GAME REVIEW | "Darksiders" Sequel Gets A Polished, Albeit Dusty Facelift
It was 2012 when Vigil Games first unleashed Darksiders II, and during that time it saw much critical success. However the hype of the game was overshadowed by the many problems its publisher THQ was having, not to mention selling far less units than what was expected. Then when THQ went away the future of the franchise was left up in the air, until Nordic Games came around and rescued it from uncertainty. While rumors of a third game are still heating up Vigil Games (with the help of creator David Adams's new studio Gunfire Games) have decided to bring Darksiders II to the Xbox One and PS4, in a version they've dubbed the "Deathinitive Edition".
For those who haven't played it before, Darksiders II takes place after the events of the first game. As you took the role of War the first time around, round two has you holding the reins of Death, a nasty-looking badass who takes much pleasure in rising the body count. Here he must prove War's innocence for the crimes that he's been charged of, while at the same time restore all of humanity back to life. However because bringing people back to life isn't his forte Death must seek out a way to do so, requiring him to tread throughout the Forge Lands and the Land of the Dead for answers unknown.
Roaming through the worlds as Death has its perks, especially when it comes time to stain your steel with the blood of your enemies. Watching the game's anti-hero lay waste to giants, ogres, and other creatures is fun to the point of stress relief, hacking and slashing your way towards your main objective. I'll admit that even the game's boss battles were quite thrilling, with every attack keeping me on my toes as I stabbed and evaded these horrid-looking beasts that wish to keep me from successfully completing my quest. (As someone who rarely uses the Dodge button in most of these types of games, I surprised myself by how many times I moved to the side from enemy attacks.)
It's when you have to use your brain that things can get pretty complicated. In various areas you'll be in needing of searching every crevice of an area to reach your next destination, sometimes looking above for columns to grab or vines to climb up on. Sometimes they're easy to pick out, but other times it requires quite a lot of snooping. There was a moment in an early level where I was looking to get across a certain threshold, and after nearly half an hour of failed jump attempts and an accidental flick of the right control stick I finally came across the solution that should've been right in front of my face. (Trust me: this game will make you feel pretty dumb in some places.)
Like in the first game Darksiders II has an RPG-like leveling system, where you can upgrade powers, learn new moves, and add more to your health line via a skill tree. You can also purchase new moves from the demon merchant Vulgrim whenever he's in the vicinity. With weapons you are given the main lighter ones for some good cutting, a heavy sub for solid squashing, and a gun to take care of minor pests. I was surprised to see how easy it was jumping between all three of them, even with my focus set throughout the duration of a battle.
Making the jump to next-gen consoles the worlds that Death -- along with his horse Despair -- roam through are incredibly breathtaking, with the most beautiful of details in the forests of the Forge Lands and the soot-covered blackness of the underworlds. Character models, while somewhat masking a last-gen look, had some nice touches in regards to weapon and armor detail. However while playing I did notice some significant drops in the framerate, sometimes having the game temporarily freeze on me mid-combat. (This happened especially when there were more than five enemies in my peripheral vision.) Needless to say that these hiccups can easily kill a badass moment.
There's also the issue with some of the voice-work. While syncing was near-perfect I couldn't help but think that some of the actors forgot to emote and were just reading lines from a script. With that said Michael Wincott owns the role of Death, speaking in a Mark Lanegan-like gravel voice that'll give even the most wicked of foes chills up their spines. James Cosmos also brings a level of power in his voice as Maker Elder Eideard, who bellows his words in a way that would make the gods bow before him.
Despite some of these hiccups Darksiders II plays well on the newer systems. Sadly this remastering offers very little new that the previous version lacked, so if you've already played it before then there's no need to return. In any case if you are new to the franchise or are in need of a refresher, then by all means give this "Deathinitive Edition" a go!
- Hours of hack-and-slash fun
- Looks gorgeous on Xbox One/PS4
- Well-rounded story
- Framerate issues
- Minor wooden voice acting
- Nothing new added for this version
While it's been three years since the release of the original version, the "Deathinitive Edition" of Darksiders II is worth jumping into for those who never got the chance to play the first time around. With a long checklist of names & creatures to strike from you can bet that playing as Death will bring forth many bloody fantastic moments. However those who played the original game in 2012 won't find anything new other than a slicker coat of paint.
Xbox One review code provided by Evolve PR