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Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition

Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Nordic Games
Developer: Gunfire Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

If you didnít play Darksiders II when it came out, I have two things to say to you. First: shame on you. Second: you can redeem yourself now with Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition. While the future of this comics-inspired action adventure series is very much in question, its past is worth celebrating, even though its barely half a decade old. And while I enjoy Darksiders for what it is, this side story is a superior game in nearly every way. Itís more focused, better-looking and sounding, deeper, and more rewarding. And itís in top form with this re-release.

Darksiders II may have some rather grim subject matter, but like its predecessor, itís a very colorful game. Can you imagine what a Saturday morning cartoon developed specifically for adults would look like? If you can't, just play Darksiders II and call it a day. In both cutscenes and gameplay, the characteristic style and flair of legendary comic book artist Joe Madureira shines through. While Death bears more than a passing resemblance to The Darkness's Jackie Estacado in full Darkness armor, this is more of a living graphic novel. It aims for a more cartoon-like style than a realistic one, which is an excellent design decision. The Forge Lands feel natural but very alien; its varied landscapes and environments evoke our own at times, but the flora and fauna that call these lands home are anything but earthly. And this, the Deathinitive Edition, is by far the best it's ever looked.

That same cartoony charm extends to much of the voice acting, which is perfectly hammy. Each word uttered by our hero just oozes contempt and impatience, as befits anyone bearing his moniker. In the heat of combat or during the game's quieter moments, he's all business. The sense of urgency is absolutely palpable; everything Death comes across is yet another obstacle between him and his brother. Jesper Kyd's soundtrack deserves special mention, as well; it's a lovely bit of work that does a good job of inspiring whatever emotion the game needs you to feel at any given moment.


Gameplay:

Darksiders II runs parallel to Darksiders. War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, has been framed for bringing a premature beginning to the Endwar, destroying mankind, and inadvertently incurring massive losses for the Kingdom of Heaven. As War is off on his journey to find the real culprits behind his untimely summoning, a second horseman sets off on his own quest to prove Warís innocence and to resurrect humanity from extinction. Who better to bring life than Death? Alas, Deathís quest starts off with a massive stumble, and through a series of unfortunate events, he finds himself stranded in the Forge Lands, a fantastical land populated by the Makers, a giant race of human-like beings who happen to be the architects of creation. If Death can reach the Tree of Life, he can bring back mankind, thus erasing Warís alleged crime. But the Forge Lands are riddled with a mysterious "Corruption," and Death realizes he must do what he does best in order to earn the help of the Makers and complete his own quest.

Darksiders II is an action adventure in the same vein as The Legend of Zelda; a series of MacGuffins lay at the heart of a series of dungeons, all of which are spread out across a vast open world full of secrets and collectibles. You summon your trusty horse Despair and strike out, slaying Corrupted enemies, solving puzzles, assisting the Makers, and growing ever more powerful by gaining experience and finding loot. It's a vicious, addictive cycle that keeps the rewards coming until the credits roll.

Deathís adventure in the Forge Lands is certainly epic in terms of scale, but itís definitely a guided experience. Youíll always know exactly where you need to go, and while you can venture off the beaten path to hunt for collectibles, you wonít find yourself losing hours upon hours on anything that isnít at least tangentially related to the primary quest.

Purchasing the Deathinitive Edition gets you the remastered original game, as well as all of its downloadable content packages: The Abyssal Forge, The Demon Lord Belial, and Argul's Tomb being the three story-based expansions and the Angel of Death pack providing a slew of enhanced weaponry, armor, and cosmetic additions.


Difficulty:

For all its imposing imagery and evocations of Armageddon, Darksiders II is quite an easy game. Combat has a certain flow to it, and it wonít take long for anyone with the least bit of action gaming experience to attune themselves to its rhythms. Itís really all about thrashing away at enemies until itís time to get out of the way, and then itís back to the fray. On top of that, Health and Wrath potions are plentiful enough to keep you topped off even when fighting cosmic horrors that are several times Deathís size.

Darksiders II balances its impressive suite of combat mechanics with exploration and puzzle-solving, and it does so with a superb sense of pacing. All of this is built around a challenge level that gradually increases as you progress. Nothing feels out of place or out of order; it's airtight. Oddly enough, the one concession intended to make the game easier is ultimately the most useless thing in the entire game. And that dishonor goes to Death's crow companion Dust, who is generally as unhelpful as any random blackbird.


Game Mechanics:

Innovation isnít Darksiders IIís thing. A single playthrough of it is more than enough to reveal its core inspirations. Dungeon design based on special items, fast-paced and gory combat, a loot system, and agility-based platforming? But while itís completely fair to say that Darksiders II doesnít have an original bone in its body, itís more important to note that its skeletal structure is remarkable. To be fair, none of what it does may be best in class, but all of it is positively excellent nonetheless.

Would it really be a game about Death himself if he didn't get to do some good old-fashioned reaping? Combat in Darksiders II is fast and exciting, even though it relies on the same two-pillar combination system that so many other combat-heavy action games make use of. Death can equip primary and secondary weapons; primaries are generally some variant of twin scythes, and secondaries can range from warhammers and maces to axes and glaives.

Weapons and armor are found in treasure chests, as well as loot drops. As it is in most games with loot systems, you'll acquire a lot of useless junk. But you have more of a choice here; you can either sell it, gift it to friends, or sacrifice them to level up special Possessed weapons.

Darksiders II weaves an incredibly tight web of mechanics and gameplay pillars, all of which feed into each other several times over the course of the adventure. As Death clears out dungeon after dungeon, he discovers magical items which are used in both puzzle-solving and as secondary combat applications. And as he slices and dices his way through the legions of Corrupted beasts, he levels up and earns skill points which can then be slotted into a smartly-designed tree of potential abilities.

Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition is a gorgeous, richly detailed revisiting of an already fantastic power fantasy that should still have fans of the genre clamoring for more. And so help me, I really do want to see more from this series.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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