Vigil’s latest entry into the Darksiders saga is a game that really likes to get around. It’s already available on consoles, PC and Onlive, and there’s even a Wii U version coming at the end of the year for those patient enough to wait.
While the original Darksiders starred War, one of the four horsemen, Darksiders 2 passes the reins over to his brother, Death. Following the events of the first game, Death finds himself trying to clear War’s name after he is accused of triggering the apocalypse early and wiping out humanity.
Darksiders 2 can best be described as a mash up of several other popular game franchises. It obviously borrows heavily from the Legend of Zelda series, with the same basic progression mechanics and focus on puzzle filled dungeons. The combat and platforming are straight out of God of War and the light RPGs elements can be found in many other modern action games. Vigil have also implemented a randomized loot system that is (as far as I am aware) a first for the genre but it is clearly a simplified version of the one found in Diablo. While reworking ideas and mechanics from older titles is pretty much the basis of modern game design, Darksiders 2 goes a bit too far. The Deja Vu-like familiarity of its design makes the experience far too predictable, even in the first few hours of play.
That said, Darksiders 2 is still a very enjoyable game. It would be hard for it not to be considering the thoroughbred franchises that it is based on. Exploration and puzzle design are well implemented and the combat is fast and visceral. Unlike his predecessor, Death is an agile and acrobatic fighter who uses his speed and reflexes to avoid damage and attack from unusual angles. Taking larger opponents head on almost never works, forcing you to carefully time your attacks to exploit a moment of weakness. It’s a shame then that so many of your opponents are so brainless. While some enemies have interesting and varied attack patterns, most of them are stupid in the extreme, simply running towards you without any hint of strategy or self preservation. Such fights quickly grow tiresome and I suspect that much of Darksiders 2′s added length can be attributed to these repetitive slogfests.
Darksiders 2′s huge over-world is another nod to Zelda, and while it’s initially a lot of fun galloping around on your phantom horsey, there really isn’t a lot to find or do. These huge, barren areas serve little purpose other than to add a bit of atmosphere and further extend the game length. Luckily, there is a quick travel system so you can instantly jump to areas you have already visited.
The plot and characters in Darksiders 2 are pretty much what you’d expect from a game of this type. Death is rude, moody and not very likeable and the people he meets are equally stereotypical. They generally just stand around waiting for Death to come along so they can start banging on about ancient powers, terrible omens and other suitably epic dark fantasy-themed topics. The graphics are good without being particularly remarkable, but they do suit the game. The art and sound are well crafted and consistent throughout.
I played Darksiders 2 on the PC. Frankly, this kind of fast-paced third person hack ‘n’ slashing isn’t a natural fit for a keyboard and mouse. Initially I tried to play it in this fashion, but I found it to be almost unbearable. A gamepad does a pretty good job of putting all of your moves and abilities at your fingertips, but on a keyboard they are scattered all over the place. Hand-cramping key combinations are needed for something as simple as locking onto an opponent while dodging and the lack of analogue sticks makes precision movement and jumping even more awkward. They key layout can be customized, but I couldn’t find a set up that was ergonomic enough to use comfortably. In the end I plugged in a game controller and I recommend you do the same.
Played in this fashion, Darksiders 2 on PC is near as darnedest identical to the PS3 and Xbox 360. The PC version offers nothing extra over other releases, and aside from V-sync and resolution, the graphics options are non-existent. Darksiders 2 is not especially taxing and will run on most gaming PCs without any slowdown, but if you have a high-end PC and are used to cranking things up you are out of luck. While many gamers reported problems with bugs in the PC version of Darksiders 2, a recent patch by Vigil appears to have resolved most of them. I experienced few problems even before the patch, but as always with PC games, you may run into problems that other people don’t have.
At its core, Darksiders 2 is a derivative experience, unashamedly standing on the shoulders of many classic franchises. It’s a lot of fun, but in being so much like other games it fails to really distinguish itself from them.