Monday, 27 January 2014

Darksiders 2

Gamespot Score: 8.5 (Great)

My Score: 8.3

(+) Pros: - New equipment stats system makes gathering loot more satisfying, - Death has a larger array of moves, weapons and armor than War has, - Brilliant variety of dungeons and landscapes, - Great puzzle solving and fun platforming segments, - Open world freedom and lots of optional content.

(-) Cons: - Incredibly disappointing boss battles, - Pacing issues.

Gameplay time: 20 hours +

I kind of liked the first "Darksiders". The ending was pretty much nothing but sequel bait. Besides that, I never really did expect "Darksiders" to get a sequel...but it did. "Darksiders II" may be a sequel in terms of the franchise, but instead, you play as Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and War's brother. This enough should be a selling point. I for one, didn't like War too much as a protagonist, so having someone else as the star works for me just fine.  So how is "Darksiders II" as a sequel. Is it the same game but just different dungeons and stages with a different character? Or is it an overhaul overall. I'd go with the latter, because "Darksiders II" feels like very different game, and rest assured, its for the better. "Darksiders II" is a great improvement over the first.

The story stars you as Death, War's brother and one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Taking during the events at the beginning of the original "Darksiders", War was accused of breaking the seal which caused the destruction of humanity, and is about to be held guilty by the charred council. While pleading his innocence, his brother, Death, was on a journey on his own to save his brother....using his methods. He traveled to the icy lands to seek out the keeper of secrets, the Crow Father, hoping that he knows something that can free his brother. After a defiant act from the keeper of secrets, Death slays the old man for not revealing the information that he wants, and is transported into a portal, which leads him to another world...where his journey begins.

That's right, Death is badass.

"Darksiders II" is a third person action game with a little bit of a sandbox experience thrown in, same as its predecessor. Combat remains unchanged, Death has a pair of scythes as his primary weapons, and he has a secondary weapon which can be combo-ed into primary attack chains. You also have wrath ability which function as spells that you can map to 4 shortcut keys. However, in "Darksiders II", developers decided to throw in some RPG elements to make it a different experience overall. In this, they've done a grand job, that's for sure. As Death traverses the many different lands, dungeons and locations, he will defeat many enemies and uncover many treasure chests, getting himself coin and loot. Loot usually differ from equipment, be it weapons or armor, potions or accessories, and coin can be used to purchase all of the above from vendors or wandering merchants....a very nice touch, I might add.

Equipment bought from NPCs have fixed stats to them, and the ones you pick up while exploring have stats that may vary. You may equip Death as you see fit throughout the game, armor pieces range from upper body armor, lower body armor, boots and gloves. He actually changes his appearance in accordance to the equipment you put on him, weapons included, so you'll want to fit him with the best armor and weapons around. Different armors and weapons are split into different grades, the better the grades, the better the stats on these equipment...just like in MMORPGs, this is an addicting system, and you're ALWAYS looking for the best stuff for Death to equip. The high grade equipment go on Death, while the rest are sold for coin. Later in the game there are even possessed equipment, which can be fed other equipment to become them superb special effects, like elemental damage or lifesteal, just to make Death all the more badass.

Kill all the zombies!

Armor aside, Death has a lot more in his arsenal than War did, making fighting enemies as Death feel more refreshing. A pair of scythes are his main weapons, instead of War's huge sword, and using them in battle grant you multiple hits that do little damage. Death feels a lot more agile, and performing combos with him feels a lot more satisfying, as the hits from your scythes pile up in the combo meter. However, Death has many more in his arsenal. If you prefer the traditional play style of attacking with big, slow weapons, Death can arm himself with those as well, performing slow, but powerful hits that deal massive damage. These range from glaives, spears and hammers...though they all attack the same way. Death also has a pistol, just as War did, but like in the first game, this doesn't do much damage and is mostly used to attract opponents or to shoot explosives.

Death also has a pair of gauntlets that he uses as claws. With these equipped, he attacks even faster than he does with his scythes, but he does even less damage with his. Abilities consume wrath, Death's "mana resource" which he will build up in battle. This can be used to perform many various abilities which YOU get to decide. Death has a skill tree which splits into two paths, one with a more direct set of skills which involve melee attacks, and one where he summons ghouls and creatures of the feral to fight for him. Having the option to choose how you want to shape Death as a fighter is great, and if you ever want to switch paths, you can buy an item from Vulgrim to reset your skill points.

Choose how you want to fight your enemies.

While combat is a mainstay of the the "Darksiders" series, you can argue that the game values its puzzles, environments and platforming even more than the combat. Throughout the game you'll be travelling through 3 major locations, all of which look vastly different from one another. Inside these 3 locations are filled with their own dungeons and open areas which you get to traverse. Like a good RPG, monsters are scattered on the open areas, and there are more in dungeons.  You'll be seeing many different kinds on your journey, and each dungeon will be greeting you with its own sets of enemies and puzzles.

Puzzle and problem solving still remain as one of the game's strong points (even though at times I think that there are TOO MANY of these segments). Throughout the game Death will get a few new powers which serve as new puzzle solving mechanics, be it the death grip or the portal shooter thingy. Most of these require you to have a good scan throughout the surroundings...and while they are certainly doable, most of the puzzles late game can be quite draining on the mind. Platforming segments feel wonderful as Death glides and jumps over from ledge to ledge, making him feel more agile than War ever was. You'll be pressed for time during some of these parts, as you're forced to make many quick jumps in succession as your are pressured by an incoming threat.

Skill trees!

"Darksiders" has had pacing issues in the past, and that's not much different here in the sequel. While I can see that the game tries to mix in combat, puzzles and eventually becomes obvious that the 3 elements aren't in balance. I don't want to sound like a simpleton, but out of the 3, combat seems to be the element that receives the least love, and more of it goes to puzzles and platforming. If I were to measure these 3, I'd say 30% combat, 35% puzzles and 35% platforming. In a 3rd person action game, there's needs to be more "action". The segments on Earth were rather nice, how about more of those? Another disappointing thing is the lack of interesting boss battles, most boil down to just simple brawl fests. While some of the bosses to inquire some sort of problem solving to beat, its simply not enough. I felt that the bosses in the first "Darksiders" were done a lot better. The final boss is a god damn joke.

"Darksiders II" is definitely an improvement over its predecessor. The newly added RPG elements and the loot system are definitely sweet additions. It makes hunting for loot addicting and actually worthwhile. The game is also noticeably longer with a more open world feel to it, and there are tons of optional dungeons and/or quests for you to fufill, which can easily shoot your playtime through the roof. However, with the pacing issues still intact, and the downgrade of quality in boss fights, the franchise still has room for improvement. I really enjoyed my time with "Darksiders II", and I cannot wait to see what's in store next. More love for western games!

Happy gaming!