Title: Darksiders 2 Deathinitive Edition
Platform: PC, PS4 and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Gunfire Games/Vigil Games
Publisher: Nordic Games
Release date: Out now
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Originally developed by Vigil Games and published by THQ, Darksiders 2 is an action RPG game mixing hack n’ slash, RPG mechanics and dungeon crawling. Once THQ went belly up, the publisher’s portfolio were put up for auction and most of the now-defunct publisher’s franchises were picked up and found new homes. One of them was the Darksiders franchise which was picked up by Nordic Games (among others). The publisher handed the development of the Deathinitive Edition to Gunfire Games; a fairly new studio made up of a majority of former Vigil Studios employees.
While the first Darksiders let you control War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this sequel has players in control of another one: Death. The Four Horsemen are the last of the Nephilim: the results of fusions of angels and demons who waged war on creation. In order to preserve the balance between Good and Evil, the Four Horsemen were asked to wiped out the remaining Nephilim in exchange for powers from the Charred Council. The story behind Darksiders 2 has Death going on a quest to prove the innocence of his fellow Horseman, War. In order to do so, Death has to travel to the Tree of Life and restore humanity. Obviously, it’s not that easy. After the game’s first battle, Death is transported to The Forge Lands; where he meets the Makers. It’s also where he learns what needs to be done to reach the Tree of Life.
First let’s tackle the control scheme. As with most hack n’ slash, our protagonist has two attacks: standard attack and secondary attack. Obviously, Death has his trusty Scythe as his main weapon, but unlike most games of the same genre, the second attack isn’t automatically delegated as “Strong Attack”. You can at all times equip a secondary weapon which is delegated to the second attack button. Depending on the type of weapons you’re equipping, the attack can either be strong or quick. Equipping a massive hammer will sacrifice some speed in order to get in some big damage. On the other hand, blades will be quicker and more efficient. In order to provide a diverse combat experience, players can bring Death into the training field and learn new battle techniques. And the game’s combat is fast and furious. Thankfully, you can target a single enemy and unleash Hell on him. Targeting an enemy allow you to see his health bar, which can be quite handy against new and bigger enemies.
The RPG mechanics allow Death to level up by killing enemies and successfully completing objectives. As you level up, you’ll earn skill points which can be used in your skill tree. The skill tree has two branches: Harbinger and Necromancer. The Harbinger skill is basically devastating attacks with your Scythe or as Death’s Ultimate form. While Necromancer let’s you summon demonic helpers. Using skill points will increase your attacks and also let you improve your attack skill. Killed enemies will sometime drop new weapons for you to pick up and equip. Each weapon picked up will be of a certain level. As with a genre staple, a level 2 character cannot equip a Level 5 weapon or piece of armor. Death can also be equipped with upper body protection, boots and gloves in order to make him more resistant to strong enemy attacks. One of the detail I actually appreciated is that your equipment is reflected on Death. The developer could’ve left Death half naked no matter the items you’ve equipped. But they went further and Death’s appearance changes based on his equipment. Has no impact per se on the gameplay, but it *is* a nice touch.
Our anti-hero ventures into The Forge Lands. A huge area split into a multitude of dungeons. Each dungeons has a pretty straightforward template: enter said dungeon, navigate corridors, enter larger area, battle some enemies and move on. Often times, instead of fighting enemies, you’ll have to solve a short puzzle in order to progress forward. Most puzzles are pretty simple as it often entails rolling a giant ball into its assigned indentation. Some puzzles required two balls. A part of the brain teaser will be to find and release the second sphere. As with any dungeon crawlers or RPG games, dungeons will also features treasures to hunt and find. Luckily to avoid being a headache, most treasures will appear on the mini-map in the bottom right corner. Sometimes they’ll be easy to spot. Other times, you might have to use some of Death’s skills to reach it.
Once you’re done with a quest, you’ll need to report to The Makers in order provide your successful questing and also to be given a new quest. Death can travel in one of two ways: Despair, his trusty horse or Fast Travel. The former is mostly used in order to reach a new area. By following the objective on your mini-map, you’ll gallop in no time to your next dungeon. Fast travel can be used to return to any discovered area at any time through the Management menu. An interesting note is if you leave mid-dungeon and want to return at a later time, instead of returning to the dungeon’s entrance, you’ll return to where you last were. This saves players a load of backtracking.
Fret not, as our purple hero is pretty nimble. Death can climb and wall run to reach those higher platforms. Players can either run up a wall to reach a pre-determined wood planks in the wall or a half post to keep his momentum going. Wall run is pretty straight forward- walk towards a wall and press Jump to wall run it. You can also wall fun from one wall to another to reach secret places. Thankfully, if you get lost, although the game is mostly very linear, you can call upon Dust, your faithful bird, to show you the way in times of confusion.
One annoying quirk however is, sometimes, during new sequences or puzzles, you need to accomplish something in particular- for which there weren’t any tutorials. For a certain puzzle, I spent about 15 minutes running around the room trying to figure out how to bring a giant ball up a slope. Even though I had previously tried to simply push it up, the game only taught me that I could push it harder after 4-5 times of moving it. That’s some information that could’ve been useful five minutes earlier. It happens once in a while, so you just have to keep at the puzzle.
The game’s overall presentation is very well done. The environments, albeit some of it bland, look great in HD. I also enjoyed the vast enemy design. Although common grubs look a bit similar, bosses are big and very well detailed. There is, however, some nuisance on the visual side of things. There are constant stuttering framerate issues, as if the game is constantly loading. Luckily it never occurred during battles whether it be against standard grubs or bosses. The score of this game is very well crafted, as it features a lot of eerie and orchestral piece. Some tracks will hauntingly stay embedded in your brain for days on end. Jesper Kyd did an amazing job in crafting a perfect atmospheric score. Unfortunately, there are also audio issues. Some sound effects are a bit out of sync and being a last-gen game, it seems the development studio didn’t put that much effort into synching the dialogue with the characters’ mouths. Additionally, on Xbox One, returning from the console’s Save/Resume, the game will be lacking audio completely. Rebooting solved the issue- it’s just annoying.
Darksiders 2 Deathinitive Edition really came out of nowhere and surprised me. As I was expecting a more generic third person hack n’ slash with a few RPG elements, but was pleasantly surprised with an addictive combat system and interesting RPG mechanics. Despite being rough around the edges (I mean it *is* originally a last-gen game) with the “stuttering” framerate and sometimes out of synch audio, this is game is a gem. This game is a must for those who want a deep and lengthy gameplay experience. Think of it as a Legend of Zelda-lite clone for the more “adult” crowd. As a budget priced title, don’t miss out!
- Fast and fun combat
- Deep character customization
- Great boss battles
- Save anywhere!
- Noticeable, but bareable, framerate issues
- Some audio issues
- Won’t win awards for the story
Darksiders 2 Deathinitive Edition is rated M for Mature as it contains scenes of violence resulting in a bit of blood and gore. The game also features some suggestive themes throughout Death’s adventure.
Code provided courtesy of Xbox UK