Epic fantasy was said to be created by J.R.R. Tolkein in his Lord of the Rings novel and as such every story told in this genre ever since can be seen to be a derivative of his work. From R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf trilogy to George R. R. Martin’s A song of Ice and Fire all these stories build from the base that the Oxford professor created. The question is, why is this a problem? Even Tolkein drew influences from stories like the Nordic poem Beowulf. Most of these stories are celebrated as great works by critics and fans alike and being compared to a masterpiece of storytelling can only enhance a writers credentials.
So when 2010’s Darksiders was called a grown up version of Zelda I saw this as a positive. Back in the starting days of Nintendo Zelda could only be overshadowed by an Italian plumber and his brother. The trouble with the adventures of the cartoon styled Bow wielding Elf is that the stories have not matured but those us who loved the game in its early years have. So when Wars adventures to restore humanity drew from Zelda I just saw this as the evolution of storytelling in the same way Salvatore and Martin’s works drew from Tolkein’s.
Now we are returning to the Darksiders universe with the adventures of Death in Vigil games new title. This is not a chronological sequel instead it is set in the same period as Wars story. Deaths quest is to find out the fate of his fallen brother in an almost Sherlock Holmes way with a little bit of Jack Bauer level violence mixed in for colour. The development team have raised the length and depth of the game creating a more in-depth narrative and levelling system. The story including side quests and some exploration will take you around 25 hours and that’s quite a lot of bang for your buck.
The story has a slow start but as you get further along it develops into a richer experience. As the narrative is tied into the first game as well as the wider Darksiders narrative I think playing the first game is useful if not entirely necessary. This is because the early part of the game does go some way to lead you through the background of the story but I would still urge you to play the first game not only to help with the understanding of this game but because it’s a great game in its own right.
In trying to complete this deeper game you will find yourself doing quite a bit of back tracking and fetching but with lots of enemies to slay and things to find all around you it can be quite a pleasant experience. That being said it is always a frustration of mine that games in this genre make you back track in a repetitive style but that seems to be the convention of most RPG’s. The real bonus is this time around our Horseman actually has access to his Mount from the outset of the game. Despair makes the traversal a lot easier and also adds to the combat system as he can be used to charge down foes to great effect. This shows a developer who is listening to the concerns of its install base as Ruin took a long time to be joined with War in the first game and without Despair’s speed the traversal across the world would be monotonous to say the least.
New to this game is a fleshed out XP system allowing death to level up his abilities with the use of 2 skill trees the Harbinger for physical attributes and the Necromancer for spell related powers. XP is gained in the usual way by completing quests and dealing death to your enemies. The levelling up then allows you to enrich the combat experience with a mixture of combos involving both weapons and spells there are numerous ways for death to live up to his name. However as with real world Evolution things can sometimes go awry so you are able to spend some XP to reset your abilities and start all over again. Carrying on with the RPG theme this time around there is also loot to uncover either from fallen enemies or random not that well hidden chests. This allows Death to alter both his armour and weapons allowing the player to evolve the play style to suit their abilities. The improvements you gain from the loot are usually stepped progressions and I did not find a game breaking weapon to ruin my experience.
The combat is fun with a dedicated lock on button allowing you to focus on a main threat this can help you and hinder you in you are unfamiliar with it so practice on easier foes before using it to take on one of the many bosses littered throughout the game. With Death being a more nimble character the combat has become faster and more athletic completely in keeping with the characters physical stature. You will find yourself hopping around like a demented bunny with the added bonus of a Scythe and this is a great mix.
The Vocal talent is also an area where this game is in its element the likes of James Cosmo from the Game of Thrones series and the Crucible trailer and Michael Wincott of The Crow fame bringing a depth to the characters voices. The visuals are generally good but there are quite a few landscapes that do not seem to be as well created it’s not big problem but the lack of consistency is a bit jarring on occasion. Death and Ruin look really good throughout the game as do the bosses, friends and enemies you meet along the way.
With a game of this scope i can accept a few random glitches however they can break a game depending on the developer’s resolution time. I am playing this game on PC and the first patch was created less than a week after release of the game. I only encountered minor visual glitches but there were reports of peopling getting stuck in areas of the game and needing to reset. This does not seem to be on the scale of the glitches that were encountered in Skyrim and Vigils quick work on fixes must be applauded. The game apparently plays better on the console as it was apparently originally created for this experience making the PC version the port version. This may be why glitches were more apparent in this format of the game.
If you are an RPG fan with a love of grinding then this is a great title and if you are new to the world of grinding this is a very accessible title. Its slightly held up by occasionally poorer graphics and a slow start to the story but overall I think Darksiders 2 is a great game it has evolved in scale and depth from the first game and with hopefully 2 if not 3 more games to go I can see this franchise having legs for the longterm.
Game available on PC, PS3 and XBOX360
Buy It/Don’t Buy It = Buy it but probably on console
Will you play it 12 months later? = Doubtful