Darksiders 2, like its predecessor, is a grab bag of tried and true game play components. Like a good plate at Thanksgiving dinner, there’s a little bit of everything in there. Some combat a la God of War? Check. Climbing/free running a la Prince of Persia? It’s in there. Open world exploration, coupled with a multitude of dungeons to explore, reminiscent of the Zelda series? There’s that too. You can even see bits of Diablo and Portal seasoning the mix. The original Darksiders used a similar recipe to become one of the biggest sleeper hits of 2010, setting the bar high for the sequel.
In Darksiders, you play as War, one of the Four Horseman, who is manipulated into starting the apocalypse prematurely, effectively wiping out all of humanity before its time. As the first game comes to a close, it is evident that War will be forced to stand trial in the judgment of the Charred Council, a collective tasked with keeping a balance in the never ending war between Heaven and Hell, who have the power to call for War’s death as punishment for his crimes. In a last ditch effort to possibly redeem himself, War breaks the seventh seal to call his fellow Horsemen, Death, Strife and Fury. Darksiders 2 follows the story of Death as he seeks a way to redeem his brother.
We open on Death searching for a figure known as the Crowfather, whom Death believes holds the ability to suss out the means to atone for War’s sin. After a violent confrontation, Death is hurtled to another plane of existence sick with Corruption, a cancer-like substance intent on the obliteration of all worlds. It soon becomes clear that the key to destroying the Corruption, and the means to restore humanity, effectively erasing War’s crime, both lie in the Tree of Life. However, several obstacles lie in his way, and when Death finally lays eyes on the Tree he discovers that it is not the end of his path, but simply the doorway to another beginning.
The combo-based combat is suitably violent and destructive for a game based on the figure of Death, that is dual wielding scythes as big as a horse. Throw in all manner of secondary weapons from axes to arm blades, and the body count rises rapidly. Similar to other hack n’ slash action games, different combinations of the X and Y buttons result in one brutally over the top combo after another, and there are several special abilities Death can unleash to significantly increase the damage done.
When not dismembering enemies, Death is usually trying to figure out how to get from here to there, which usually requires some Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed style acrobatics. Often even that’s not enough however, requiring Death to put to use special tools and abilities earned along the way, such as a ‘hookshot’ style gauntlet that grabs onto iron rings and enemies alike, or the ‘Voidwalker’, which allows Death to open portals on specific surfaces. In the harder dungeons, using these skills in concert with each other will be key if you want to get to the next area.
RPG elements take form in the distribution of skill points, and managing a Diablo-esque loot table, filled with tons of junk to sell, as well as the occasional upgrade. Darksiders 2 also has an alternative method of eliminating the chaff from your inventory by introducing ‘possessed’ weapons. You can sacrifice your other loot to one of these possessed weapons to raise its stats and add different buffs and effects, bringing in a unique element to the management of all those blue and purple item drops.
For a game that borrows mechanics liberally from other games, it still doesn’t get everything right. The camera is not always easy to work with, and can get downright aggravating at times, and some have voiced complaints about the autosave system. Also, while the story itself is suitably epic for a tale that parallels the apocalypse, it’s sometimes difficult to get truly invested in it as the characters featured in the tale occasionally fall flat.
Still, there’s more to love about Darksiders 2 than there is to hate. Fans of the original should be pleased, and there’s enough compelling game play here to hook new gamers to the franchise. If you like delving into Zelda-like dungeons and stabbing bad guys, this game should definitely be on your radar.