Game developers have made valiant efforts in the last few years to make their works more cinematic. To be more specific, they’ve tried their best to hide their games’ underlying workings and mechanics beneath a veneer of slick presentation. It’s kind of like the titular Wizard of Oz’s machine that allows him to appear great and powerful, while in reality he’s completely ordinary.
In this regard Darksiders II is a good game, but a bad Wizard.
Most games would prefer you pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, where Darksiders II doesn’t seem to mind you taking the occasional glance at the pulleys and levers that make it work.
Dungeons are conquered through exactly one linear method, and loot is obtained through somewhat strange avenues. Why was this carnivorous carrying a set of shoulder pads which fit my character perfectly? Who cares, go kill more stuff!
The hero of the game, Death, begins his journey wearing little more than a loincloth and wielding what amounts to a dull kitchen knife as a weapon. One might have expected a bit more preparation from the grim reaper himself.
The Darksiders series has adopted a somewhat loose interpretation of apocalyptic theology. Two of the four horsemen, War and Death have remained the same, however Famine and Pestilence (or Famine and Conquest depending on who you ask) have been replaced with Strife and Fury, the latter of whom is buxom woman brandishing a whip.
It’s good to know your audience Darksiders II, but maybe try to bury the lead a bit next time.
Following the events of the first Darksiders, in which the horseman War is accused of triggering the apocalypse before its appointed time, the eldest rider of the four, Death, sets out to erase his brother’s crime by finding a way to resurrect those lost during armageddon.
It’s a cool concept, but it isn’t utilized terribly well. Darksiders II is a very long game, easily over 20 hours for one play-through, and Death’s main objective never changes that entire time. The game keeps throwing up increasingly ridiculous roadblocks and stop-gaps to prevent Death from reaching his goal.
There are no twists or turns, no plot developments, just an endless list of “things” Death must collect in order to progress. This is another area where Darksiders’ inner workings are revealed: You are constantly tasked to collect three of something. Three keys to open this, three bombs to destroy that, etc. There’s even a point where you have to collect three things so that someone will give you one of the three other things which you’re seeking.
It gets a bit ridiculous.
Darksiders II’s most endearing feature is its self awareness. Not to degree that something like Borderlands 2 is comedically self aware (tune in next week for more,) but in the way that it unabashedly imitates the gameplay of other popular franchises without descending into derivativeness. Over-world exploration and dungeons are reminiscent of those found in Legend of Zelda, acrobatic navigation is similar to Prince of Persia’s, and combat is evocative of God of War’s brutal, yet fast paced style.
The game’s art style in particular oozes personality, and reminds one of the tabletop board game, Warhammer, and its over the top design and idiosyncrasies.
Darksiders II is found rather wanting when compared to more cinematic games like Max Payne 3 and Spec Ops: The Line, but as a purely interactive and explorative video game, it’s an enjoyable experience not to be missed.