by Kiran Sury
reviewed on PS3
Dancing with Death (cntd)
The bosses themselves, while of decent design, are not that impressive. There are thankfully no quick time events, so these ordeals are more a test of skill than the Simon Says events that other games can devolve into. They do lack the majesty seen in something like God of War 3 unfortunately. Too often they involve pattern memorization, so once you have figured out what to do itís just a case of repetition. The ones where itís just Death against a brute with a weapon bigger than he is tall and they duke it out mano-a-mano are the most exciting, with a late-game fight against Samael particularly standing out. The final boss, for all his menace, is a disappointing pushover.
After finishing the game you can finish up sidequests, start a new game plus, or enter the Crucible mode. This combat arena features successive waves of enemies and increasingly better loot. You can drop out after each round and collect your winnings, but the best rewards are reserved for those who stay until the end. It seems like a missed opportunity for cooperative multiplayer, but that would likely have taken away from polishing the main game, and Vigil was wise to prioritize the campaign.
Crafting an Identity
Vigil has made much of Darksiders II being four times larger than its predecessor, but thatís not always a good thing. The large world means little when it is just an excuse to jump on your horse and ride for a minute so the game can load the next area in the background. Darksiders II does a lot of that Ė there are quite a few extra-long winding staircases and bookended corridors with nothing to do. Even then, every so often the game pauses before entering a new area. It is a minor annoyance, one that Iím willing to put up with because of a fast travel system that lets you easily revisit dungeons. Itís further counterbalanced by the fact that the game rarely if ever slowed down, even in the midst of tens of enemies and multiple explosions. This is perhaps made possible by the rather bland environments. While the different worlds are all visually distinct, stone walls and floors dominate, and textures are poor at close up inspection.
The music, on the other hand, is very impressive. The varied soundtrack from composer Jesper Kyd features Celtic refrains and rumbling synth, but somehow ties it all together. Many games become known for a specific theme Ė Halo comes to mind Ė that Darksiders II lacks. But it doesnít need one Ė the music shifts according to the environment, and several times I found myself caught up in crescendos that positively impacted the gameplay experience. The voice acting is similarly top-notch.
Beginning of a Franchise
Darksiders II succeeds because, for its entire 20hr+ campaign, it remains fun. Combat, platforming and puzzle solving are evenly paced, and even the Gears of War level was an enjoyable break from all the hacking and slashing. Despite the disparate elements it cherry picks from much-beloved franchises, it manages to feel like a cohesive experience that kept me entertained from beginning to end. Though technically a sequel, Darksiders II feels like the first true Darksiders game, and the beginning of a franchise that has paradoxically found itself by relentlessly copying everyone else.
Fluid combat, tons to do, and a varied, cohesive experience.
The open world is empty space for the side quests to load, Crucible mode is slightly underwhelming.