- Publisher: THQ
- Developer: Vigil Games
- ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
- Genre: Fantasy Action
- Release Date: August 14, 2012
- Pros: Non-Stop Action, Hours of Gameplay, Inventive Puzzle Creation, Variety of Enemies
- Cons: Occasional Frame Rate Issues, Some Repetitive Storytelling Elements
Believe it or not, "Darksiders II" is a game about family. It is about Death coming to the aid and protection of his brother War and going on a quest that illuminates his own lineage and potential future. Of course, it's also about slicing and dicing with an increasingly-powerful scythe. Across numerous levels of gameplay (don't worry, as I did, when you see the first map...it's not the only one) that take you up to Earth, down to Hell, and several strata in between, Death spills millions of gallons of blood and sends the undead back to the Hell portal from whence they came. The gameplay of destruction gets slightly repetitive but the unlocking of new powers, new weapons, and new ways of solving increasingly difficult-to-traverse dungeons keeps the game fresh for multiple days of gameplay. It's an absolute blast, one of the most entertaining video games that I've played all year.
"Darksiders II" takes place concurrently with the first game but truly expands on the universe of that underrated title in the ways we always want a sequel to do. It's no mere rehash of "Darksiders." From the very beginning, this game has its own identity and yet echoes what worked best about its predecessor. It has similar but not identical combat, enemies, and worlds. In almost every way, it is an improvement on the last game in both quantity and quality.
Like the saga of Death's brother War, "Darksiders II" follows what could be called a "God of War" model of combat and storytelling. Action is built on a "light attack, heavy attack, combo" system of combat not unlike the hit "God of War" games. And, like those games, much of "Darksiders II" is comprised of puzzle solving your way through dungeons. The developers keep those elements stunningly fresh by constantly granting Death new powers. For example, at the beginning, Death is merely trying to roll the right ball into the right hole to activate the right lever. By the end, he's ripping apart time and space to solve puzzles like something out of "Portal 2."
One of the most important elements of a game like "Darksiders II" is the difficulty/power curve of the arc of the experience. An action game that runs twenty hours has to be constantly refreshing itself with greater powers, stronger enemies, and new lands to explore. "Darksiders II" is masterful at this art of the action game. Every time I thought the game was threatening to get repetitive, it would throw me a curve by granting me a new power to defeat a new enemy. As soon as you tire of a certain kind of puzzle-solving, the game introduces another one. When one weapon gets boring, you'll find another a chest holding something wickedly cool to wield. I was simply never bored playing "Darksiders II" and there few games that can keep up this level of entertainment for twenty-plus hours. The game sucks you in and keeps you engaged in a more complete way than nearly any game so far this year.
If I'm being honest with myself, there are a few issues. The storytelling gets a bit lackluster and silly. I have to admit that I wasn't as drawn to Death as a leading man as I was to War. The story of "Darksiders II" forces Death to play fetch a bit more often than I'd like. "Go find this key to open this door to find another key to open another door." Those easily frustrated by this kind of game writing are going to be the most turned-off by "Darksiders II" and the title's biggest flaw is easily in its screenwriting since the combat is simply perfect.