Death’s knocking on your door…
Darksiders 2 protagonist, Death, may have the air of inscrutability about him, but this is a game that wears its influences clearly on his tattered sleeve. Prince of Persia’s wall-runs see you hop and skip from pillar to post as you seek to solve the Tomb Raider-esque puzzles scrawled into the stone of each of its temples. There’s also hints of Devil May Cry as you switch between light and heavy weapons before hammering the trigger to maintain the combo as your prey tumbles up into the air, juggled till they explode in a shower of crimson particles.
Loot litters the world with endless iterations of gauntlets and greaves that provide leapfrogging statistical upgrades via a breadcrumb trail of improvements that are as irresistible, if not better than anything found in games of the same génre. As with the first instalment you’ll discover various weapons you may feed with items to improve their properties, and as Death gulps down experience points you can add to his ability list, carving out his pre-destined potential as found in so many action/adventure games.
Darksiders was an attractive video game and Darksiders 2 continues the trend, albeit with a much darker, sombre tone where only the odd splash of green and purple interrupts the dreary ambiance. But it’s through the games wonderfully detailed construction that Darksiders 2 elicits more than an echo of wonder and very early on you’ll see, as with the first game, it has far more in common with Crystal Dynamic’s Soul Reaver than Nintendo’s Zelda as many an internet denizen is quick to claim.
While Darksiders 2 progression is clear and identifiable, the result is entirely one of its own; the diverse ideas combining into a cohesive whole far more effectively than you might expect. Darksiders 2 has clearly been made with those already familiar with the series, or indeed the genre as a whole. Battles flow with sense and precision, demanding expert-timed rolls to evade danger and protect your health bar, inspiring tactical, thoughtful play rather than a blind hammering of the buttons.
Likewise, the dungeons themselves – while mostly built from the same palette of pulleys, platforms and anchor points – unfurl and grow in ingenious complexity and while there are rooms whose puzzles stump later in the story a pause for thought usually leads to a delicious eureka moment of resolution.
It’s a pity that so many a gamer chose to ignore Darksiders as undoubtedly Darksiders 2 non-user-friendly approach to newcomers - in both plot and in its refusal to hold players hands throughout – will see the game quickly returned to stores. This is a game that demands to be ‘played’ rather than just ‘enjoyed’ and for that it will no doubt come under fire from lesser mortals.
It’s also a game with much of the usual friction removed. You may fast travel to any key locations you’ve already visited over the course of your adventure, ducking out of a dungeon to stock up on health potions, for example, before returning to the exact spot you teleported from a few minutes later. As you begin to juggle quests – short, medium and long term demands on your attention – the colour-coded quest log keeps things ordered, with objective points dotted onto the map to minimise aimless wandering.
In fact, there’s a case to say Darksiders 2 is too ordered. You bounce from objective to objective, your next task always clear and obvious and, at times the game world can lack a sense of true place because of it – the curtain of fantasy and detail slipping to reveal the raw systems beneath the drama, the truth that the game is little more than a sequence of walled conundrums en route to its conclusion.
Quite obviously this is just knit picking and does not detract from what is overall an enjoyable, often compelling and and well put together slice of entertainment.
But take my sage advice and play the first instalment before picking up its sequel, if only to grasp what is actually going on.