Sunday, September 23, 2012

Darksiders II

It's Darksiders, But Newer!

What's more frigtening than the Grim Reaper, what with his big, nasty scythe and his skeletal body adorned in an intimidating black cloak? How about a pastel colored dude who rides a glowing, green demon-horse and wields two scythes?

I'm not sure if Death and the Grim Reaper are the same person/demon/thing or not, but in Darksiders II, you play the Horseman of the Apocalypse creatively named Death (John the Revelator evidently wasn't much for names), and he doesn't really look as scary as the legendary, big, hooded dude. That doesn't mean he's not ninja as fuck, though, because he lays waste to pretty much every being that crosses his path.

Darksiders was a sleeper hit in the year it came out, which was sometime in the past, but looking it up would resemble working and I'm not going to do it. It was such a hit, in fact, that THQ figured a sequel was financially justified. In the original, you played Horseman War, who was angry, mostly because he had no sense of fashion, and whoever dressed him didn't have one, either. Thus, he wandered lots of planes of existence and murdered pretty much everything that moved. Eventually (SPOILERS) the game ended, and the sequel lets you play his brother, Death, who wanders planes and murders, but not so angrily.

A Day in the Life of Death
In fact, Death is pretty chill. That's because he's purple and blue. He doesn't really raise his voice or get very angry, which leads me to believe he carries a one-hitter somewhere in his armor or maybe his fanny pack.

He also carries a pair of nasty scythes and a varying secondary weapon, and you can swap out both weapons for newer, deadlier ones as you find loot. That's right: Taking a page from Borderlands, this action game features an RPG-like loot system, and also, just like the original, leveling to hone your character's abilities. See, when I said Death is ninja as fuck, I didn't mean right away. He starts out more like Marine as heck, and eventually achieves the ninja as fuck status later on.

The More Things Change

Death doesn't stoop to opening doors - he has
magical glowey hands to do that.
Darksiders II is strikingly similar to Darksiders. The colorful, graphic novel inspired art; the ambiance; the overall gameplay - if you played the first, you'll feel a sense of immediate familiarity with the second. The platforming aspects are almost untouched, in that Death can run on walls and grab convenient rails to skitter along over lava and precarious drops. Where War had a glaive, Death eventually acquires a (SPOILER) gun, so long distance kills are possible. Even those wads of explosive rocks made the transition, and are used in a very similar manner to solve puzzles.

Puzzle solving is cool and all, but this isn't Sudoku. The action is really where it's at, and Darksiders II delivers. Few enemies drop with just a few hits; most come packing a real fight. Bosses are typically huge and sometimes frustrating. In fact, allow me to rant for a moment.

It's time someone came up with a better, or at least newer, boss system. Bosses haven't changed very much since Mario first took on Bowser, and that whole find-the-pattern-and-do-damage-and-then-the-pattern-changes-and-finally-the-boss-dies thing is getting freaking old. The one saving grace in terms of Darksiders II is that there aren't quicktime event finishes, which I was beginning to think were required by law stemming from the popularity of the God of War games.

If my horse looked like this, no one would fuck with me.
So yeah, bosses.

What else?

There's a story somewhere in there, but it's more fun to ignore it and just kill stuff. Also, Death's horse is way cool.

If I were rich, I still wouldn't buy Darksiders II at retail price. Wait for the Steam holiday sale and see if it drops to around $30 - that's a perfect price point for this game. It's really good, just short of great, very short of masterpiece, but hella better than awful.

My seven word recommendation:

You'll dig it if you liked Darksiders!

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