 2 is the combat. The system is fluid and easy to learn, but difficult to master to the point where you hardly take any damage from enemies. Death’s light and heavy attacks are a huge improvement from War’s fighting style in the first game. Each type of weapon has a slightly different feel to it, and learning what situations to use each weapon in is the only way to survive the increasingly difficult fights. Every enemy requires a different strategy to defeat it. The challenge in Darksiders 2 comes when the game begins to throw multiple enemy types at you at the same time. My favorite battles, though, are the boss fights, when Death is up against huge enemies along with hordes of smaller enemies. Many times your standard attacks won’t do any damage to a boss, so you’ll have to figure out other strategies instead.
Since I’ve played through the first Darksiders multiple times, I figured I’d go ahead and start the sequel in Apocalyptic Mode (the hardest difficulty available when you play the game for the first time). I was expecting a good challenge right from the start, but I was sorely disappointed. The first couple hours I played, I wasn’t challenged in one single fight. Instead, I found myself running through large, open areas with a few weak enemies scattered around. To get to the dungeons (and the action!), I had to trek through these boring areas that didn’t have much to offer. I felt obligated to kill the enemies I saw, if only to level up Death faster, but it was not even remotely fun.
That’s not to say that leveling up in and of itself isn’t fun. On the contrary, the leveling system in Darksiders 2 is simple and rewarding. Each increase in level comes with a skill point to spend on one of Death’s many skills. There are only two main classes of skills to choose from (Harbinger and Necromancer), but they’re fleshed out with enough different abilities that make choosing where to spend that point very difficult. Death’s various skills are a welcome addition to the already well designed combat. After all, who doesn’t want to summon minions from the grave or a flock of crows to fight for him? And just in case you make a mistake, Vulgrim the demon is around to allow you to reset all of your perks (for a price).
Death isn’t the only one who can level up in Darksiders 2, though. As you progress through the game, the loot dropped by enemies becomes more and more powerful, and you may be lucky enough to come across a rare possessed weapon. Besides being substantially better than the rest of the weapons you’ve been using, they can also be improved by feeding other pieces of equipment to the possessed weapon. After you sacrifice a certain number of items, the weapon will level up, and just as you choose new abilities for Death, so you can choose new abilities for your weapon. With all these customization options, it’s easy to outfit Death with the equipment and skills that suit your play style.
But let’s say you’re getting bored with the storyline. Maybe it’s not challenging enough, or perhaps it just doesn’t have enough combat. After all, the combat is my favorite part of the game. Darksiders 2 has added a new arena challenge mode called The Crucible. If you get tired of running around large, open tracts of land with only a few enemies, then fast travel on over to The Crucible, where wave after wave of tough enemy combatants await your scythes. On Apocalyptic Mode, the enemies start out hard and quickly become insanely strong. By progressing through the main story, you can unlock more waves (there are 100 total). And after defeating all 100 waves in one sitting, a special surprise awaits you! And no, I’m not putting any spoilers in here. You’ll just have to go look it up on Youtube if you can’t wait to find out what (or who) it is.
As for bugs, I’ve only come across one minor glitch in my playthrough. When I was attacking an enemy, I knocked him back over an edge. Instead of tumbling to his death, he rolled onto an invisible platform, got back up, and promptly got stuck in some sort of invisible wall. Other than that, gameplay has been smooth and hiccup free. The graphics aren’t much of an improvement over the original, but I like the art style. It is, however, very much lacking in the graphic options for PC. There are settings for V-sync and resolution, but that’s all you get. But the only reason I didn’t get this on console is because I paid only $45 on PC (vs $60 for the equivalent console versions). I’ve also heard of screen tearing issues on both consoles and PC, but I have yet to experience that.
All in all, not everyone is going to enjoy a game like this. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but it successfully takes bits and pieces from other games and puts them together into an enjoyable package. If you loved the first Darksiders, go out and buy this, you’ll love it too. If you want a good hack n’ slash game with loads of exciting enemies to fight, get it. If you want an engaging story that makes sense, then you should probably look elsewhere. Darksiders 2 is all about Death.