"And I looked, and behold a pale horse and his name that sat on him was Death and Hell followed with him."
Many people may be familiar with this cryptic passage from the Book of Revelations, where the fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse is given "power to kill with sword and with hunger and with death, and with the beasts of the earth," but there are many things in Darksiders II from THQ that might be news even to the learned. For instance there was a council of "Makers" who built our world and many others with their bare hands. And now their powers of creation are dwindling due to "Corruption," one of several intangibles that are personified in the game.
The story follows the Apocalyptic events from the first title. Death's brother "War" is now imprisoned by the council for the crime of wiping out humanity. Death believes in his brother's innocence and must find a way to bring humanity back from the ashes to prove it. But he soon learns that Corruption cannot be destroyed. You can only destroy those who are under its influence. So now Death must restore life to that which he has reaped. This is where we learn all the things we never knew about heaven, hell, death and salvation. Who would have guessed we'd find that in a video game?
We are quickly reminded of several games that were clear influences on the developers. God of War is obvious, but it also has the narrative and feel from The Lord of the Rings. There is also a heavy puzzle solving aspect similar to Tomb Raider, and movement that is familiar to Prince of Persia. Combat is similar to Dante's Inferno. There are others but we'll leave that for the ages.
The argument could be made that THQ simply hijacked the best parts of those other titles and packaged them in a fresh new story and franchise and that's probably correct. But that's what I want. I want a game-maker who listens to the feedback of other maker's titles, as well as their own, and learns from that. It's how things get better.
Combat is incredible as Death wields twin scythes as a primary weapon and enormous battle-axes, war-hammers and various other demonic weapons of mass destruction. The primary weapon is much faster but offers less damage to enemies. The scythes are each about the same size as Death himself but the secondary weapons take on mammoth proportions once in hand. When he first equips it you are treated to a magic trick reminiscent of Daffy Duck as he whips this enormous hammer out of nowhere. You can't help but wonder where he was hiding that thing. Both primary and secondary weapons are fun to master and offer advanced moves that are unlocked as you progress.
Death has two companions. A crow named Dust and a fiery steed named Despair. Dust shows Death the way when he is lost and Despair takes him where he needs to go in a hurry. Dust is barely noticeable in the quest, but Despair comes in handy most of the time. Riding this blazing beast of burden is one of the funnest aspects to the game. The steed moves as you would expect a horse to move whereas other games make it feel as though you might as well be on a motorcycle.
The game was littered with great graphics and visuals. The characters are nearly believable even though they are anatomically impossible renderings with hands as big as torsos. The scenery is beautiful at times and sometimes repetitive but never unappealing or boring. The characters also looked as though they were actually speaking.
There were some areas where I thought that the developers could have improved. For some reason there never really seemed to be any urgency for me to finish my quest. This didn't fit the story line but was a necessary sacrifice for the RPG aspect to the playing style. Many tasks you will have to complete require you to explore and collect items to return to someone to make you something. Every time I entered an environment there was nothing waiting for me and I could have taken decades to finish the quest and no one would notice.
The most annoying thing and one of the ironic aspects to the game is that it offers a lot of playtime and a lot of levels but most of them are so easy that I am left with no choice but to recommend that you set your difficulty level to the maximum setting. And if you are an avid fan who usually plays it on difficult anyway, then you're out of luck.
When it comes to what I believe the developers at Vigil were trying to accomplish, I think they hit the proverbial nail on the head but failed to sink it with one strike. Some may have trouble getting over the obvious similarities to other titles but in reality the game is an improvement. If you thoroughly enjoyed the first Darksiders then get ready for another epic conquest with nearly double the play time.
Contact Tom Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.