Darksiders II REVIEW
The Modern Pentathlon's Darksiders II theme was a big hit.
RELEASE DATE 21 August 2012
FORMAT REVIEWED Xbox 360
ALSO AVAILABLE ON PS3 and PC
Darksiders II is so utterly unfashionable it’s almost admirable. It’s unfashionable from a visual point of view, the hero a chiselled Grim Reaper clad in studded purple armour who battles equally bulky foes using dual scythes and lamppost-length war hammers. It weaves an unfashionable tale of a mystical council convicting War, garish protagonist of the first Darksiders, of crimes his brother Death must disprove by travelling to the plane betwixt Heaven and Hell and seeking magical MacGuffins. It’s even unfashionable mechanically, cribbing from age-old Zelda themes established as far back as 1998’s Ocarina Of Time.
Indeed, Darksiders II is Zelda by way of Spinal Tap. You’re plonked in a massive hub double the size of the first game and tasked with tackling perilous, architecturally unfeasible dungeons to banish evil/collect items/stab things. They’re never ingenious like in Nintendo’s franchise, but developers Vigil Games steadily layers puzzles to add complexity. In an early one you’ll simply roll a zorb-sized ball into a hole to open a gate; later you’ll make the ball yourself, shaping it in a mechanical crusher then dragging it like some sort of heavy metal dung beetle. While perfectly functional, the puzzles never particularly sparkle and feel more like they exist to occupy space.
Similarly, platforming steadily grows in complexity. You’ll learn your trade horizontally wall-running over deadly lava pits and crossing chasms by hanging from ceiling vines. A grappling hook called Deathgrip soon allows the extension of moves, which can be stringed together in ever-increasing sequences of monkey-swinging and scaffold-leaping à la Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time (yep, another blast from the past). It’s fast, fluid, and works, but there’s nothing particularly special about movement a game from 2003 already nailed.
For a game starring a guy called Death, it’s no surprise Darksiders II does brawling best. Light, heavy and projectile attacks pad out a robust system reminiscent of Devil May Cry (old game namecheck number three), further bolstered by upgrading skill trees and purchasing moves, weapons and enchanted armour from roaming vendors. A horseback fight against a behemoth whose explosive arms must be shot off is an early highlight.
Combat, puzzling and platforming are three disparate elements ancient in the world of videogames. To its credit, Darksiders II unites them in a massive 30-hour story and an unfashionable – sorry, “unique” – aesthetic.
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