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Darksiders 2 review

AT A GLANCE
  • The new and improved, in-depth combat system
  • There is an excellent balance of combat, exploration, and dungeon-crawling
  • The challenging and rewarding dungeon puzzles
  • The performance stumbles without a game installation on consoles
  • Being forced into using the fast travel system
  • Tutorial pop-ups replace Mark Hamill's “Watcher” companion from the first game

Take a story based on the familiar mythology of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the lightning fast combat of combo action games, the item collecting of a dungeon-crawler, then give it the scope of a Zelda title, and you’ll have an idea of what to expect from THQ’s Darksiders franchise. Originality, it could be said, isn’t the series strong point. Still, despite the lifted inspiration, Darksiders II successfully combines those popular ideas and gameplay elements to form one of the best action-adventure titles you’ll play this year.

Darksiders II's story takes place shortly after War allegedly brought forth the apocalyptic End War in the first game. The second rider, Death, sets out on a quest to prove his brother's innocence. As the duel scythe-wielding masked horseman, you won't be spending as much time confined to Earth as War did. Death's mission takes him to multiple worlds plagued with a mysterious “Corruption,” including the giant Maker Uthane’s home world (the Scottish giant from the first Darksiders), the Land of the Dead, and the realms of angels and demons. Each area is a wide-open world full of enemies and dungeons to explore. And there sure are a lot of dungeons.

If you aren't chatting with the NPCs in the hub towns or riding Death’s now instantly accessible horse, Despair, through wide-open areas, you'll be traversing dungeons. Of course, getting to the main dungeons is often a challenge itself, if only because you’ll want to take part in Darksiders II’s many distractions. You’ll travel across the massive worlds and be bombarded by sub-quests, collectibles, and mini-dungeons along the way to major plot points. Treasure chests are also sprinkled across the landscape, enticing you to complete short puzzles to get their rewarding contents. These include various weapon drops, armor and gold to use at merchant shops.

Loot has been introduced in Darksiders II, which adds a new level of addictive item hording for the completionists out there. Not only will you be hunting for various collectibles, there are hundreds of rare weapons and armor you can get your hands on and some you can customize. Grabbing new gear can give Death bonuses to his magic usage, as well as increased health, upped defense, higher damage.  It will also allow him to inflict special elemental damage like fire or ice. So, taking the time to climb a random castle off the beaten path ends up being extremely beneficial and rewarding.

Finding your way is generally easy with the help of Death’s crow companion, Dust. Clicking down on the left stick points Dust to areas of interest. Outdoors he might direct you to a treasure chest, and in dungeons he points to the proper room you should explore to move on. Sadly, it’s disappointing to see the snarky comments and advice of Mark Hamill’s Watcher companion from the first game replaced with a crow and on-screen tutorial text. Death does interact with other characters often and some of them even follow him around from time to time, but the dynamic of having a true companion is sorely missed.

Once you do venture into the major dungeons, the gameplay is a mix of combining your abilities to solve challenging puzzles, navigating platforming sections, and engaging in combo-heavy combat with the sequel’s more varied roster of enemies. Each dungeon keeps an excellent balance between those major elements and continuously keeps them alternating and flowing so that you never feel bogged down. The gameplay is always changing. One minute you’re fighting a horde of skeletons, the next you’re suspended hundreds of feet in the air, and the next you’re scratching your head about how to open a gate.  

As far as the battles go, Darksiders II has made vast improvements to the overall combat system. Death’s moves are much more varied and exciting than his burly brother War, and pulling off combos remains simple with intuitive, short combo strings. Death uses his scythes along with one alternate weapon which can range from speedy claws to massive hammers and maces. Alternating between your two weapons creates devastating combos that are incredibly satisfying to pull off.

Extremely powerful special abilities can also be used in combat. Killing enemies earns Death skill points, which can be assigned to either of the Harbinger or Necromancer skill trees. The Harbinger skills center on powerful, area-of-effect melee attacks, while the Necromancer tree provides ranged summons. Combining the special abilities with the standard attacks creates a combat system with a ton of options. You can stay at a distance casting spells, jump into the fray with scythes in hand, pummel enemies with massive hammers, or combine them all. Every choice is a viable option and each is a blast to play with. 

No adventure would be complete without huge monsters to fight, and Darksiders II has plenty. The massive bosses - ranging from a twenty story tall stone colossus to a giant, flaming bat - present a thrilling challenge at the end of each dungeon - often requiring you to memorize attack patterns or expose a weak point by using a recently acquired item. Once you blow off a limb with the Darksiders version of a bomb flower or rend a kneecap, Death is free to unleash his fury – transforming to his ominous Reaper form to deliver the coup de grace.

Darksiders II isn’t without its hang-ups, though. At any time, you have access to the fast-travel system, which gives you nearly instant access to any previously visited point on the world map, and that’s good. The only problem is you’re required to use it in specific instances, like after defeating a boss. Rather than stepping into a portal that whisks you back to the Dungeon entrance and back on track, you have to fiddle with the map and fast travel feature. Also, players lacking space on their Xbox 360 console’s hard drive will be disappointed in the game’s performance without the seven gig install. Load times and the frame rate suffer in some areas resulting in significant stuttering.

Darksiders II improves upon its predecessor in almost every way. The combat is deep and satisfying, the exploration and loot elements are incredibly addictive, and the dungeons provide a near perfect amount of challenge and consistency to keep you playing to the end. If you’re looking for an expansive adventure with an interesting story, massive world and robust combat, Death has come for you.

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

More Info

Release date: Aug 14 2012 - Xbox 360, PC, PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
Published by: THQ
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Violence

Topics

darksiders

20 comments

  • reyah - October 1, 2014 12:22 p.m.

    Hello, I just got this game cheap from here: www.thegamekeys.com . They have a very good delivery time and I am fully satisfied! Do check it out!
  • smallfry22 - September 1, 2012 9:09 p.m.

    I for think this game rocks, I espacially like the fact that you can upgrade your weapons and armour.
  • Craza - August 15, 2012 2:59 p.m.

    I played the first one for a good 7-8 hours, and I just couldn't really get into it. It wasn't bad; I just didn't like it all that much. I really, really can't stand Liam O'Brien's "Tough 'n' Gruff" voice (But that's just a personal issue), and I never really knew how to pull off the good combos. It just felt like the explanations on how to do things were poorly explained, and I often got stuck trying to figure out where to go or how to get there. I guess that's what has made me largely overlook Darksiders 2. I might look into it in the future when it comes down in price, and if I happen to actually finish the first one.
  • Balaska - August 25, 2012 8:34 a.m.

    DS2 improves on everything in DS1, including the combat. It flows much better now. I have yet to get stuck knowing where to go. It does that magic trick of being much more open but still providing focus. Do't let the faults of DS1 make you miss out
  • jackthemenace - August 15, 2012 4:26 a.m.

    Well, I always trust your reviews, and this has been the game I've been most excited about since it's announcement. The first one, i think, was terribly underrated, and I'm glad to see it's got a sequel- and I'm ESPECIALLY glad that it seems to live up to my expectations. Can't wait to get my hands on it when it comes out next Tuesday here.
  • archnite - August 14, 2012 5:33 p.m.

    I enjoyed the first game a bit but this was flying under my radar, my game radar! LOL, lame, anyways... With this positive buzz sounds like Darksiders II has really grown into its own flavor.
  • Zeos - August 14, 2012 12:15 p.m.

    I'm finally going to beat the first game to prepare myself for this one. Can't wait to pick this game up!
  • GR_LorenzoVeloria - August 14, 2012 1:15 p.m.

    You'll get two in-game bonuses for doing just that. Even more motivation!
  • patbateman17 - August 14, 2012 10:19 a.m.

    So no more Super Reviews? I really loved those and they were the first reason I migrated over to GamesRadar...you guys bringing them back at all? I semi-like the new format, but no Super Reviews would be a bummer as no other site compares games like that (that I know of).
  • Z-man427 - August 14, 2012 10:15 a.m.

    Wasn't the first out in 2010, not 2007?
  • patbateman17 - August 14, 2012 10:08 a.m.

    Lorenzo - So if I loved the setting of Castlevania:LoS but got SUPER bored with the combat, will I like this? That might seem like an odd question but I enjoy the settings I've seen so far but really dislike the GoW-esque mash combat...have also never played the first Darksiders but this looks so good... Anyone? Thanks in advance :)
  • GR_LorenzoVeloria - August 14, 2012 10:29 a.m.

    DS2 definitely has an epic setting like LOS, but it also does a good job of mixing up the gameplay so it never feels like you're in a grind as far as combat goes.
  • patbateman17 - August 14, 2012 10:32 a.m.

    Ok, thanks! Yeah I enjoyed LOS for a few hours but got bored stiff. Was also playing on Knight difficulty so that might not have helped things since I got bored and pissed at the cheap combat :) This is when redbox comes in handy. Btw - any platform differences that you all are aware of?
  • sixboxes - August 14, 2012 10:07 a.m.

    Does this mean, though, that they're obligated to only have 4 titles in the entire series? No more, no fewer?
  • RonnyLive19881 - August 14, 2012 10:01 a.m.

    Can't wait for the Wii U version, I wonder if it will require an install?
  • Redeater - August 14, 2012 9:37 a.m.

    Wow this is out already? Guess I better go pick this up! I loved the first one.
  • Cyberhero18 - August 14, 2012 9:22 a.m.

    Well thais a surpise. I mean i didn't expect to suck but i wasn't expecting anything beyond average.
  • Bardan Jusik - August 14, 2012 10:09 a.m.

    GamesRadar does seem to over-rate games at times. For example, Ace Combat: Assault Horizons received a score of 4/5 stars, but the game was terribly subpar. I suggest checking a few other review sites to temper your opinion before picking up Darksiders II.
  • Evanesco - August 14, 2012 5:20 p.m.

    You can usually tell what review a game will get purely by how much it's been covered in previews and news across the web. DS2's been on sites all over the place all year.
  • patbateman17 - August 15, 2012 7:50 a.m.

    And yes it's been getting B-average reviews all over the place...soooo, good luck with that theory.

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