- Publisher: THQ
- Developer: Vigil Games
- ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
- Genre: Action
- Pros: Fun, satisfying combat; great puzzles; nice presentation; lots of dungeons; some neat boss fights
- Cons: Drags in the middle; repetitive missions; so-so loot
Darksiders II picks up shortly after the events of the first game. War has been charged by the Charred Council for royally screwing things up on Earth and bringing about the apocalyptic End War between angels and demons, but Death steps in to try to figure out who was really responsible for it all. Along the way, maybe he'll find a way to restore humanity on Earth.
Death travels first to the Forge Lands in search of the Tree of Life, then to the Land of the Dead, and the angelic Ivory Citadel (with a brief stop on post apocalyptic Earth) on his way to finding the ultimate truth about his brother War. Each location is large and has many paths that take you to multiple dungeons and there are lots of hidden items and collectibles to find tucked into every corner of each world. Darksiders II is roughly 20 hours in length and a bit longer if you want to try to collect everything.
XP and Loot
Darksiders II is a sort of action'adventure/RPG where you explore the worlds, talk to NPCs to get missions, and then go off to points unknown to clear a dungeon. You earn XP, which levels you up and gives you a skill point that you can spend on abilities spanning two separate skill trees offering a wide variety of skills. The game also features a loot system where you pick up hundreds of different weapons and pieces of armor, which you can equip or sell off. The loot system is a little iffy, though, because there is almost too much of it. Enemies constantly drop stuff, but 95% of it is junk that isn't any better than what you already have. This is a part of loot in any game, we know, but it seems particularly out of balance here. Most of the time the random drops aren't better than what the shops offer, and even the special items for beating bosses are usually only mediocre, so we ended up just selling almost everything we found and bought the best stuff at shops with the cash. The point of loot is the notion that the next drop could be special or the next boss might have something awesome which keeps you playing, but that doesn't really happen here all that often so the carrot of potentially better loot rots away pretty early on here.
The other part of the gameplay comes in the form of platforming and puzzle solving, which both contribute to the overall dungeon design in the game. The platforming is very similar to Prince of Persia where you'll see a series of paths and handholds to climb on that make things pretty obvious. Other than a couple of sections where you're trying to climb as fast as possible to avoid a hazard, the platforming is pretty standard. The puzzle solving, however, is anything but standard. As you play through the game you earn new abilities that open up new puzzle possibilities. You get a sort of grapple beam (like Metroid) that lets you swing across certain gaps or pull items or enemies toward you (or you toward them if they're big enough). You learn to split your soul so you can solve puzzles that have multiple pressure switches. You even get a portal making ability, though it only works on specific plates in the world. All of these abilities and more come together in the form of some of the best puzzles we've seen in a long time. Granted, they are still mainly some variation of pushing blocks and activating switches, but they are just extremely well done here and more clever than most games. These are the type of puzzles that actually stump you and make you think for a while so you'll turn off the game and then come back an hour or two later after an "a-ha!" moment because you kept thinking about it.
For the most part this combination of combat, platforming, and puzzles is excellent and leads to some fun dungeons to explore, and there are lots and lots of dungeons to explore in this game, but because of the sheer volume of dungeons it all kind of loses its luster after a while. Instead of having a handful of great, large, well designed dungeons like Zelda, Darksiders II just has dozens of short so-so ones. The middle third of the game in particular really drags and the puzzles get kind of predictable and the dungeons a little too straightforward. It also doesn't help that all of the missions are incredibly repetitive variations of "Find me object X". In the midst of one quest to find three soldiers for the Lord of the Dead, one of those soldiers asks you to find three more things for him! And every mission requires a trip through a new dungeon. When the dungeon designs are good, they are very good, but when they are mediocre, they are pretty darn boring. Thankfully, there is absolutely more good than bad and things really pick up over the last few hours.
All in all, the gameplay is fun and satisfying and challenging and there is lots and lots to do. New copies of the game come with a code that gives you access to The Crucible, which is a long and difficult combat grind through a 100 floor tower which offers special (and actually worthwhile) rewards for completing it all. The game also features a New Game+ mode where you carry over your upgrades and equipment to a new playthrough.
Graphics & Sound
The sound is good with great sound effects, solid voice work, and nice music (orchestral, not metal, unlike the visuals ...).