Darksiders was a surprise hit a few years back, giving us an almost 50-50 hybrid of The Legend of Zelda and Soul Reaver. Sounds like it wouldn’t work, right? Well it did, giving us exploration and adventure to rival any of Link’s legendary sortees and combat and traversal to put Raziel to shame. It told the story of the Horseman War, punished for inadvertently kicking off the Apocalypse and wiping out humanity. While the first game dealt with War’s quest to clear his name while shattering angelic spines with his enormous sword, the sequel tells the synonymous story of his brother Death, who sets out to vindicate War by reversing his cock-up.
In almost every way possible, Darksiders II improved on the already excellent original, and it’s not much of a stretch to say it was one of last generation’s best adventure games. Yes, it was that good. In fact, the only thing that really lets it down is the ending, which stops dead on an unsatisfying cliffhanger setting up a third game that never came.
So, that’s enough gushing. The people who loved it will know what I’m talking about – but what about those who missed it? Lots did, as it wasn’t overly hyped by the publisher, and the developer, Vigil, tragically closed at the same time as THQ. If you did miss it, then this is essential.
You’re cast as the Grim Reaper himself, voiced by gravelly British thesp Michael Wincott, and charged to clear your brother’s name. Armed with twin Scythes and a pistol called Redemption, the aim is to navigate a network of underworlds that borrow bits and pieces from half a dozen different religious myths, most notably Christian and Norse. It’s all heavily bastardised though, eschewing pious posturing in favour of outright sci-fi fantasy.
Time is split three ways between vertical traversal reminiscent of the Prince of Persia at his best, fast-paced combo-based combat and environmental puzzle solving. The level design is superb, always intuitive and easy to navigate, and the combat is deep enough to demand that you don’t just mash buttons to win. Jumping, swinging, mantling, and wall-running are the order of the day, while most puzzles are of the “pull lever, open door, roll giant ball, open gate” variety, but Death’s constantly evolving skillset means you’ll be revisiting areas regularly to mop up collectibles.
There’s also a dedicated leveling and loot system, adding an RPG sheen to proceedings. Gear drops from enemies and chests in the classic colour-coded fantasy RPG tiers, so you can swap out armour, gloves, boots, shoulder-pads, weapons, and amulets to increase your power. For the most part, the difficulty stays on an even keel, but a mid-game arena requires more skill and better gear of you want to win the best rewards. Some of the loot is a bit arbitrary, and you’ll constantly pick up stuff you don’t need for ages before finally finding something worth a damn, but that’s the way these things often go. It’s hardly game-breaking, but it can be tiring.
Shipping with all the DLC, Deathinitive Edition is also optimised to 1080p with a locked framerate. It’s slick and mostly free of visual glitches, and the pesky screen tear that bugged the original version is a thing of the past. It’s still not what you’d call a “beautiful” game, but it’s noticeably smoother and sharper than it was before.
Ultimately, one of the best games of the last gen is now playable on current consoles, and that’s something to celebrate. If you missed this before, grab it now; if you didn’t, grab it anyway. It’s absolutely worth another run-through and every penny might just help us get a third game in the next few years, which alone is worth the price of entry. Had this been bundled with a remastered version of Darksiders, the package would be perfect. As it stands, it’s a slightly better version of an already brilliant game.
Massive, compelling adventure.
Optimised to 1080p.
Includes all DLC.
Still not beautiful.
Not Darksiders III.