Way back in 2010 Vigil released Darksiders, a game that followed a Metroidvania style of play. I remember very clearly being totally enthralled by the atmosphere then and guys, it's still awesome. Stay with me and I'll tell you what I thought about this newest remaster from developers, Vigil Games and Kaiko and publisher, THQNordic. Read more
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...And it was great! Here's my review of this very underrated title.
As always, click an image to full size it.
Ok, so back in November of 2015 Nordic Games released the Darksiders 2 Dethinitive Edition. There was a customer loyalty package that was a bit controversial. It involved different tiers of ownership allowing different levels of discounts for the game including a free version for certain folks. Anyway, long story short, turns out I still had to pay for it, and I strongly considered not buying it at all. Albeit this fee for me was minimal at a mere $6.00, why would I spend money on a game that I already had?Well, I'll tell you what made me pull the trigger and buy it. THQ (the original owners of Darksiders IP) filed for Bankruptcy back in 2012 so that meant no more Darksiders for us fans. This was a sad day. So, Nordic Games picked up ownership along with some of the original folks from Vigil Games, now called Gunfire Games, and remastered Darksiders 2. They released that as the Darksiders 2 Dethinitive Edition. This is the game itself along with all the DLC in one package remastered for 1080p and 60fps. All this is great, but the kicker for me was that this release was also an experiment in people's interest in the Darksiders series in general because Nordic wants to plan Darksiders 3.
Awesome, I want Darksiders 3. I bought the game for the modest $6.00 and I hope, hope, hope, that a lot of other folks did too so that we get a 3rd title. And to anyone out there with the same interest or even a passing interest in the series, I want to suggest the purchase. It's $30 on Steam, you'll get the game, some special weapons and armors that are genuinely useful for your play through. You'll also get three bonus campaigns that yield even more rewards and around six to eight hours of extra content. It's worth the buy even if you don't care about the continuation of the series.Ok boring blah blah information over. Let's talk about the game now.
So we ended the first Darksiders with War in serious trouble from the bosses, what with allegedly beginning an unsanctioned apocalypse and all. You know... that old chestnut. Well, in Darksiders 2 you'll play as the Rider of Death. Now, Death believes his Brother War, is innocent and it's all a setup. So he sets out to prove the facts and ends up battling for the very existence of many worlds. His journey takes him through the Forgelands of the Makers, through barren plains of the Realm of the Dead, to the pious towers of the Angels, the black evil world of Demonkind, and even Earth itself.Death finds allies and enemies everywhere he goes but his mindset is only that he must help his brother War, any way that he can. Characters are thought out and each one has meaning and an impact on the story. Death himself, voiced by Michael Wincott, is an extremely memorable character. On the one hand he is a genuinely scary guy, he has little patience, he's known everywhere as being capable of terrifying power even though the story itself exclaims he's never at full strength throughout the game, and he rides a very scary horse named Despair. On the other hand, Death is an honorable individual, one could argue the he's even caring as he desperately wants to save his brother's very soul. He's reasonable and has no interest in needlessly killing. Death also carries a lot of emotional conflict but I don't want to spoil things for those who haven't played yet.Ok, so if Zelda and Kratos met at a cocktail party and they snuck up stairs to find an unlocked room and then did it on every surface resulting in a nine month gestation period that produced a child with properties of both parents, that's Darksiders 2. Death is a badass, powerful and respected, even feared everywhere he goes. But getting wherever he goes requires platforming, collecting items, keys, treasures, and of course slaying countless monsters, demons, and bosses while traversing many worlds. If you haven't guessed yet, this is a 3rd person ARPG. Darksiders 2 Dethinitive Edition, is full of action and exploration with a fair amount of puzzle solving as well.Combat is a very functional and fun combination of skill and button mashing. Death has a moves list and can even talk to a trainer to gain more advanced move based attacks. There are two skill trees in the leveling system that give Death abilities as he levels up. He's got the Harbinger tree, which focuses on raw strength, critical strikes and heavy melee damage to defeat his Foes. On the other side Death has the Necromancer tree which focuses more on arcane damage, self shielding and summoning allies for help defeating his enemies. Weapons and armor are varied and will reflect those skills. Death's main weapons are of course his double scythes, fast and versatile in battle. He'll also find secondary weapons in the form of slower two handed axes, hammers, glaives, and various fist weapons that allow for fast attacks and damage reduction. On top of that there are tons of models for all of these, so it never feels boring. Death also acquires his brother Strife's pistol, Redemption allowing for quick ranged attacks. All of these weapons and abilities can be used in combination during combat making fights a shit load of fun. Worth noting as well for those of us who are just sick of it, is that there are quite happily no quick time events in Darksiders 2. The closest we get to that is when Death weakens a foe enough to execute them. This will mark the enemy and when the player hits the "interact" button Death will instantly kill that enemy in a dramatic fashion. Or the occasional button mash to break free of being frozen in place, but thankfully this title lets us players fight our own battles.
During the game's story Death also procures special abilities that help him traverse the world and can even help in combat. These abilities will also unlock access to items and chests and hidden areas in places he's already been. Exploration is very helpful, look in every corner, nook and cranny. For a lot of people this game mechanic is tedious, but I'll say now that backtracking is minimal and totally optional. I for one love this mechanic when it's handled properly and Darksiders 2 certainly did that, the rewards can be immensely helpful. Graphics in the Dethinitive Edition, are remastered and they look great. This game is a few years old now, and that's evident just because of the limitations of the game's engine. But man it's held up well. Textures and lighting are great, especially for a game of it's age with no tessellation and little to no displacement mapping. Check out the great bump mapped surfaces here in this image below. Get up close to that wall and turn the camera though and you'll see it's just a plain flat surface.
The only complaint I have speaking to graphics is that there are times when this game doesn't really gel with the newer shaders supported by todays GPU's, resulting in some very occasional pixelation. Really though, this is nit picking.
Level design is fluid and interesting, and each area is filled with super cool visuals. The art direction is stylized and really one of my favorite types of presentation. The folks in charge of creature design deserve medals. Some of the lesser monsters seem kind of generic but I'm talking about things like skeletons here, and really how many differences can one put in to a skeleton. My favorite creatures are the enormous leviathans that are forced into servitude by the Lord of Bones and made to pull his ghost ship through the skies of the Realm of the Dead. Death's horse Despair, looks appropriately scary. A sort of emaciated, undead animal surrounded by a swirling cloud of captured souls. Character design in general is really cool, everyone from the Makers to the Demon Lords are uniquely built.Speaking of characters, let's talk about them a bit, hopefully without spoiling anything for anyone who has yet to play this great title. I'll start with the Makers. These ancient peoples live in the Forge Lands and are responsible for the creation of many worlds. They're a spiritual but pragmatic bunch, and are basically big mountain dwarves.
Next a brief talk of the Undead Lords in the Realm of the Dead. Well, very brief really. I can't say much about them without loosing spoilers on the unsuspecting. Other than to say that they are a spectral bunch who Death struggles to get along with.
The Angels of Lost Light, are not the typical bright and holy beings people believe them to be. Instead they're more like zealotous soldiers for their great Archon. They are also the sole occupants of the now post apocalyptic Earth that War, left behind. Tenuous allies, but allies none-the-less.
The Black Stone is home to the Demon Lords. These folks are few and about as trustworthy as one could expect. Unfortunately this is an area that Death spends very little time in. This kind of sucks because there's a really great game mechanic here that isn't used anywhere else.
Music is also very nice in Darksiders 2, in the fact that most of it is just there for ambience, playing subtly in the background providing mood for each area. During combat it's a bit more in the foreground, which makes sense, since the mood focuses on what's happening right now in fight situations. And in fact there's a soundtrack for sale separately for $5.00.
Dialogue options are usually pretty clear and voice acting is very good. Each character has something unique to contribute to Death's story, so talk to everyone. Quest lines are easy to follow and marked clearly on both the world and local maps. Fast travel is available from the overworld map itself but the way it's handled takes some getting used to. Instead of clicking on where you want to go, you'll have to drag the entire map to align the location with a sort of box type crosshair. Once that's done you'll have the opportunity to select it for travel. This of course doesn't work in combat but it can be pretty convenient because if you're in a dungeon and find yourself full of inventory items, or perhaps out of health potions you can fast travel from right where you are to a safe area. This will leave a waypoint where you were in the dungeon to travel back to once you've restocked supplies and sold your overburden lessening down time greatly.Like every game, this one has it's issues. The platforming for instance is pretty polished, but it's not perfect. There are times when climbing a surface that controls may be less than responsive while trying to leap to another, or just let go. There's nothing game breaking about this, it's just a slight frustration. Even if Death falls off a ledge to his...uhh...death, it's no big deal. He just respawns nearest to where he leapt off as he can be, with no penalties other than having to get back to where he needs to go. He is Death afterall, pretty hard to kill a guy who is the personification of the action. This game is also very good with its autosaves. Which is nice because I experienced a few game crashes here and there for which I could never find a pattern. It was rare but it happened, and seemingly at random.
UPDATE: I may have found a pattern to the seemingly random crashes in-game. They seem to happen only during combat and so far the pattern seems to be during a particularly damaging "Harvest" attack that hits a large group of enemies. I've been able to re-create the situation a couple of times now. Let me know in comments if anyone else has found this to be true as well. -Thanks.And of course there must be the obligatory area that everyone hates to have to do. That particular place in Darksiders 2 is called the Soul Arbiter's Maze, and luckily for all of us it's totally optional. I highly recommend completing this section of the game anyway because the rewards are worth it. There are map pages throughout the dead realm that tell you exactly how to get through, it's just that the maze itself is tedious. So here's the rundown. You'll enter the maze and be warned that once you start you can't leave unless you complete it or die trying. That statement refers to each stage of the maze, not the entire maze itself. You'll spawn into a circular arena with cardinal directions posted around you. The objective is to fight all the enemies that challenge you in the room to unlock the exit portals and then travel in the direction you need to go. Each room is the same as the last for each section and you'll gain zero experience for combat in any of them except the boss room. This is done to prevent level farming but it still blows. Each stage has an optional secret that you can reach by going in the proper direction before you progress downward and the rewards can be very helpful. There is no reverse travel. So I'll lay out a stage arbitrarily to provide an example. Enter room: fight monsters, travel North, repeat the previously stated, travel West, repeat, travel South, Open secret chest and collect reward. Enter room, fight monsters, travel West, repeat, travel North, repeat, travel North, repeat, travel West, progress to next stage. If Death is defeated or makes a wrong turn he must start the entire stage over. There are ten stages of this and then a boss. It's slow, boring, tedious work but there is a reason to do it.
This brings me to boss battles, which are really well thought out, great fights that include mechanics and require strategies to complete successfully. This can be anything from learning when to dodge an attack, or run in a circle and avoid projectiles, to using special acquired abilities at the proper moment. Every boss encounter is satisfying to play out. Perhaps one of the first actual bosses you'll see comes from a side quest and is an elemental construct called Gorewood. It's a hulking swamp monster that hits like a truck and also fires a sort of homing projectile that will engulf Death and root him in place while doing damage over time and the player must mash a button to break free. So learning the battle is pretty fun. The fight takes place in a semi-watery open area. You'll learn the telegraphs and when to dodge Gorewood's physical attacks and fight back when you can, and you'll also learn that the projectile is avoidable. If Death can't avoid the projectile it's best to make sure he's on a dry spot in the area when it hits him since the DoT won't hurt Death if he's on dry land. He'll still be stuck in place, but won't take a potentially fight ending amount of damage. Every boss is unique and everyone has their favorites, one of my personal favorites is The Wailing Host boss, but I won't go into the fight.One of the great things about Darksiders 2 is that there's a new game plus mode. I've always had love for that option. Also beating the campaign unlocks new difficulty modes that differ from the difficulty slide bar in the options menu. New game plus is necessary to complete an area called The Crucible, another optional arena with waves of monsters, though not as tedious as the Soul Aribiter's Maze. This one has 100 levels and a boss, but it contains legendary items and there's no maze aspect. I started new game plus a day or so ago and I'm still loving the time spent playing.Ok, ok, that's about enough from me on this title so I'll go ahead and conclude this. Would I recommend Darksiders 2 Dethinitive Edition? Yes, I think it's worth the current asking price of $30.00 and if you don't agree then I imagine it'll be on sale here and there so keep an eye out. It's definitely worth playing through at least once, and so by the way is the first Darksiders game. War is whole different animal than Death and his story and struggle is just as interesting to go through. I really hope Nordic will bring a 3rd installment to the table and do so without changing too much of what makes this series great. Rumor has been going around and I've even seen articles that claim to confirm it, but provide no real confirmation. Guys, if you like great story telling, gear hunting, and exploration of well designed visually impressive areas, then you'll love this game.
System Requirements for Darksiders 2 Dethinitive Edition are as follows:
OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista SP1, Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10 (64bit)
Processor: 2.0Ghz Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor or AMD equivalent
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA 9800 GT 512 MB Video Card or AMD equivalent
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Storage: 13 GB available space
Sound Card: DirectX compatible Sound card
OS: Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10 (64bit)
Processor: Any Quad-core AMD or Intel Processor
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 512MB Video Card or AMD equivalent
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Storage: 13 GB available space
Sound Card: DirectX compatible Sound card