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Darksiders II Review

Mike Kayatta | 14 Aug 2012 16:00
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Between the puzzles, and filling up the dungeons are an army of enemies that somehow have the notion that trying to kill Death is a good idea. Tearing these baddies limb-from-limb with your Reaper's blade is fun work, and a fine combination of gleeful button mashing and strategy. Many of the combos are performed through easy single-button sequences, while more advanced maneuvers often add delays instead of extra buttons, making bungled timing simply drop you into a different combo rather than leave you vulnerable for the mistake. This really helps you hone in on the level of complexity you're most comfortable with without making you feel like you aren't doing enough to use Death at his best.

You've got a few other tricks up your sleeve as well, including a few selectable spells, a gun for long range shooting, and a customizable secondary weapon - usually a choice between something strong, large, and slow or something weak, short, and fast. The unlockable abilities do less for the game than they probably should, but a satisfying loot system helps keep things fresh with each encounter. New weapons, as well as upgraded versions of your scythes and sections of armor, can all be found as drops from common enemies, bosses, and treasure chests, adding a smart layer of customization and strategy to mere move-mashing on the battlefield. There's even a small bit of crafting involved; certain weapons you find are possessed (read: upgradable) and will level as you "feed" them with other items you can't use, absorbing their traits and gaining as much power as you're willing to give them from your valuable stash. It feels pretty rewarding to know that every time you find an amulet, pair of boots, or axe you don't need that it can still be put to good use strengthening something that you do. The system adds import and chance to each common encounter, helping to keep enemies more exciting than mere unwelcome delays to your travels across the map.

Still, while there's a lot on offer, there's also a certain amount of final polish lacking from many of the game's elements that can hinder what's otherwise a fantastic experience. Aside from Dust's consistent rebellion, certain surfaces and ledges aren't as well-defined as others, often causing Death to perform awkwardly when against them, usually by means of an animation glitch or quick, accidental tumble down a lava pit. The robust menu, while thorough, is also somewhat of a chore to access between small loading-delays and a layout that fails to prioritize the three things you likely use it for most: the map, your loot, and active quests.

Then, there's Death himself - a pointlessly acerbic, unlikable protagonist who seems rewritten for nearly every situation he faces. Sometimes he's just being senselessly rude to those trying to help him, such as calling his savior by an unwelcome nickname, while later arbitrarily defending the actions of that same person when he did nothing to deserve it. Death, in the case of Darksiders II, is not supposed to be evil, but instead a force of balance on a quest of justice; it just feels lazy when he's overly grim, egotistical, or obnoxious at random times.

Fortunately, Death is a Horseman of few words, and the story often takes a backseat to the wealth of gameplay and expansive environments. Despite its quirks, Darksiders II really delivers on the breadth of its content, making for a sweeping experience that fans of multiple genres should be happy to explore if willing to look past a couple of hiccups along the way.

Bottom Line: Darksiders II is a great game with a wealth of content, combing elements of numerous other games (and well) from within an interesting world ready to explore.

Recommendation: Fans of loot hunting, third-person brawlers, and puzzle-solving should all find something extremely worthwhile in Darksiders II.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Game: Darksiders II
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: THQ
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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