howl /// Saturday April 20 16:02 2013

http://www.thq.com/us/darksiders2/

PC - Darksiders II

Not Really a Review

Darksiders II has been out since August 2012, however having just spent 35 hours of my time playing it, I thought that it rated a mention for howlofthelostwolf.com. However I'm not going to review it! I'm going to rant, somewhat, instead. Well this is more of a commiseration of what could have been.

I Want to Like it More

A dark Zelda like adventure, a twisted religious themed story, melee action combat. It should be a slam dunk and for the most part its a good game, however its execution holds it back from being a great game and this time around we can't excuse its problems by it being a bad port.

The same bad camera controls from Darksiders are still alive and strong. A hellishly tight FOV combined with many tight corridors and rooms often leaves enemies being kept out of view when you really need to see them and dodge their attacks. When multiple enemies are on the screen and you use the target lock-on the situation often becomes worse rather than better. Luckily I developed my spider senses to help cope, but it was far from perfect.

Combat moves would constantly misfire leaving me frantically pressing combos that would result in Death standing still like a mute fool. Once you start moving Death suddenly remembers how to do a combo and starts fighting again. This often occurs after you take a hit or get knocked over.

Most of the dungeon puzzles were rather dull and uninteresting and most perplexingly not hard at all. Many involved just navigating over to some button or a lever to activate a door to continue on, or just blowing up whatever is in the way of said buttons or levers. While many dungeons looked large and elaborate, most of them just had you being lead by your nose down a single path with little opportunity for any meaningful exploration. Most exploration was done in the various overworlds and really there isn't much to see in them.

Worst of all the game was padded out unnecessarily, with Vigil Games confusing quantity with quality. This severely affected the pacing of the story. The story gets dragged out by the excessive dungeoneering and time wasting that goes on. Darksiders II could have easily done with a good 5-10 hours being cut out of the storyline quests and dungeons. Normally I wouldn't complain about getting more game, but when you are completing the three sub-quests of each of the three sub-quests of your current quest then it feels like a grind rather than a gaming experience. If you need to add more flavour to the world then make some fun side quests and let the player decide how much they want to explore, learn and play.

Finally, many of the boss fights were rather generic resulting in the same old "big boss stomp graahhgg" battles that you find in every other action adventure game, where you chip away until you get the chance for your fancy quick time event to kill it, leading you to wonder why Death just couldn't do that at the beginning and saving you all the hassle. There are some fun boss fights fights, those are usually the ones where the bosses are to your scale and require you to think and act fast to both avoid and inflict damage.

With the bad also comes the good. The musical score is much better than it had any right being (I do love my bonus soundtracks). Its graphical fidelity is greatly improved over Darksiders however it still very much shows its console roots.

For the most part the combat is fast, frantic and fun only being marred by the bad camera work and sometimes poor controls mentioned earlier. The first boss fight with Crowfather is exceptional but unfortunately leads to disappointment in subsequent boss fights. The good fights are with other melee characters where you need to dodge around and charge to overcome the parrying of your attacks.

Darksiders II difficulty settings now actually mean something too. I played the original Darksiders on Apocalyptic and I smashed that game as if I was playing it on easy. Darksiders II on Apocalyptic is genuinely more challenging though somewhat inconsistent at times and its all too easy once you get some overpowered weapons to slaughter your foes.

A big surprise was when Darksiders II turned into a 3rd person shooter when travelling to the apocalypse ravaged Earth. Admittedly you don't have to play it as a shooter but really its how that level was designed and you would be crazy to not have the fun of using the "Gorehammer". Talk about an overpowered weapon, pity I never got to keep it.

The Final Word

The Darksiders franchise, is an enjoyable diversion but it just doesn't live up to its potential. With some fine tuning and a serious look at what makes the Darksiders games both good and truly exceptional gaming experiencing could be had.

Unfortunately with THQ's difficulties we may never see another sequel in the series that could do the Darksiders franchise justice. The only silver lining is that you can pick up the franchise cheap have an enjoyable romp if you overlook its weaknesses.

Edited // Sunday May 05 16:39 2013 // Minor Errors ///