I have been a huge Joe Madureira fan since his Battle Chasers comics, his stories and art introduced me to an awesome mixture of Japanese and Western art. He created vivid characters in a techno-organic realm where magic was also still wielded by only the most powerful wizards. Unfortunately Battle Chasers ended before a final issue was published and left fans with an empty feeling. But then came Darksiders, Vigil Games first title and JoeMAD’s secret project. Darksiders turned out to be an awesome adventure, combining populair gameplay mechanics into one single game. Now, two years later Darksiders 2 has finally been released. Will it do the last game justice or will it crash into the eternal abyss, never to be seen again?
A quest for Redemption
The story of Darksiders 2 is simple. You play as Death, one of the four horseman of the Apocalypse and brother of War, the protagonist from the original Darksiders. You do not believe the rumors of War’s betrayal and decide to go on a grand adventure to restore your brother’s honor and redeem the kingdom of man of extinction. To traverse the giant world you will ride your trusty stead Despair and use your ninja-like agility to slaughter the wicked. During Death’s adventure he will find out that there are strange powers working in the shadows and that Earth’s Armageddon is the least of his worries.
The Kinslayer is here and loves to hack & slash
The gameplay in Darksiders 2 mainly consists out of traversal puzzles, hack & slash combat, exploration, dipped in an awesome RPG sauce with tons of abilities, gear and stats. Yes, it has been done before! I am not going to compare Darksiders 2 with games that make use of the same game-mechanics and were clearly a source of inspiration for Darkisiders 2 and the first game. Let’s focus on the comparison between these two games instead.
The original game already had traversal puzzles, Darksiders 2 just turns it up a notch. This is mainly due to the agility of Death. He can wall-run for example, a skill War didn’t have. Using the Death Grip, Death’s version of the Abyssal Chain, you can combine wall-running, jumping, climbing and gripping into dangerous traversal combo’s that grant you access to secret rooms and hard to reach levers or ledges.
Combat is really different this time around. Death’s agility grants him many acrobatic moves and lightning fast speed. All at the cost of no longer being able to block attacks like War did. The awesome thing is that you can gain skills that summon your Reaper form to counter for you every time you dodge an enemy attack successfully. The main weapons Death wields are his beloved two scythes that come in many different shapes, colors and abilities and finding that super powerful Legendary or Possessed weapon always gives great joy. There are even secret optional bosses to defeat to obtain some of the strongest weapons in the game. Alongside your trusty scythes you can also wield a secondary weapon. Vigil Games made sure there is a weapon for ever play style and graphical preference by adding, maces, glaives, gauntlets, axes, hammers and possibly more. It’s actually a bit overwhelming sometimes, the sheer amount of loot is ridiculously awesome and there is plenty of it. Possessed weapons can be upgraded with items you don’t want to use. (always make sure that they’re good quality,no white or green stuff) You can only level a Possessed weapon five levels, so plan ahead before you sacrifice your stuff.
Death is able to pick skills from two different skill-trees: Harbinger & Necromancer. The first focusing more on hand to hand combat and the second utilizes the arcane arts. The build I use is fully dedicated to the Harbinger skill-tree and uses skills like Teleport Slash and Harvester attacks that increase dps. There are many possibilities and players can really create their own personal Death. In my build I obtained many items with increased Critical Damage % and Critical Chance %, combine this with a high Critical Damage % weapons and your good to go. Gorewood and Bheithir were easily destroyed at level 12 and the Deposed King was utterly destroyed at level 14. With a recommended level 20 for this boss fight it is clear to me that stats are really important in this game and will make it possible to create super overpowered characters.
Because of the huge open areas walking around the game would be frustrating and time consuming, luckily you are able to ride your stead Despair from the very beginning of the game. In the first Darksiders War obtained his horse Ruin halfway into the game. Unfortunately there wasn’t really any use for him anymore, besides crossing the desert. Darksiders 2 also has a handy fast travel system that let’s you travel to most important locations in the game. If your out of potions you could fast-travel back to the city to buy new ones and immediately fast-travel back to the exact point where you left a dungeon. It’s very handy for those optional side quests you still have to complete.
From green valley’s to the depths of the Underworld
The original Darksiders was plagued by the fact that most gameplay occured on a post-apocalyptic Earth that was conquered by Hell. Even though I think the surroundings were beautiful, Earth is just a boring place to be honest. Luckily Vigil Games wasn’t about to make this same mistake. Darksiders 2 outshines the original game’s surroundings with it’s lovely designed worlds. You will find lush green valley’s in The Forge Lands and creepy skeleton infested castle’s in The Kingdom of the Undead. Every world has it’s own identity and creates a lovely diversity that was absent in the first Darksiders.
JoeMAD’s character designs are recreated into detailed 3D counterparts that really reflect the world they live in. The Maker race from The Forge Lands look like Ulthane from the first game and also have Scottish accents, they fit right in. When you first arrive in The Kingdom of the Undead you will immediately feel the transition from green forest country to an undead realm filled with skeletons, spectral beings and giant castle inspired structures. They surroundings are truly a sight to behold and are worth inspecting for a moment, even though you have precious Legendary and Possessed weapons to find.
For this review I played the Xbox 360 version of Darksiders 2 and must say I am not dissapointed. The first game had some screentearing problems that were eventually fixed with a patch, Darksiders 2 does not seem to have this problem. The Xbox 360 version doesn’t have any jaggies so the anti-aliasing is done proper for this version. The lack of anti-aliasing on the Playstation 3 versions of games often force me to choose the Xbox 360 version to be honest. I just hate jagged edges. Some might argue that the graphics of Darksiders 2 aren’t super photo realistic, but JoeMAD’s comicbook style shines through and gives the game it’s own graphical identity. It even looks a bit cartoony if you ask me and I can’t wait what he comes up with next.
The glorious sound of Death
The music in Darksiders is seriously magnificent. The soundtrack creates a certain mood and made me feel like a hero on a grand adventure, punishing those who wrongly accused my brother of betrayal and slaughtering these wicked creatures. Yes, I think it’s that good. Whenever Death enters combat the music changes to an up-tempo version that notifies you that these monsters mean some serious business and it’s time to whoop some monsterbutt. The sound effects are pretty good, except for when Death climbs these long wooden beams on the walls. You will hear a sound that seems to be more fitting for a galloping horse. Overall, the sounds in Darksiders 2 are really impressive and are essential to immerse players in the huge worlds. The Makers Theme is so epic that I even listen to it when I’m not playing Darksiders 2, hell the whole soundtrack is this epic.
Darksiders 2 Endgame content
There is really a lot to do in Darksiders 2. You have the primary quests, optional side-quests, secret boss fights, collectible relics, collectible magical stones, collectible pages of the Book of Dead, secret weapons, secret treasure chests, collectible boatman coins and collectible scrolls. All these items grant awesome rewards and some are needed to obtain parts of Death’s Legendary Abyssal Armor set.
On your first play-trough you will be able to finish the game around lv18 – 22 and start a Newgame + where you will have kept your level, skills, etc. The level cap is set to level 30 at the moment. So before you reach that and unlock the “Epic” achievement you will have many monsters to slay, wall’s to climb and puzzles to solve. The hardcore combat experts amongst us can try to beat the 100 waves of enemies in the special Crucible arena. Every five waves players will get to choose to stop fighting and accept their reward or keep on fighting another five waves in the hope of obtaining an even better reward. The name of the game is loot and there is enough of it spread throughout the game guaranteeing many hours of fun.
As a huge Darksiders fan I can only say that Vigil Games improved the first game in many aspects. The world is bigger, more diverse and there is way more to do in Darksiders 2. I absolutely love the story, characters, music and surroundings. The graphics in the game let JoeMAD’s art style shine trough and that is a good thing. I do not care for photo realistic graphics in a fantasy adventure. The only thing I really disliked about the game is the galloping sound Death makes when he climbs wooden beams, the camera has a mind of it’s own sometimes too what can lead to frustrating moments. But it was never really that big of a problem. I did encounter one weird glitch, where the ball I needed to solve a puzzle disappeared and never re-spawned back. ( I tried everything to get it to re-spawn) It was in the small room next to the large chamber where you fight Bheithir in the Nook. There is one thing I really missed in Darksiders 2: the possibility to create multiple save files so you can make a savefile before every important boss. I really enjoy showing the different boss fights to my friends. Overall Darksiders 2 is an awesome adventure and basically a must buy if you enjoy playing hack & slash adventure games, dipped in a satisfying RPG sauce. You will not be disappointed!