Vigil Entertainment’s Darksiders was a rough gem, featuring some fantastic combat, tricky puzzles and some unfortunate, game-breaking bugs. Its second bite at the franchise takes the concepts of the first game and ramps them up, casting the player as Death, jumping puzzle aficionado and brother to the original game’s protagonist, War.
In a story that stems straight from the first game, Death sets about restoring humanity in order to prove his brother innocent of the crime of destroying it. This leads to a heavy-handed epic tale that sees death travelling between worlds and fighting lots of really big baddies. The resulting experience borrows a little from other games – the platforming is straight out of Prince of Persia, the loot system owes a lot to Diablo, and the puzzles are quite Zelda in style.
Of particular interest is the loot system, which plays into the RPG-light nature of the gameplay. Not only does Death level up and earn points to unlock new abilities, but he also ends up finding a lot of items, like armor and weapons, on his travels. These drop from monsters as well as smashed scenery and chests that are liberally smattered throughout the game world.
These come in a variety of colours, conforming to the standard White > green > blue > purple > orange shorthand that Blizzard introduced with WoW. But Darksiders 2 also adds the concept of possessed weapons, which can be upgraded by ‘feeding’ them other drops. This means that the weapons effectively level with you, and can be used for a large chunk of the game without falling off in power. It’s an interesting addition and one that adds a lot to the game as long as you get lucky with the drops.
Gameplay involves jumping between puzzles, which involve a lot of platforming, and combat. This does get repetitive at times, and we had at least one moment where taking a break from the game almost broke our brains thanks to the relative similarity of the puzzles and areas traversed. Thankfully you have a trusty crow companion, who can be sent out to show you your destination; a boon in the often vast rooms that the game is comprised of.
Breaking up the platforming are some huge boss fights, which predictably involve working out the specific weakness and exploiting it. There isn’t anything particularly new or innovative about the gameplay, but it is implemented wonderfully and makes for a highly enjoyable experience.
As long as you use a gamepad, that is. The dark side of Darksiders 2 is that it is a fairly average PC port. Not only is the game much more enjoyable on gamepad than keyboard and mouse, but the graphical performance is a bit iffy. Thankfully our rig was one of the few that managed to run the game with Vsync active – the forums are full of players who cannot get the game to run without tearing – but the game does make our GeForce GTX 680 howl louder than any other title to date. It also lacks high resolution textures, which isn’t a deal breaker, considering the cartoonish look of the game, but is disappointing. Much less forgivable is the inability to even access a config file, despite pre-launch promises from THQ that the PC version would be taken seriously.
THQ has promised a patch to fix some of the PC issues, but we wouldn’t hold our breath considering the pre-launch assurances it made. This is a shame, because without these issues we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Darksiders 2. Not only is the combat up to the usually high standards delivered by Vigil (it also worked on the Warhammer: Space Marine combat), but the story, visuals and platforming are all highly enjoyable in spite of the bugs and glitches.