Darksiders II Brings a Thrilling Death to Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Death is now the hero in "Darksiders II."
CREDIT: THQ & Vigil Studios
Usually, when a development team works on a sequel, they follow the basics of the first game, tweak a few things, and let it go without much innovation.
But that isn't the case with "Darksiders II," the latest effort from THQ and Vigil Studios (for PCs and Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles). The game features an all-new protagonist, an amazing new setting and some startling changes to gameplay that will really entice the fans – and certainly attract plenty of new ones – even with a few minor visual setbacks.
Rather than play as War, a Horseman of the Apocalypse, from the first game, you're instead in the role of Death, who seeks to vindicate his brother by resurrecting humanity and doing away with the dark, vile Corruption that had overtaken the land, powered by a foe who the Horseman had dealt with earlier.
Like the first game, "Darksiders II" provides plenty of exploration and combat, but deepens each area quite graciously. For instance, with combat, you're able to pick up new weapons left behind by fallen enemies, which, when combined with your twin scythes, can do major damage. From large axes that require slow, timed swings to quick Wolverine-like claws that can do fierce damage rather quickly, there's more than enough to experiment with here in fighting.
And the huge, looming areas provided in the game give you plenty to seek out, whether it's hidden chests with bonus items or gold currency that you can turn around to purchase new goods, such as clothing items or upgraded scythes.
The gameplay is challenging but rich, as you're forced to evade enemies quite often, then counterstrike with combos, which you can mix together with flip kicks and finishing blows to startling effect. The battles with larger boss characters in the game, such as a monstrous plant creature or the devastating stone Guardian, will certainly test your skills, as these guys require a great deal of damage – and a bit of strategy – to bring down.
[SEE ALSO: 'Mortal Kombat' for PS Vita Is Bloody Good Fun]
If you need to brush up your techniques, you can unlock additional rooms in a battle arena, where you can take on an increased number of enemies to earn extra items. (If you choose, you can attempt to earn bigger rewards by fighting even more foes, provided you survive long enough.)
"Darksiders II" also provides a huge graphic upgrade over the original game, with large, decadent worlds that spring to life, from ice castles that loom in the distance to a huge cauldron-filled room where lava flows freely from the walls. The animation is equally stunning, though with some glitches.
These mostly occur through very minor distortions in the backgrounds (only those with larger TV's are likely to notice, as we did). Also, the screen sometimes overflows with enemies in battle, mainly larger ones that won't hesitate pounding Death into the ground, and it can be difficult to see what you are doing. There are also slight instances where the game stops to load part of the next level, but it takes a second or two at best. Again, though, Vigil has created an illustrious universe, and these issues are likely to be addressed with a patch in the future.
Vigil Studios, did knockout work with the audio, thanks to an elegant Jesper Kyd-produced score that really brings out the best in Death, through moody yet elegant orchestrations (think "Lord of the Rings" style). Likewise, his voicework is handled masterfully by actor Michael Wincott, who strikes just the right tone with him. (When he growls stuff like "I have another offer in mind…" you can tell what Wincott does with the role, as he's done in movies such as "The Crow.")
Even with the sometimes beastly difficulty and the mild graphic issues, "Darksiders II" is a welcome change of pace from what we normally see in sequels, providing a great deal of gameplay and mostly exceptional presentation. Don't fear the Reaper, this is a trip worth taking.
RATING: 3.5 / 4