Monday, August 4, 2014

Review #137: Darksiders II

 Death rides again.
 Remember the amazing Darksiders I? Darksiders 2 is here, building upon the previous game's foundations to deliver fantastic follow up to the phenomenal first part.

 Darksiders II is a prequel to the first game, taking place during the hundred years that War spends recovering from his fight against Straga. This time you play as Death, the eldest and strongest of the fourth horsemen as he tries to spare War from his punishment. The game sees the return of a few familiar faces and a wide assortment of new ones. The new characters are very appealing visually, thanks to the amazing art style, but they don't feel as fleshed out or memorable as the first game's cast. As for Death, it would've been easy to make him a carbon copy of War, but he has a very different personality to War, instead of Heroic and stoic, Death is a textbook deadpan snarker with a very cocky demeanor(The reason Death can't block is because he doesn't want to, he believes enemies can't touch him). Instead of traversing Earth, Death's journey takes him through more mystic realms, it's definitely a different tone from the first one, more surreal and mystic, and while I did prefer the first game's world a bit more, it's a nice breath of fresh air.
 The game builds upon the previous game when it comes to gameplay. You'll still be adventuring around dungeons, while getting tools that will aid you in solving puzzles. However, this time bosses are much more straightforward, whereas in the previous game you, usually, had to use your newfound tool to defeat it, now it's mostly a matter of mashing buttons and avoiding attacks. Dungeons now contain a lot of climbing and wallriding, but the controls aren't up to snuff. Plenty of times I found Death trying to climb above instead of wallriding to the side or situations of the like, usually it's but a slight annoyance, but on those rare instances of climbing against a rising threat... it can get a bit vexing. The game is much, much bigger than the previous one, with a ton of optional dungeons and a respectable amount of sidequests. While the latter are appreciated, some of them can be reduced to a collectathon or get incredibly repetitive(Like the annoying Arbiter of Souls maze). There's also the fact that the game doesn't like to help you with the quests, you may get directions as vague as "Kill X in Y", but there's no marker, no hint if it's out in the open or inside a dungeon in the area, no anything, you are, basically, on your own.

 Just as the previous game borrowed a lot from other games, Darksiders II adds a couple of new borrowed ingredients. Killing enemies now yields experience points, and occasionally, loot. You'll be outfitting Death with various forms of Harnesses, Pauldrons, Gauntlets, Boots and a Necklace, as well as various Scythes or Gauntlets, Glaives, Axes or even Hammers, all which reflect on Death's look. There's a small amount of possible suffixes and prefixes for each equipment piece, with a ton of added bonuses, maybe elemental damage, HP or Mana stealing properties, not to mention that Legendary items posses exclusive bonuses. The game also adds, as far as a I know, one original mechanic to the loot system, Possessed items. You can sacrifice other equipment pieces in order to raise the power of possessed items, nothing groundbreaking, but hey, it's original! As for the experience system, leveling up provides the obligatory stat increases alongside a skill point to spend in one of two skill branches. Each branch has four different skills, and while you don't need to spend X amount of points in one branch to access further skills, each branch has numerous "sub-skills" that will add side effects or buffs to the skills themselves. Simple, fun, effective. These new additions help to fix something I feel The Legend of Zelda(The biggest inspiration for the series) suffers... that combat doesn't feel rewarding enough, well, now it does!
 The graphics don't feature any major improvement, but the new locales are certainly beautiful and varied. The previous game looked amazing anyways, so it's not like it's a bad thing. While there's not a ton of different armor pieces, there's about 10 looks for each possible armor piece, and it doesn't matter what Death wears, he'll still look badass. There's more variety when it comes to enemies, probably thanks to the new locales, but it could have used a couple more new enemies.  Darksiders 1 had a rather lackluster soundtrack, which makes Darksiders II's great soundtrack all the more noticeable. Voice Acting remains consistently convincing throughout the new supporting cast, and they get great lines as well, particularly Death.

 Darksiders II is a fantastic sequel to a phenomenal game. All the new additions to the formula are welcome, however, they could've use some more fine-tuning, still, this was the right track for the series to follow.
 9.0 out of 10.

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