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Darksiders 2 reviews begin: the VG247 verdict

Tuesday, 14th August 2012 17:43 GMT By Dave Cook

Darksiders 2 is out this week in the States, kicking off the pre-holiday rush of game releases. Has THQ got a winner on its hands? Dave Cook rides with Death to find out.

With a smaller release slate focused on quality, as well as a reshuffled pack of talent, publisher THQ has its sights set on resurgence, and in Darksiders 2, it most certainly has a winner on its hands. Cast from the same mould as the Zelda series and showing similarities to Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Vigil’s follow-up is a solid start to the pre-Christmas release calendar.

Set around the same time as the original Darksiders, Earth is ravaged by a premature apocalypse and one of the four horsemen War is being blamed for the mix-up. His brother Death refuses to believe that War is to blame, and sets off in search for the tree of life to clear his name.

It doesn’t take long for parallels with Zelda – specifically Ocarina of Time – to appear, as Death navigates his way through the starting dungeon. It’s cramped, it’s dark and Death’s move set is restricted to a few light and heavy swipes. It’s nothing to ring home about, but that’s the point.

Before long you’ll be walking out on to the grassy expanse of the game’s sprawling mythical world and that cramped starting area now feels insignificant. It’s like taking your first steps into Hyrule field essentially, and the impact here is similar. It’s a sight to behold, thanks in large part to Vigil’s abstract art style and the vibrancy at hand.

So off Death rides on the back of his trusty steed Despair in search of more dungeons to tame, and there are many – some central to the plot, others are tucked away, hiding new gear and items needed to complete side quests. There is much to discover and you may quickly realise that Darksiders 2 is no mere weekend distraction, it’s a real time sink.

Town hubs are where Death will be given most of his quests, and they are also places for players to learn new skills, stock up on supplies and potions, as well as buying new armour or weapons. But for the best part, you will be wading into packs of beasts and mythical constructs, tearing them apart with Death’s fearsome arsenal.

Combat is mapped out across light and heavy attacks. Death always unleashes light attacks with his scythes, working slashes, launchers, air juggles and ground pounds into the mix. It’s a simple system that works well, bolstered by heavy attacks from Death’s secondary weapons, which are mostly massive and include maces, axes and more.

Locking on to enemies during battle works well, backed up by a dependable camera system. However, when locked on to a particular foe, the viewpoint focuses perhaps a little too much, marring your peripheral vision and leaving you open to cheap back or side attacks.

You can use Death’s dodge manoeuvre to keep moving out of your enemy’s range, but on the hardest difficulty setting, cheap deaths due to zoomed lock-on can frustrate, especially when some checkpoints plonk you at the start of an unskippable cut scene before trying the battle again.

Elsewhere, Vigil’s dungeon design is smart, working in a variety of puzzles that see Death rolling circular weights around to activate pressure pads, throwing explosive around and shooting them with his brother Strife’s revolver, and reanimating stone golems and using them to clear rubble and create walkways over pits with their grappling hook.

In typical genre fashion, these dungeons follow set themes. You have an industrial molten lava plant, a lush forest temple and – like Ocarina of Time – a puzzle-riddled water temple. It’s not as pad-smashingly frustrating as Nintendo’s water temple however. Thankfully.

Defeated enemies drop currency, as well as new weapons and armour – sometimes coming with elemental properties such as fire which burns over time, and other attributes. You will also unlock Wrath powers, which see Death summoning ghouls to fight alongside him, unleashing flocks of crows and other moves, including a rather helpful shield skill – which is useful when fighting in the game;s many enclosed arena battles.

Darksiders 2 is a big win for THQ despite a few minor niggles. It may have combat to match God of War, but not the awe-inspiring spectacle. It has the same world and dungeon structure as the Zelda series, but not its heart.

What Darksiders 2 does do however, is deliver a sombre take on the genre, while working in a number of RPG elements to lend a degree of strategy to its hack n’ slash combat mechanics, as well as giving you no shortage of quests to complete and trinkets to unearth.

Vigil is clearly an imaginative bunch too. The studio has created a compelling world that could sustain many more adventures, as well as a solid story to drive progression. Darksiders 2 may not do many things that are new, but as a cohesive whole, the sum of its separate parts gel wonderfully into a complete package worthy of your time.

The pre-Christmas slate has officially begun, and it has most certainly started strong. Darksiders 2 is out now in the US, and launches 21 August across Europe.

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26 Comments

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  1. ejams

    Good job with the review, I (and I’m sure others) would enjoy more of these :D I wasn’t originally planning on getting this but now I just might have to take a look.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Ireland Michael

    So this is basically a review without a score. =P

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Rudderless

    A review without a score is still a review.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. ejams

    @2 – If he scored it, this would become IGN all over again and nobody wants that

    #4 2 years ago
  5. DrDamn

    A review without a score is fantastic, bravo Dave. \o/

    #5 2 years ago
  6. DSB

    Still pretty cautious with this one. A lot of reviews seem to be going with derivative.

    But yeah, good call staying off Metacritic.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Kabby

    Would you say the combat is on the same level as the original game? I found the combat in DS1 fun and meaty at first but it soon became simplistic and repetitive.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Gadzooks!

    Agreed, more scoreless reviews please! Nice work.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Mireilles Fury.

    A review without a arbitrary number/score is the best kind of review, and more places should adopt it.

    So bravo to VG24/7 and Dave for it!

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Kabby

    Rumblings on t’webs are pointing to this being a bare bones port on PC.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. ManuOtaku

    While i do agree the review without score is a good thing, i believe that reviews need at the end of the review as a last part some sort of clasification like recomended, skipable, for rent only, buy it or a seal of approval for the worth getting games , and/or a list of the good things and the bad things.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. OrbitMonkey

    Tl:dr… Where’s the fucking score!!?

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Mireilles Fury.

    But this way you read the whole review, rather then just skimming to the end for the result, and have the information available to make your own decision on whether the product is worth your money or not.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. DSB

    I can’t say I prefer this kind of review though. I see a lot of features and “things that are in the game”, but little about how Dave feels when he plays it.

    I’m definitely more for the personal style of reviewing, not that that’s any real criticism of this one.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. OlderGamer

    Thumbs up for a scoreless review from me too.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Ireland Michael

    I like the idea, but it isn’t a particular great review.

    The writing is fine and splendid, but there is far, far too much exposition on basic gameplay designs and not enough about what is actually good or bad about the title. It feels more like reading an instruction manual.

    Just some constructive criticism.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Fin

    Good job not having a score!

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Dave Cook

    Thanks for all the feedback guys, really unexpected as we didn’t set out to create a review with this one. It was meant to be a factual blog that laid out all the game facts and features clearly – hence the lack of my own personal feelings on it.

    But seriously wow at the reaction this has caused. It’s definitely a case for me to do review in future. I’ll have to speak with Pat about how we approach reviews properly but it’s something we will have a chat about.

    Please keep the suggestions coming, they are all helpful!

    Dave :D

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Ireland Michael

    @18 In that case, a “facts and information” kind of article would be a great idea for a regular future segment.

    You could give me an idea about what kind of content, controls and features people can expect to see in whatever upcoming games you’ve managed to get your hands on, without veering too much into the whole “review” territory.

    Full blown reviews in VG247 would be… odd.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Strange Sultan

    impressive review! i like how you didn’t include review scores. scores sometime affect people’s decisions (damn IMDB). anyway, Darksiders II is a must-have for any actions rpg fan. but im still confused on what system i should get the game. PS3, xbox or PC ????!!!

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Ireland Michael

    @18 P.S. I expect 10% in royalties on all future content created using this idea.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Edo

    Score or GTFO…nah just kiddin’ Dave :D .

    #22 2 years ago
  23. DSB

    I think Metacritic is due for a boycott. The system isn’t fair to either reviewers, games or publishers, so that should really be a big fat nono.

    Anything beyond that is gonna be subjective. The important thing to me is clean cut critique, and the personal touch.

    I think it’s awkward when reviewers list a bunch of flaws, and then proceed to excuse them in the very same sentence. Either something is worth mentioning or it isn’t, but don’t mention something, and then say it’s irrelevant.

    I also feel like the connection gets cut, when reviewers try to tell me what I might think of a game, guessing at how it will be recieved by most of the gaming public, rather than telling me what they thought of it themselves.

    A personal opinion is always going to be worth more than a qualified guess, and as a writer, it gives people the chance to know you, and follow your train of thought. It’s not like you’re ever going to please 10,000 readers, the best you can do is be honest with them.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Sublimeone

    No disrespect – But how can you review this GAME, and link the similarities to just Zelda & God of War and IGNORE the major similarities to Prince of Persia (2008) wall running, jumping …. oh yeah.. not to forget the “CORRUPTION” Story line – at the beginning of the game like that of POP. Come on seriously Virgil. I know nothing is new under the sun, but jeez. Show some creativity.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. Phoenixblight

    @24

    Its Vigil not the character from DMC. ALso the corruption part of the game is the very beginning its not throughout the entire game.

    I enjoy the game immensely and its far better than all of the Prince of Persia series put together.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. Sublimeone

    @ Phoenixblight

    You could have forgiven me – for the mistake-inclusion of the *r. I did mention that it was only the beginning. I have played it, I know the corruption story phases out. My issue was once I started playing, I was like – I have played this game before (light bulb!!!) – I have loved Prince of Persia since the first and even have all the titles on PC/Console. I just felt it was rather too familiar from the get go.

    Don’t get me wrong it is a good game, in my view only a slight step above its predecessor – some things done better here and there, while some other things not so much. .

    Examples
    - The story here, unimpressive. I mean in Darksiders 1, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who liked the side characters – The Watcher Aside (Even with the limited cast). Here, I dont feel the need to root for any body at all, including Death himself.

    In short for me: +ve(s) < -ve(s)

    #26 2 years ago