Sunday, 20 January 2013

Review: Darksiders II

So, after enjoying the first game I went straight for the second one. In Darksiders II we play as the Death horseman, who sets out to clear his brother’s name. It straight away becomes obvious that the events of this game happen right before the first game, but after the apocalypse, whilst War horseman is still held captive by the Council. During this journey, Death visits a lot of different locations across the realms, ranging from the Forge lands, then to the Kingdom of the Dead, then to Lost Light (Angel land), with a chance to visit Earth, and finally to the Shadow’s Edge (Demon land).

 There are some very noticeable differences between the two games. Firstly, Darksiders II plays more like an RPG than the first game, allowing the player to level up, learn new skills along skill trees, and change equipment. I thought all these were great additions and certainly a step in the right direction. It also has a noticeable drop in difficulty. Normal mode in this game felt easier than Easy mode in the first game, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as the game can appeal to a lot of casual gamers out there.

 There were things I really enjoyed about Darksiders II and there were plenty of improvements over the first game, but there were also some really bad design flaws which brought the overall quality of the game down a notch.

 Straight away the first impressions of the Prologue level and the first land are really high. Very beautiful environments, fantastic music, and very easy and enjoyable combat mechanics. I liked it that with Death we could really pull off some cool fights and manoeuvres as he is a lot more agile than War. And although there weren’t too many different combos with the primary weapons, the combat was still very engaging and every battle felt like it was straight out of an action movie. The platforming and climbing features were done pretty well too, with a variety of diverse techniques given to traverse different obstacles, even though at times it felt a tad rigid and slow, usually when attempting to quickly move from one ledge to another.

 Now after a few hours in, that’s when the player is likely to notice that the game is really repetitive. A lot of dungeons are very much alike, a lot of puzzles recur again and again, and even most boss fights are just simple hack and slash. Like for example, one of the things that disappointed me was that nearly every boss in the first land was a golem or a construct of some kind. I don’t see why there couldn’t have been a little more variation in the boss designs. And the second land (Kingdom of the Dead) was even more repetitive. Every dungeon there looked the same and went on for ages. At one point you had to go and locate 3 different undead Lords in 3 identical dungeons with the same enemies and the same puzzles over and over. Many of the dungeons throughout the game also tended to be too long and overdrawn. I kept frequently asking myself “When is this level going to end?”

 In latter stages of the game there were some nice locations. I personally really enjoyed the part when you had to visit the ravaged Earth. The tone and the atmosphere in that level were really moody and depressing. Thunderstorm, broken buildings, lovely ambient tune, and of course a slightly new addition to the gameplay – the projectile weapons. And shortly after that level the Shadow’s Edge (Demon land) was pretty nice too, with its golden-red colour tones and a sense of chaos and destruction that had occurred there not long ago. Being able to travel backwards and forwards in time was a pretty cool addition during that level too.

 Unfortunately, unlike the first game, the story was really taken to the background and not given enough chance to enhance the game’s progression. The whole game just felt like it was a dungeon-fest. Go to one dungeon, acquire some item or find some character, then exit and go to another dungeon, rinse and repeat. It just seems to me a lot of the game was copy-pasted just for the sake of making it longer. I’d rather that it was only half the length but fresh, rather than long and diluted. And to top it off, the final boss fight was pretty unfulfilling simply because it was just too easy for a final boss.

 Now there were also some side-quests to do, plenty of collectibles to get, and also the Crucible, which is an arena where you fight waves of enemies and progress further so that you can receive rewards. However, most of the optional content didn’t seem too thrilling to me and there was not much incentive for me to do it.

 Finally I was also a little disappointed that I came across quite a number of annoying bugs and glitches during merely a single playthrough.
 - There was one where after having paused the game and then unpaused, my character was stuck and unable to move. Quitting to main menu and then resuming seemed to solve the problem, but pausing again in that area made the character immobile once more.
 - The second glitch was in the Ivory Citadel part of Lost Light, when I had to solve a puzzle by shooting one portal THROUGH the other. For some reason it was impossible to do so and only after many dozens of attempts it actually worked. 
 - And the third glitch was during a boss fight with Samael. That was the one boss fight I was most looking forward to, but it was sort of ruined a bit as he was stuck on the edge of the arena. Gladly, after I restarted the fight, the glitch did not happen anymore, so I could forgive it there.

Overall Darksiders II is a pretty smooth ride, with very well done combat mechanics, a good variety in equipment and customization, a truly epic soundtrack, and some stunning locations. However, it fell down due to way too much repetition, especially when it came to dungeon design and the puzzles. This repetition really dilutes down the enjoyment and makes the game feel like a bit of a drag.

My score: 8.5/10

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