War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death… Many people, spiritual or otherwise, know that all things do end. The End of Days is a concept known to many, yet unknown to all. What will come at the end of time? Will our maker come from the heavens to rain down a final judgement following the ride of the 4 horseman of the Apocalypse? To Vigil Games, it is not so simple. The original Darksiders sought to explore the mysteries of the End of Days by suggesting a grander scope of how the universe works, and we saw that it was good. War battled angels and demons alike in an effort to prove his innocence against the Charred Council, but as his 3 brothers rocketed down to join him on Earth it was evident that this story was merely beginning. A sequel was all but inevitable, but the minds at Vigil had more to show us than swinging swords and scythes. There was much more going on than we bore witness to, as Darksiders 2 places a central focus on expanding the Darksiders universe while using gameplay mechanics from other famous video games to run the other vital elements.
Rather than continuing on the path set in the original game, Darksiders 2 takes place concurrently with the original game, with us following the journey of the horseman Death. Considering War the most honorable among them, he sets out to prove his innocence by confronting the higher authorities plucking the strings that maintain the precious Balance. It is a shrewd move on Vigil’s part to place more emphasis on story in this iteration, as the original Darksiders felt a tad incomplete. Shady plot points and unfinished stories are better explained this time around as Death gives us insight into the origin of the 4 horseman and their brethren, the Nephilim. It may have been the grand scheme to leave these parts of the story for the sequel, but such focus does infer that other elements may be neglected.
While the tale of Darksiders may be original, the gameplay elements are anything but. Much like its predecessor, Darksiders 2 plays copycat to many iconic video game titles from the past decade, yet never exhibits mastery over any element. Dungeons are plentiful and recall feelings of Legend of Zelda, yet none of them have the same level of innovative puzzles. Death himself is far more agile than his brother, however, which shifts the focus of combat on dodging instead of frontal assault. Almost all enemy encounters are finished by side-stepping an attack and placing a few hacks and slashes, so the “attack-dodge-attack” cycle does get repetitious over time. Fortunately, a cornucopia of new weapons and a plentiful loot system shake up the combat by introducing several new weapons of various speeds and strengths. Players opting for more humph will side with 2-handed weapons like axes, maces and hammers, while those who prefer speed over power will enjoy arm-blades and gauntlets. Vigil did well to ensure all of them pair well with Death’s standard dual scythes, as both sides have access to several unique combinations. Switching between them on the fly is also seamless, giving more satisfaction and a greater feeling of control during some of the game’s larger battles. Veterans of the God of War or Devil May Cry series will find themselves at home, yet newcomers will find little difficulty in getting acclimated. Overall, the combat scheme does well to keep the adventure entertaining and–at times–challenging, but it is still nothing new to the video game world, nor to even Darksiders.
Story progression is perhaps Darksiders 2 greatest flaw, as nearly all of it involves sending Death of into the wilderness on fetch quests. Akin to many MMO games, Death is constantly asked to procure a number of something before being allowed further into the game. It’s a tried-and-true mechanic that does provide the necessary function, but it becomes the most tedious aspect over the game’s almost 20-hour length (At one point, Death actually makes a comment about being the gopher). The last third of the game does start to change things up with more interesting puzzles and more challenging boss fights, but it comes almost too late as the games ends rather abruptly after that.
In a sense, Darksiders 2 is a sequel of both higher and lower quality. While it performs well at pulling the frame back and delving more into the many intricacies of the tale, the amount of duplication from previous games means no innovation on a mechanical level. And while this is by no means a bad thing, as these features are replicated almost as perfect from where they are derived from, it is still a missed opportunity for Darksiders to separate itself from the pack and really come into its own, on both a narrative front and a stylistic one. However a nuisance, Darksiders 2 is still a proper sequel that delivers both entertainment and narrative creativity that keeps you interested through the end.
See you in the next level,