Darksiders managed to surprise me, and a good portion of the gaming community, when it released in 2010 and ended up being pretty fantastic. It’s unique art style paired with a fusion of The Legend of Zelda and God of War, and a more mature you versus the legions of hell plot stunned a lot of gamers. It borrowed heavily from several other games, but at the same time the game managed to successfully weave those elements into its unique fiction. Plus, there just aren’t enough games that let you jump into the massive boots of one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Playing as War was good fun, but arguably the most interesting of the four brothers is Death. Thankfully, Darksiders II places us firmly in his boots, and my oh my is it a glorious ride.
I usually don’t start things off by talking about a game’s music, but Jesper Kyd’s soundtrack isn’t just a runner up in the best video game soundtracks of the year category—it’s officially become one of my favorite scores of all time. It’s epic, catchy, beautiful, and at times, even a little haunting. Kyd did a wonderful job of translating the action that goes on on-screen to the soundtrack, which flows between in your face climaxes and a more ambient backdrop. It is, in a word, incredible.
For the uninitiated, Darksiders II takes place after the events in the original, where Death has decided to take it upon himself to save his brother, War, from the dire consequences of everyone thinking he initiated the apocalypse. Death knows this isn’t the case, so his sole mission throughout the game—or, at least, when you aren’t working on one of the game’s many side quests—is to find his brother a little much needed redemption.
The two games share some similarities, though much has changed since the good old days when we were all unleashing demonic asswhoopings as War two years ago. The art style hasn’t changed much, though everything in Darksiders II is of a decidedly grander scale. The combat has been tweaked, but remains much like how it played out in the first game, and the mix of intense arena fights and puzzle-solving has made it into the sequel as well.
However, whereas the first game was an action game with puzzles, this is more of a puzzle game with action. Practically every room or dungeon in the game has a puzzle for you to solve. This doesn’t mean you won’t be fighting as often, because believe me, there is a lot of fighting in this game, but the puzzles have a more pivotal role in what you’ll be doing. For the most part, this is a good thing, because a majority of the puzzles are clever and will probably give you a noticeable feeling of self-satisfaction after completing them. I did however, run into a few puzzles that were frustrating to figure out only because my new abilities hadn’t been fully explained to me.
One of the biggest changes to Darksiders II is the larger effort developer Vigil Games has invested into making it more of an open-world action RPG. What this means is you’ll be exploring a lot more freely now, as you’re no longer constrained by the more linear gameplay, such as go from point A to point B and kill every creature in-between that’s unfortunate enough to get in your way. You can fast travel between the areas you’ve explored, plunder dungeons for loot and special bosses, complete side quests, search for hidden collectibles, and much more. Darksiders certainly wasn’t lacking in the content department, and its sequel successfully manages to eclipse that with its meaty main campaign (roughly 20 hours total) and a slew of side quests.
There is an impressive amount of variety in this game. Everything from the enemies you pummel to the environments you explore bring with them an incredible attention to detail that makes the game more enjoyable because it never really gets old. Just when you’re on the verge of getting bored with the enemies or environments of one area, you’re thrown into an entirely new world that looks dramatically different and is inhabited by totally different enemies.
I wasn’t sold when I first heard about the inclusion of loot in Darksiders II. Loot is a difficult thing to master on your first go, and the idea of not having a very distinct and finely tuned arsenal of weapons had me more than a little worried. These worries were washed away a few hours into the game when I realized just how insanely fun it is to beat down demons and angels alike with my massive arsenal of weapons. I had axes, glaives, scythes, and gauntlets, and each one played differently from the next. That’s just the weapons; you can also deck Death out in a myriad of armor pieces and talismans, and you’ll find new gear fairly regularly so Death’s look never gets old.
One of the coolest weapon types are the possessed weapons, which are rare and extremely powerful drops that can be improved by sacrificing other gear and weapons from your inventory. Once you’ve satiated the possessed weapon’s appetite you can upgrade it, increasing its base stats and adding a new special trait.
Like many open-world games of this scale, you’re bound to run into a few glitches. Unfortunately, a majority of the ones that plagued my time with the game were pretty serious. I fell out of the game world twice and a cut-scene didn’t initiate when it should have. This would’ve been a game breaking issue had I not gone online and seen other players who had run into the same issue and found a way around it. None of the bugs I came across required more than a checkpoint restart, but it’s still something you should be wary of going in.
Darksiders II does what every great sequel should do; it takes everything its predecessor did well and improves upon it, while adding a ton of new features and content. Death’s adventure is just as perilous as War’s was, and it’s also substantially more engrossing. I can only hope the series continues to evolve, perhaps by adding four-player co-op into the inevitable Darksiders III so we can finally have the chance to play with our friends as the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Darksiders II provided by THQ.