This all adds another layer to what already is a very compelling game. Darksiders II doesn’t have the most distinctive dungeons or the best-designed baddies ever made. Its story is good, but hardly mind-blowing, and its connecting worlds don’t have the character or varied side-quests of a Zelda. Yet it’s a very hard game to put down. One dungeon seems to lead to the next, and then you’re given a new toy to try out, and then you start wondering whether said toy can open up the blocked chamber you spotted earlier on. It’s beautifully paced, moving from puzzle-solving section to fraught mass battle to platforming sequence so that you’re always kept engaged, and there’s always something new around the corner to keep you hooked. The game just flows.
What’s more, Darksiders II has pinched one of God of War’s best tricks – starting big and only getting bigger. The boss battles you’ll encounter early on are nothing compared to the boss battles you’ll be taking part in later, as the game scales up from simple Zelda-like confrontations to the kind of epic scraps you’d find in Shadow of the Colossus or God of War III.
And it’s all carried by an equally epic presentation. Like Darksiders, Darksiders II has a cartoon, comic-book style, but that description doesn’t really do justice to graphics that remind you at one minute of a Frank Frazetta Conan book cover, the next World of Warcraft and the next Jack Kirby’s work for Marvel. The grand structures, forts and temples are piled high with intricate stonework and lavish detail, and all the characters have weirdly exaggerated features in a way that seems to fit their personality. The score is equally dramatic, and the voice-work is consistently good. Darksiders II might not be innovative or original, but it could never be described as generic.
We Love Darksiders II
By now you’ve probably got the picture: we love Darksiders II. We really do. All the same, it does have a couple of flaws we feel professionally bound to point out. For instance, there are times when the camera simply doesn’t quite work. You can always change the angle with the right thumbstick, but you’ll find moments where the view won’t zoom out far enough, when it jumps when you’re trying to, or when you can’t see the vulnerable point you’re trying to hit on a vast boss monster because the camera won’t put it in view. There’s also a tendency to over-egg some running battles, in the weird belief that if surviving one hugely powerful stone sentinel by the skin of your teeth was fun, then fighting two more straight after must be even more so. It isn’t.
But then Darksiders II makes up for a lot through sheer generosity. Not only is it packed with features, loot, options, skills and powers, but it’s a big game too, threatening to finish after seven to eight hours, before revealing that – actually – you ain’t seen nothing yet. There are dozens of hidden chests to open and collectibles to discover, and the Diablo-elements should make it more rewarding than most action games if you’d fancy playing through twice. It’s a game you want to last, and one that does.
So Darksiders II isn’t innovative, but so what? If you love classic games, love God of War and love Zelda, then it’s a very easy game to recommend. War turned out to be great, and Death is even better. Frankly, Fury and Strife (we’re guessing nobody wanted to play Famine and Pestilence) can’t come soon enough.
If Darksiders was God of War meets Zelda the sequel is the same with added Diablo and a dash of Prince of Persia. Still, if it’s hardly original, you have to admire the skill with which this cocktail has been mixed, and the enthusiasm evident in every part of the game. Darksiders II sometimes struggles to match its inspirations, but it’s a huge, impressive and always entertaining adventure, and one of the best experiences we’ve had in games this year.