The term action-RPG is often thrown around a lot in the hack and slash category of gaming – after all, character progression is a great way to drive players to keep playing a game and find satisfaction in doing all sorts of leveling requirement. Darksiders 2 manages to deliver a pretty lukewarm RPG sense of gameplay. The good thing is that the combat is nice and fluid, keeping the ‘action’ part of the game alive and well.
Another Open World
The charm of free-roaming in action games is pretty hard to beat, but an open world environment is always a double edged sword. Sure, you will have plenty of places to explore as well as nooks and crannies to discover, but it also means that there are plenty of areas devoid of any actual content and are simply there to create the feeling of being in a large world.
One other problem that open world environments have is that it tends to encourage developers to be lazy with designing proper quests –a large chunk of Darksiders 2 is spent performing fetch quests (basically errands where you have to collect a certain number of stuff). A few of these in any game is fine, but Darksiders has a huge amount of it so expect to encounter those a lot more than you would probably want.
Movement and Combat
Since the game is open world, it is entirely up to players whether they would waste their time exploring or moving on to key objectives –which usually mean exploring more linear-designed dungeons; this is where the game gets more interesting and fun to play.
The lead character, the Horseman of Death (or simply, Death), gets around by moving on foot or by riding a horse (ergo, horseman). But this is not the only way to get around –certain items such as the Death Grip and the Voidwalker allow the player to traverse unique locations where obstacles would block more conventional travelling methods. Some players would find that moving around in this game is a lot like Prince of Persia –and it is. There are parts where you can wall run, shimmy along ledges, and several other parkour-esque techniques.
In battles, Death is armed with two hand held scythes (looking somewhat like doubled tipped sickles) –players can also equip a large heavy weapon for dealing slower but stronger attacks (through maces, hammers, axes, etc) or lighter weapons (such as claws, gauntlets, etc) for dealing quick combo attacks.
Fighting enemies is rather easy –once you earn enough combos, dealing with most encounters is a simple matter of playing it safe and attacking at every opening. It can get pretty repetitive though there are a few enemies that can break up the pace since they will require different strategies to be beaten (too bad it does not happen often enough).
The boss fights are where its' at. Following the larger-than-life battles that God of War is known for, Darksiders' Death gets to face off against gigantic enemies with pretty interesting attack patterns. Aside from being exciting battles, the boss fights are actually really nice to look at from a visual perspective.
Looks Better but Feels the Same
If you have played the first Darksiders game, then you would quickly realize that this is not really a sequel –the events of this game happen around the same time as the events of the first. While the first game's protagonist, War is doing his thing, Death must also accomplish a different set of objectives. It ties up the two games quite nicely and in this regard, the game's writing gets pretty creative (which is a good change of pace). We also love the fact that playing as Death can be quite entertaining thanks to the voice acting.
The overall delivery of Darksiders 2 is rather good –the music picks up when there are big events and the sound effects of attacks are so solid and crunchy. The voice acting is particularly good even if the script itself could use a little more work. Visually, it looks exactly like a game featuring the Horsemen of the Apocalypse should look; full of dark shadows, gothic textures, and lots and lots of odd detailing on character models. The game's visuals are a couple of lightning bolts short of a heavy metal album cover, and we figure that some of you folks might really enjoy that.
The Verdict: A Filler Kind of Game
We highly recommend picking Darksiders 2 up if you are the type of play who likes all things hack and slash –sure the combat may not be anything special, but the game manages to deliver it just right to be enjoyable. Finishing the game's main campaign should not take too long either, making it a great in-between title to play while waiting for big releases. Best of all, it is incredibly easy to learn and be good at –making it a great introductory game for those new to the genre.