"A Hell of a Good Time"
Moving away from the hooded, silent menace we know him for, Darksiders II stars a stylized version of Death. With ninja mobility, purple skin, a hockey mask, and a wry personality, this might not be the Grim Reaper you're familiar with. Still, once you get to know the guy, you'll realize he's not so bad… for a vicious, unapologetic killer.
Darksiders II wastes no time picking up where the first game ended. The Charred Council imprisoned War for bringing the apocalypse to Earth, and Death saddles up to help free War from bondage. However, War's freedom is a tall order, even for Death. Developer Vigil Games crafts a universe more deep and broad than the river Styx. The scale of the various realms and characters defines epic. The dungeons are gorgeously crafted. Friendly cities and ruins beg for exploration. Simply put, Darksiders II is a sight to behold. This is a universe worth getting lost in. However, if you're not careful, you may truly get lost.
The story, while intriguing, can be hard to keep up with. Have you ever been in a room where you met ten strangers in 30 seconds? Well, Darksiders II is going to introduce you to a lot of supernatural races and odd terminology that comes with the fantasy-laden storyline, so brace yourself (or find a good wiki). Also, those who haven't played the first Darksiders may find it difficult to catch up or swallow the idea that Death has a health meter and can die. Still, if you hold on long enough, the journey proves to be worth a few bumps along the way.
Darksiders II offers plenty of smart, well-designed puzzles that can be solved intuitively. Nevertheless, Death has to occasionally pull over and ask for directions, which takes away from the overall experience. The levels are masterfully designed, offering simple and complex puzzles throughout the campaign. Unless you solve Rubik's cubes in your sleep, get ready for backtracking now and again. Death's crow, Dust, supposedly helps navigation, but the buzzard gets confused too often to be trusted.
Death might not be the first person to invite to a corn maze, but he knows his way around a scythe. Combat in Darksiders II is crisp, fast, technical and satisfying. Basic combos are easy to pull off and offer delights for high-combo junkies and button mashers alike. Beyond swinging akimbo scythes, Death has access to secondary weapons ranging from hammers to hand blades, and mixing scythe and secondary attacks feels great. When he's really in the groove, Death transforms into his Reaper form, which not only deals bigtime damage, it's undoubtedly badass. These moments will put a smile on your face every time.
Death can dip into a bloody pool of special attacks thanks to an upgrade tree spanning melee and necromancer abilities. Some upgrades in Darksiders II are more fun than others, but all have balance and purpose, which makes unlocking new abilities a treat throughout the campaign. There are only four hotkeys for special abilities, but thankfully Death can swap in new moves quickly without entering the inventory screen.
While I never pictured Death as materialistic, he sure loves a shiny new set of armor. Loot drops from enemies and treasure chests are sprinkled shamelessly throughout Darksiders II. Vigil Games never explains what buffs do or how to best utilize armor to coincide with a player's play style, and I didn't find them to make a big difference, but armor buffs abound for those willing to dabble with configurations.
For you pirates out there, Darksiders II offers special loot and all the carnage your booty-obsessed brain can handle in The Crucible. This is a game mode separate from the campaign where Death faces off against goons in a 100-level challenge. Players can opt to take the loot and run, or progress through rounds for better prizes. This is a nice addition to the game offering challenges and fist-pumping rewards for those willing to slice their way to the 100th level. For those of you who have simply too many scythes, talismans, and pauldrons, The Serpent Tomes is an in-game mailing system allowing players to gift loot to friends. Who said Death doesn't have a heart?
Darksiders II might be hard for some people to swallow. Death doesn't look or act like the traditional Grim Reaper. He sometimes has to fight giant hermit crabs. Some inaccessible items dangle out of reach teasing you throughout the campaign. Its puzzles and combat don't shatter the mold. However, Vigil Games' take on the Four Hoursemen opens a world of possibilities where gods, like us, are pawns to a larger design. As the second installment in the series, the game gracefully advances the story of the Horsemen and builds immeasurable depth to the universe. The Grim Reaper may not have been born for a role like this, but he sure did a hell of a good job convincing me to keep on slicing and dicing.
GameDynamo's Score for Darksiders II (PC)
John loves gaming and loves writing about games. He wants to become a known voice in the gaming community and a game designer one day.
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