Running in circles, going nowhere
This is the second time I’ve played through Darksiders II. The first was on the Xbox 360 when the game first came out, and now, I had an excuse to play through it again on the Wii U. I loved the game both times, with only a little of the fun diminished by knowing what was going to happen along the adventure. What follows is my original review of the game with a section added for the Wii U version. The score has remained unchanged, as the Wii U version is neither appreciably better or worse than the versions released on other systems.
The first Darksiders took the gaming world by surprise. Everyone expected a God of War-style, no-holds-barred action game and what we got instead was a post-apocalyptic Legend of Zelda.
Fortunately for us, the game sold well enough to warrant a sequel. With Darksiders II, developer Vigil Games has injected new life into the series thanks to a new protagonist, Death. In Darksiders II, War’s brother Death learns of War’s travails in the first game, and sets off on his own quest to clear War’s name.
On a world much older than Earth, Death must help The Makers—god-like builders of worlds—fight the corruption infesting their world and restore the tree of life. Doing so will save humanity and restore War’s position with the other Horsemen.
As before, Darksiders II combines hack-and-slash action with dungeon-crawling role-playing. The spectacularly designed world overflows with ruins to explore and puzzles to solve, providing an awe-inspiring scope.
It’s this grand scope that keeps the game exciting. Death, after all, possesses more power than your average elven boy. He can’t really be killed, and even the most fearsome creatures do little more than slow him down.
But when navigating the world involves scaling massive walls, flipping about looking for a handhold or a beam to grab on to, your stomach will flop and the hair on your neck will rise, despite your best efforts to stay calm.
The game does its best to confound you, obscuring paths and forcing you to really think about your environment. The way might be far above your head, or an underwater passage where you weren’t even thinking of jumping into the water.
In a game filled with massive creatures and epic battles, the exploration provides the most exhilarating moments.
That’s not to say the fighting lacks any punch. Throughout the game, Death gains experience and becomes even more powerful. As he learns new moves, he combines them into a ballet of carnage, spinning and flipping between enemies, leaving them gutted in his wake.
Bosses require using additional strategy. Each has its own weakness, and discovering them will wrack your brain. But the challenge makes felling these massive beasts all the sweeter.
While one would expect Death to travel alone, our reaper actually has a few allies.
Despair, Death’s trusty steed, helps carry you across the expansive land; his raven, Dust, is always there to point you in the right direction. But it’s some of the…let’s say “larger”…companions that take Darksiders II to places Link would never dream of going.
As you might imagine, a game this ambitious doesn’t escape without a few flaws.
The camera system, despite being largely manual—relying on the player to choose the view—occasionally goes wonky. It’s particularly annoying when you’re trying to swing it around to get a particular view, only to have it stick in a spot just off from what you want to see.
Additionally, the skill tree could have offered more diverse and exciting options. Few new moves are available, with most skills being mere enhancements. Fortunately, it’s possible to reset your abilities and re-allocate all your skill points. So, if you don’t like the way your version of Death is shaping up, you can try something different.
These are minor complaints, though, for a game that does so much more right than it does wrong.
The Wii U version of the game incorporates the game’s DLC, including the pre-order bonuses “Angel of Death,” “Shadow of Death,” “Death Rides,” and “Deadly Despair,” as well as the “Argul’s Tomb” add-on that brings another 4 hours of quests to the game.
This makes the game a great value, but it really doesn’t add anything to the experience. Unfortunately, neither does the GamePad controller. It’s nice to have access to maps and menus without leaving the main screen, but it’s also superfluous. For long play sessions, I prefer using the Wii U Pro controller, which just feels more comfortable in my hands.
Still, there’s nothing lacking in the Wii U version of the game, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who hasn’t already picked up the game.
Death might seem like an unlikely hero, but he carries Darksiders II like no lad in a green cap ever could, making this one of the most exciting action-RPGs in years.
SUMMARY: This version of Darksiders II is nearly identical to the ones released on the PS3, 360 and PC in August. While the Wii U version doesn’t offer many innovations, it does come with all of the currently available DLC. The GamePad makes little difference to the gameplay, and though it’s fun to have maps and inventory items ready and in front of you at all times, I still preferred to play with the standard controller. It’s a great game, perfect for anyone who likes a good action-RPG.
- THE GOOD: Everything released to date for Darksiders II in one easy package
- THE BAD: Shaking the GamePad to dodge. Be sure to turn that off
- THE UGLY: The family reunion at the end of the game. Now I know why these celebrations always end up in a fight!
Darksiders II is available on PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and Wii U. This particular review is based on the Wii U version of the game. To see the EGM review of the Xbox 360 version, click here.