Review: Darksiders II (Xbox 360)

Darksiders II: Official GBAtemp Review

Xbox 360 3,626 views 0 likes 3 comments
Reviewed by Thomas Hugh, posted Sep 20, 2012
Everyone loves a good action-adventure game! After reading about the GoW/DmC/LoZ mash-up gameplay, I followed the development of the first game very closely. Not only was the game great, but the story, characters and theme felt very epic. What better setting for a game than a modern day apocalypse with Nephilim stylized horsemen! I have really high hopes for Darksiders II simply because sequels are meant to improve upon the original. If that is the case here then we should be in for a treat when Darksiders II is released on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on the 14th (21st in Europe, and later on the Wii U).
Sep 20, 2012
  • Release Date (NA): August 21, 2012
  • Publisher: THQ
  • Genres: Hack and slash, action-adventure, action role-playing
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Darksiders II by Vigil Games is the sequel to the million plus selling 2010 game Darksiders: The Wrath of War. In the first fantasy-action game you played as War, one of the three brothers of the apocalypse (in Vigil Games’ universe the fourth horsemen is a woman). This game was simultaneously praised and criticized for mixing Devil May Cry, God of War, and The Legend of Zelda game play styles. In Darksiders II we take control of Death, War's somewhat bad ass brother, during the same time period as the first, which should make for some interesting story elements.
Thomas Hugh

Overview

The game starts out with Death hearing of his brother War being held accountable for starting the apocolypse on Earth and wiping out mankind. War has been charged by the Charred Council and is awaiting his fate. It is up to Death to prove his brother's innocence, but doing so could mean some difficult choices.
You start of in the Forge Lands and meet a few Nephilim know as 'The Makers'. These guys are responsible for creating cities in both Heaven and Hell and although they are huge muscle bound giants, they actually need Death's help. Many of the quests are fetch quests requiring Death to complete a dungeon or three and it turns out that Death is quite an errand boy and happy to help pretty much everyone.
There are no towns in the game, but instead a kind of hub for each world where you can speak to certain NPCs. Most consist of a trainer, a shop and quest givers. Trainers teach new moves for gilt (gold), quest givers have a conversation tree but it is just a way to involve you in the scene by selecting the order the dialogue plays out. At shops you can buy and sell weapons, armor, talismans, relics and potions as you would expect.

The world map at first glance appears quite large, but it is deceiving as a lot of the area is just empty land with hardly any enemies to battle, and as you move from place to place on your trusty steed 'Despair', it becomes more viable to just use the fast travel option and warp to where you want to go. Even more so when you have quests on all four of the game's maps. Your main quest marker is a yellow dot on the map so your never in doubt of where to go next. If you do wind up scratching your head you can call upon Death's feathery sidekick 'Dust'.
Dust is a crow that supposedly will show Death where to go if he loses his way. Sounds great and if it worked as it should it would make a great addition to the game, but Dust's uselessness soon becomes apparent. He will fly around in circles, guide you back to where you just came from, and generally show you every door on a map except the one you want. In the Darksiders novel The Abomination Vault, Death often makes funny comments with Dust and I was hoping for some of that kind of dialogue in the game but there was none.

If you choose to ride Despair instead of fast travelling the world, he controls basically the same way as War's 'Ruin' in the original game. On your way to another area you will often pass an optional dungeon or two and if you are tempted to enter before you have reached a certain point in the main quest, you will find that it is only possible to get so far as you won't have all the required abilities to progress further and complete the dungeon. I ended up going through the main quest line until the endgame and then at the point-of-no-return I went back to complete as many of the sidequests as I could.

 

 

Platforming & Puzzles

The joy of the first game for me was the platform and puzzle filled dungeons. DSII doesn't disappoint in this area and the familar Prince of Persia stylee wall running is back. Every dungeon requires some of this action, but some of them a bit too much. As you progress and unlock abilities in the game, the dungeon puzzles become much harder often requiring Death to combine certain powers to advance. The Death Grip is basically the grapple hook, and is used to chain wall runs but can also be used to grab pieces of enviroment in order to solve a puzzle. Then later on you gain the Soul Splitter power which splits Death into two separate controllable Deaths whilst turning the original into a cool stone statue weight. This paired with the Voidwalker (Portal Gun) makes for some quite taxing puzzles and although I never once needed help to progress in a dungeon, I certainly had a few 'um' moments. Even more so when the Voidwalker gets an upgrade and becomes the Phasewalker. DSII also has probably one of the coolest dungeon concepts I have seen in a video game and the entrance to said dungeon is an awesome cutscene.

Over all I think the dungeons are an improvement over the first game though in DSII the world doesn't seem as focused. This is due to the side quests beng scattered about and the lack of story.

Combat
The first thing you will notice is Death's build. He appears much leaner than War, which in turn makes him faster in both movement and combat. Death wields dual scythes unlike War's two handed great sword and has many sub weapons to choose from, such as axes, maces, gauntlets and hammers.
Combat is very good, with all sub weapon types having their own move set and special charged attacks. I really enjoyed using the gauntlets which have a great set of punching combos with a flying uppercut finisher. Also the heavy hitting glaives and hammers feel really powerful. The enemy targeting could use some work as it is a bit clumsy if there are any more than two enemies on screen. The same can be said for the dodge mechanic. If used whilst locked on to an enemy Death will dodge in some weird direction guaranteed to not be the one you wanted.
You could get through DSII by button mashing, but the deep combos are there too and are very rewarding when you nail them. Combat overall is more fluid and a huge improvement from the first game.

Like War, Death also receives a gun but in DSII it is a much more viable option in combat for building up the wrath meter or crowd control and not just used for shooting bombs to solve puzzles. It isn't upgradeable and is mapped as an ability.
To really test your combat skill the game has what is essentially a horde mode with a 100 waves of enemies to best. The Crucible is where you can test your might throughout the game and aquire more random loot. Every five waves Death is given the choice to either quit and take the loot or fight on and hope for a better drop. This is a nice addition to the game that I used primarily to test out out my new Possessed gear. Completing the entire 100 waves in one sitting unlocks a Legendary weapon!

  

Skills

The skill tree is built towards either Harbinger or Necromancer style, basically melee or magic. You do not have to stick to one trait though and can mix it up. Each power is unlocked with a skill point and can be powered up a further two times. Skill points are awarded from leveling up (1 per level) or from selling hard to find relics. I had spent 26 points by the endgame and had invested equally in both styles. The Harbinger tree has a powerful move called Teleport Slash that when powered up can get Death out of tight spot in combat and also replenish some health and wrath at the same time. Investing more points allows for a % chance to freeze or flame the enemy too.
From the Necromancer tree I had Exhume, a great power that summons zombies to fight along side Death. Further skill point investment allows the zombies to set fire to enemies they attack, or explode into enemies when their summon time is up.

I didn't see all the skills or complete either tree as it isn't possible during one playthrough. It is only possible to hit level 24 until new game plus so on the initial playthrough you just don't have enough points to buy everything.
If at anytime you are not happy with the skills you have bought, you can reset them for a small fee with the demon Vulgrim.
 

Loot

A new addtition to DSII is the loot system, instead of having a set number of upgradeable weapons, the drops are random (but scaled to your level in most cases) and so are the general chest's contents. Although the loot system is really well made, allowing for a level of customization, I felt that this was the wrong game for it to be used in. All the time I spent in menus comparing, modifying and equipping weapons armor and talismans took away from the action and artificially increases the game's length. In an RPG such as Skyrim this is to be expected but in an action/adventure/platformer it kind of breaks the mood and flow of the game. I would have much preferred the original game's system wheras you have a weapon which is upgradeable should you complete certain missions or find out dungeon secrets. Think the Biggoron sword, it wasn't needed, but wanted!

The same goes for armor, there are so many variants and combinations, but it doesn't really matter as you find that much stuff that is better than the last item you had equipped, that you are constantly changing and selling it or dumping it and equipping the slightly better than the last piece. You will be doing a lot of that as the inventory screen is small for each item and there is no way of upgrading the space, it quickly becomes full of what is in reality, useless junk.

Perhaps the one nice aspect of the loot system is the upgrading of Possessed weapons. These are special weapons that can be upgraded by feeding them older useless weapons and armor. When doing this you can carry over stats from the sacrificed item, such as health steal or critical chance %. You can create some real monster weapons here and by the endgame I had made a set of gauntlets for my sub weapon that were doing around 8000 damage per second whilst stealing health and wrath points with each hit, setting the enemy on fire and giving me 100% execution chance. After reading other boards I have seen players doubling and even tripling my DPS so the system is definitley quite deep.

Having a completed Darksiders save file on your console unlocks you some special items in DSII, such as War's Harvester Scythe. These weapons have some nice stats but after an hour or so play all become useless, as well as all the redeem code items offered via Facebook and such.

Along with the loot are a lot of collectibles that are scattered throughout the world. There are boatman coins used to trade for special weapons and armor from the demon vendor 'Vulgrim' and Book of the Dead pages that can be sold every time a chapter of ten pages is completed. There are other quests which require Death to collect certain random items like gnomes or shoot blue stones that you often spot placed high up on dungeon walls. The only issue I had with the stones is I didn't find the quest giver until really late in the game so I had already missed loads of the stones in the previous dungeons, and once the dungeons are completed it's hard to navigate through them as if it were the first time and spot all the stones. There is also no way of tracking what you have or have not collected and where from, so if you are a completionist and not using a guide this could really drive you crazy.

 

Closing Comments

I wrote this review right after completing the game and all of it's side quests except for two of the 'collect' quests. My save file time upon completion was 24hrs 32mins and I have unlocked 37/50 achievements totalling 630/1000 gamerscore.

I enjoyed my time with Darksiders II, but I feel it missed the mark a bit of what made people like the first game. Sure it is more of the same and there is way more content than the first game but it isn't as focused. It has side quests but it is still linear and the last third of the game feels a bit rushed. With more focus on story and a longer development time I think DSII could have been an amazing game and not just a good one.
If you enjoyed Darksiders, God of War, Devil May Cry etc. Then I have no doubt that you will enjoy Darksiders II.
I have not tried the Argul's Tomb DLC as it wasn't released at launch and still hasn't released at the time of writing.
 

Verdict
Pros
+ Loot system
+ New game plus
+ The Crucible
+ Deeper varied combat
+ Possessed weapons
Cons
- Too much time spent in menus for loot system
- No way of tracking collectibles
- Last third feels rushed
- Dust is rarely any help
8 Presentation
Art style is awesome and the graphics are good. Menus could do with a bit of work.
8 Gameplay
Great combat, head scratching dungeon puzzles and epic boss fights are all fun. Too much time spent in menus though.
7 Lasting Appeal
After the single ng+ and Apocalypse mode is completed, there isn't any real reason to come back. Future DLC is planned, but details are sparse.
8
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Darksiders II is a great action-adventure game of good length and is definitely worth your time.
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