Right, so I have talked about Darksiders II in my previous post already but I’m going to go ahead and try to dive a little bit deeper into the game and explain what I like and what I don’t like about it. As it is, I’m currently about 1/3 through the game so this is purely my thoughts up to this point in the game. I’m really divided on certain aspects of the game, some things I really love and some things I really don’t love.
Darksiders II is an action RPG-Hack and Slash game developed by now-defunct Vigil Games and published by THQ. It was released in North America on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on August 14, 2012 with releases in Australia on August 16, 2012, European Union on August 21, 2012 and Japan on November 29, 2012. The Wii U release of Darksiders II was on November 18, 2012 for North America and November 30, 2012 for Australia and European Union. The Deathinitive Edition, containing all DLC, enhanced graphics and lighting system was released for PS4 and Xbox One on October 27, 2015 worldwide with the worldwide PC release following shortly after on November 5, 2015.
The story is super simple starting off, your brother War is in trouble for something that he apparently did not do and you as Death are trying to find redemption for him. Yup, you read that right, you are Death one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Now you might think that this would make you all powerful and destroyer of life but really it doesn’t because this is a video game. As stated above I haven’t finished the game yet so I can only offer what I’ve gotten through so far.
After fighting the Crowfather you are cast into another realm where the Corruption has taken hold. The explanation given for the Corruption is that it is basically a manifestation of the bad things in life; it’s some Captain Planet type stuff for sure. Anyway, the realm of the Makers is where you end up. The Makers of as their name implies: makers of the world. Look, they’re basically giant dwarves complete with the stereotypical dwarf accent and the giant forge forging massive weapons from the heart and tears of the Stonefather.
Well what about the characters? They’re super one-dimensional is what they are. Death can be inquisitive if you so desire, but he gives off a bit of snark in just about every conversation you have. So, basically Death is a dick. Another thing, why is Death such a pushover? With all the fetch quests that the various Makers give you it’s a wonder if one of the quests will eventually involve picking up dry cleaning or doing the dishes.
Okay, maybe I’m nitpicking, but it’s Death! The Death! The Grim Reaper! The Sultan of Swat! Playing as Death is in and of itself a pretty neat idea though. In fact, most of the story beats are pretty decent. The dialogue is good and it fits the tone of the situation and the character that it’s representing. I do have to say that nothing feels out of place, everything so far is as it should be and as you expect it. That could be a good or a bad thing depending on who you ask, but to me it feels okay. The game gives me what I expect even if I want to be surprised at times.
So far the gameplay is my favorite part about Darksiders II. It is an excellent blend of the RPG and hack & slash genre with randomly generated loot sprinkled on top. Your primary weapons are scythes (surprise, right?) with your secondary being a weapon of your choice such as a two-handed hammer, two-handed axe or gauntlets with claws or without. The two-handed axe and two-handed hammer are almost the same kind of weapon in that they’re slow but pretty devastating, whereas the gauntlets are a really fast weapon that dishes out smaller amounts of damage extremely quickly. Each weapon will have a different stat such as +Strength or +Critical Chance.
My only issue is that even though there are some randomly generated aspects to the weapons, you’ll still end up using secondary weapons you received from bosses most of the time because of the sheer amount of damage they do. The primary weapons, as mentioned earlier, are scythes. The biggest variety in weapons comes here in that if you’re lucky, you’ll get a possessed pair of scythes. Possessed scythes are super interesting; you can feed other weapons and items to it to level it up. After leveling the possessed scythes up, you will be given an option of what attribute to give to it, my current set has an extremely high amount of +Critical Damage and has Frost Damage and +Strength as well. As far as customization is concerned, that’s the best part so far in terms of weapons.
Other randomly generated loot included: Gloves, boots, pauldrons, chest pieces and talismans. Each of the armor pieces will also have its own attributes, some of which I’ve already listed. Completing side quests can yield much higher than average items that will last you significantly longer than what you’ll find just fighting the trash monsters you find in the dungeons and in the world.
Now that I’m finally done rambling about equipment in the game it’s time to talk about what matters a great deal in an RPG style game: the skills and abilities. As mentioned above, I am only about 1/3 of the way through the game right now. Therefore I’m not entirely sure if more than 2 skill trees exist in the game*. So yes, right now there are two skill trees dealing with different skill styles. The Harbinger tree is going to increase the aggressiveness of Death by giving him high damaging skills along with some that restore health. Assigning points in this tree, the player will find that Death will do a great deal more damage with these skills and some of them are especially built for sticky circumstances where you’re surrounded by enemies.
The second skill tree is the Necromancy skill tree. If you’ve played any kind of action-RPG game in the past (*cough* Diablo *cough*) then you’ll have an idea of what this skill tree contains. Necromancy focuses on skills to summon ghouls to aid Death. The ghouls start off pretty simple, but as you add points to the tree the ghouls will gain different attributes such as exploding when they die dealing damage to enemies that were surrounding them. There’s also a shield ability that will add an extra layer of defense to Death, ensuring he can take a much bigger hit than normal.
You can’t use your skills all willy-nilly though! You gotta consume some Wrath (Mana…) to use your abilities! Simple enough, right? Restoring Mana, I mean Wrath, is pretty simple: You can drink a Wrath Potion or you can use the revolver from Strife (one of the other horsemen whom the Makers just happen to have one of the weapons of), Redemption. Redemption does not do a spectacular amount of damage and is really only used for certain puzzles and for replenishing your Wrath. As mentioned above, some skills will replenish smidgeons of health but if you need a big boost of health then you’ll need to drink a Health Potion, which you’ll get from breaking pots and boxes apart and murdering baddies.
At any rate, the skill trees in Darksiders II are a good addition but just like most parts of the game, it doesn’t do it exceptionally well. The skill trees as they are feel somewhat limited, I feel like the better option here would be for each of the usable abilities to have its own skill tree and then the player develop the skills in what manner they see fit. A minor qualm it is, but the skill trees as they are don’t feel especially deep and meaningful even.
The controls are alright. Some weird combos are the only qualm a have when it comes to the combat. Most of the time, it feels pretty fluid and dishing out some combos is relatively easy. But the platforming, oh god the platforming and wall-running is infuriating at times. You might think you’re pressing the joystick in the right direction, but then you run off into the lava or something! The camera forcing itself into certain perspectives and angles to increase dramatic effect is super troublesome at times when you’re trying to accomplish the platforming.
Playing through Darksiders II might remind you of a certain Nintendo franchise with a guy in a green tunic, fairy on his shoulder and trusty steed. Yup, Darksiders II is noticeably similar to The Legend of Zelda. The overworld is simply a vessel by which the game deposits you into dungeons, so there’s many empty stretches where you’re simply riding your trusty undead stead, Despair, trying to avoid the baddies chasing you down.
Again, very similarly to The Legend of Zelda the dungeons will have you searching for keys to unlock doors as well as some monotonous puzzles in the way to really pad it! Dungeons are not a spectacular foray to be honest. In the first 1/3 of the game all of the dungeons are very similar, and even the music is the same in all of them.
The bosses of each dungeon aren’t very astounding either. Each has a special gimmick with which you defeat them, now that can be said for bosses in just about any game but it just doesn’t feel like the bosses have very many significant differences other than the skins being different or them being larger or smaller than one another. Only one exception exists so far and that’s the final boss of the first realm, The Guardian. I initially believed it would be a Shadow of the Colossus type fight but was soon disappointed to find that it was defeated by not one, but three gimmicks! That’s two more gimmicks than the other bosses!! Choice! I’m not saying that dungeons or bosses are bad, they’re just not very surprising and the gimmicks are always super obvious and take seconds to catch on to.
Lastly in regards to the gameplay, there are some collectibles that you’ll find scattered throughout the world. Boatman Coins can only be used at merchant shop of Vulgrim. Vulgrim is a demon who seems hell-bent on making a profit and taking over the world. This is evident of him requesting Death to procure pages of the Book of the Dead for him. I haven’t bought much from Vulgrim but I’ve accumulated many Boatman Coins and almost have enough pages of the Book of the Dead to finish that side quest.
Graphics and aesthetics though, this is where the game shines a bit more. The tutorial dungeon starts off in a snowy mountain but is pretty flat on the pallet. After being transported to the realm of the Makers, this is where the game gets much more colorful. Aesthetically speaking, none of it stands out especially but the style is wonderful. The way the water flows, the animations of death spinning and twirling his scythes during combat, the ground shattering under the blow of a great hammer, it is awesome. The character models leave a little to be desired but overall I’d say the game succeeds in its stylistic choices, even unlocking doors looks awesome and don’t get me started on the way the ghoulish arms of Death’s true form appear and tear chests apart.
With a soundtrack composed by Jesper Kyd (Assassin’s Creed, Hitman series) you know you’re in for a real treat when it comes to the orchestrated tracks. Many of the tracks in the introduction dungeon and in the first realm have been awesome, orchestrated pieces that really bring out the atmosphere of the situation and the places. The Guardian boss fight has an especially awesome track and incorporates the right amount of melancholy to match the unfortunate task Death is undertaking by destroying it. So far, every track fits and it fits well, I look forward to the other tracks throughout the game. Here’s hoping there’s not so much overlap on a dungeon to dungeon basis in the later realms.
So far, my experience with Darksiders II has been a positive one. There are many great things about this game from the gameplay to the graphics to the music, there’s always something great to be found. But there are also some downfalls in these pieces of the game as well, some control issues, over used tracks, questionable design choices are all blemishes on the otherwise beautiful face of Death. I’m excited to finish it up.
Note: My next write up on this game will not be a lengthy, as I’ll simply be adding on to my thoughts presented in this post.
*Upon further investigation there are only 2 skill trees in the game.