Xbox 360 Review: Darksiders II

Can Death save War in this epic sequel?

The original Darksiders was a sleeper hit that combined elements like the hack-n-slash combat of God of War, the Zelda-style dungeons and the backtracking exploring of Metroid to make one hell of a game. The end of the game left on a cliffhanger where it appeared as if the other 3 horsemen were about to come and give War a hand against the Charred Council, but instead the sequel takes us back way before that and puts us in the robes of the pale rider, Death as he tries to resurrect Humanity to free his brother.

It’s an interesting idea for sure and Death is a badass with an attitude, but plagued with guilt for wiping out his fellow nephilim. The game is set across 4 worlds with plenty of dungeons, bosses and side-quests along the way. I played through the game on Apocalyptic difficulty and gained every achievement, although I have yet to actually finish the Crucible achievements as I have to get to Level 25 to even be able to get the final waves unlocked, in total it took me 25 hours to do the rest of the game, but it will obviously vary on your skill level…believe me, Darksiders II can be unforgiving at times.

Death cannot block his enemies attacks as his brother could, instead he can just evade them with a tap of the RB button, but he can only do it 3 times before coming to a halt…so you have to time them well to truly make use of it, Darksiders II mixes things up with a more loot inspired game where you’ll come across plenty of chests to open for better/worse weapons and equipment with buffs like critical damage or improve defence, enemies also drop loot which can be essential in battles when you are searching for a health potion just to keep you going.

In the original game, War could only use his horse for a short section of the game and that was disappointing, this time around Death can use it pretty much anywhere going from dungeon to dungeon, you also have a bird which can pinpoint where you need to go if you get stuck, but I rarely did except for one puzzle in the 3rd area involving portals and light switches, painfully frustrating to say the least. The puzzles themselves do play it a bit safe and don’t require too much thinking, the team at Vigil even give a nod to Valve’s Portal series with an achievement for gaining the Voidwalker called “I Can Has Cake”, which I thought was a nice touch.

Bosses are frequent in Darksiders II, some have weak spots that you can exploit while others just need a good button mashing, which is essentially what the combat falls down to. Personally I have a rather cheap strategy where I unleash souls to attack the enemy, distracting them and they detonate as I keep shooting them to replenish my wrath meter and repeat, but it doesn’t always work as some enemies can block your bullets with shields. Some bosses can kill you in 1 hit if you aren’t careful, that is if you are playing on Apocalyptic and health potions become rarer as you progress.

I loved the original Darksiders and was really impressed with the sequel, but yet it does feel like something is missing and I can’t quite figure out what it is, maybe I expected it to be longer than it was considering it was meant to be 4 times the size of the original and while in scope of the lands it is bigger, the content isn’t as big as its made out to be, but I suppose DLC like The Crucible and Argul’s Tomb will beef it out a bit.

In terms of presentation, Darksiders II looks stunning but it’s far from perfect. I have come across quite a few glitches like sound dropping out, getting stuck in walls so I’ve had to restart the game and a few freezes where I’ve had to reboot the console itself, but the worlds are beautiful and proof that there’s still plenty of life in the current consoles, the enemies are wonderfully designed and the bosses are downright creepy and in some cases…gigantic. Voice-acting is superb while the music adds to the epic nature of Death’s adventure.

The Verdict

Darksiders II may not star War, but his brother Death does more than enough to fill his shoes. It’s brilliantly done and while it’s not perfect, it’s a game that I will continue to play for many more hours and definitely a contender for this year’s best games. I just hope that if a Darksiders III does happen that it does continue the story after the original game’s cliffhanger, I think it’s time we took the fight to that damn Charred Council once and for all!