Darksiders II PC Review

I don’t know why, but I’ve never looked twice at the first Darksiders. Despite the game being published by THQ – the same company that published my beloved Saints Row series – it never appealed to me. It’s probably because all the screenshots seemed to show the same close-up of War’s face nestled under his oversized shoulders. It just didn’t seem that good. Needless to say, I had the same apprehensions about Darksiders II. That, and the last time I played a game about a shirtless dead guy wearing a mask, it killed my childhood.

I’m steadily beginning to realize that this last year has been a bit odd when it comes to gaming. All the titles I’ve been excited for seem to suck something horrible (or get canceled), while all the titles I don’t want to play seem to be the good ones. It’s like game developers are finally reading all the angry blogs I post and have decided to do the opposite of what I want. That, or I just have poor choice when it comes to games I enjoy.

The first thing I noticed about Darksiders II (other than the tutorial making me feel like I was playing Wrath of the Lich King) is how deep the world is. This is surprising as I expected the entire game to say, “Well, we have these four horsemen and they do their jobs.” Unfortunately, this game has forced me to backpedal on that notion and I’m now beginning to choke over how far down my throat my foot is. It’s an action game with a deep story, even if not all of it is immediately apparent. This, as I would learn, is a common trend with Darksiders II.

While everything you are capable of doing in this game is presented to the player in the first hour, they won’t appreciate it until they’re ten hours in. The tutorial mission does a good enough job of addressing that the game has platforming-based exploration that players won’t even notice until at least two dungeons later. At this point, the player will be jumping around Prince of Persia-style, enjoying exploration rather than feeling tasked to do it. This same pattern is carried out in the combat system, as well as the general story.

The story starts by explaining the events of the last game. It would appear War had been provoked into doing something stupid and as a consequence of his actions, humanity died. At this point I’m introduced to the definition of both a metaphor and irony as death comes in to save humanity. Swearing he can undo his brother’s wrongs – or at least prove him innocent – death goes on an epic quest. This is where the game begins: in the realm of the creators. Whether it’s riding your horse through the constantly changing environment, or climbing through an absurd temple in hopes of finding better gear, it’s a realm that truly makes you feel like it’s alive. Then again, as I mentioned earlier, this game is step-brother to the Saints Row series, and THQ knows how to fill space.

The only real downside to Darksiders II is the controls. I wasn’t honestly sure if the game was trying to mock me, or make me feel nostalgia for old platformers. Whatever its intention, the cameras from hell had been woken up from their slumber over in my old cartridge of Super Mario 64 and were back with a vengeance. Most jumps required I take my hand off the mouse lest I somehow insult the camera and go plummeting to my death (no pun intended). Additionally, unless my finger was constantly on the Shift key, fighting certain enemies was nearly impossible. Overall, it was a game meant to be played with a controller, and it makes you admit that as your pinky finger becomes sore and the Shift key wears down.

Even with the somewhat sloppy controls, it’s still enjoyable. Oddly enough, this is the kind of title I’m OK throwing the asking price at. It’s a platformer from the days of old that knows how to give the players a good time. Additionally, it feels complete. I don’t feel like THQ held anything back when they published this title. I also don’t see how additional DLC could be added to this game as it feels finished. It’s a game that says, “Thanks for your money, enjoy your full game.”

Darksiders II is in no way a groundbreaking game. It’s not the kind of game that people see has potential and makes a million shameless copies of. It’s a game that’s realized an old formula and has recreated it well. By doing so, it has made a game legitimately worth playing. It’s a finished product that is more than able to take 20 hours of your time, if not many more if you decide to do all the side quests. Sure it doesn’t have the nonsensical missions like Banjo-Kazooie, but it’s still a great platformer, and easily a contender for top title of 2012.

9 out of 10
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