Darksiders II Review

Mike Kayatta | 14 Aug 2012 12:00
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Everything about Darksiders II is big. It's got big maps, big bosses, and a lot of big ideas. The game is, in fact, so big that it couldn't stick to a single genre, instead working to figure out a system that could accommodate everything from third-person action brawling to exploration-based puzzle solving. And while the common ground that connects the dots never really delivers a flawless experience, the resulting game is more than enough fun to overlook those annoyances for the many, many hours you may find yourself spending with Death.

Picking up somewhere around the middle of its predecessor, humans are toast, demons and angels are throwing down, and War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the first game's protagonist, is being blamed for all sorts of crimes that he didn't commit. This time around, you play as Death, War's brother, a skull-faced, scythe-wielding warrior on a quest to prove his sibling's innocence.

Doing so will mean travelling through a giant assortment of dungeons for various, very-important-sounding reasons, each accessible via the game's large open-world framework. The non-linear play does wonders for the experience, helping to balance out all of the gameplay components by offering you the chance to just focus on what you feel like doing. Sometimes, that's going to be simple exploration; many of the game's environments are hugely diverse, asking you to ride horseback through a blizzard one moment, and dive beneath a forest lake to an underground cave the next. Just gallivanting about, looking for the odd treasure chest or two often feels just as entertaining as wailing on a boss.

Whether outside adventuring, or tackling one of the game's many dungeons, for Death, mobility is key. The majority of puzzles involve at least some form of intense platforming You'll know it's coming when you see the same wooden pegs or beams in every room, or that familar dark yellow ledge stretched across any surface you can climb. For the most part, dashing across a wallside or shimmying up a pole won't change much from place to place, but is usually challenging enough to keep you from caring. Falling off won't give you any damage, and on the off chance you'd been tightroping over a vat of lava, the game sets you right back onto the floor where you started instead of resetting to an aging save. The final effect are welcome sections that seek to test, not frustrate.

With generally as much vertical space as horizontal, rooms can get substantially complicated, and fast. And as dungeons are usually just a series of these rooms joined by doors, things can get downright confusing in a hurry. To the rescue (usually) is Dust, a spectral crow companion that can point you in the right direction when you're lost or simply bewildered about what to do next. Adding in the bird was a great idea - and much more clever than a glowing golden path - but sadly doesn't always work, sometimes choosing to just fly about randomly, lead you in circles, or simply ignore your button-pressing all together. Still, even in his half-functioning form, Dust is generally more handy than harmful, and since he only (usually) comes when called, you can feel free to ignore him for a while if his malfunctioning antics start to drive you mad.

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