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Darksiders II in Review (Finally!)

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Darksiders II, so even though this is my final review, I’m going to keep it fairly brief. Well, brief for me, which sometimes can be one sentence and a puppy picture. Sometimes it’s three thousand words of poorly developed “humor”.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I absolutely loved this game. I found it to be better than its predecessor in every way, save the ending, by blending multiple game styles into a satisfying whole that provided ample challenge for those interested in seeking it out but never so steep a learning curve that progression is impossible.

One of my favorite episodes of Friends is “The One Where Ross Got High”. Without getting too far into it, Rachel and Monica make Thanksgiving dinner and Rachel’s attempt to make a trifle gets spoiled when two different recipe pages get stuck together during the cooking process. The result is a mash-up of a trifle and a Shepard’s Pie. Everyone hates it but Joey, because, in his words, “What’s not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, Goooooooood.” That sentiment sums up my feelings on Darksiders II, and the original Darksiders for that matter.

Does this franchise borrow liberally from other games? Sure it does, but it blends these borrowed parts so deftly and with such care and obvious love for the source material that it doesn’t matter. Besides, what’s not to like? Zelda dungeons and exploration, good. Diablo style loot and skill progression, good. Craftable weapons that allow you to cater your weapon to your build’s strengths? Goooooood. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love the Zelda games and there’s nothing wrong about a Zelda game with teeth that comes out more frequently than the ponderously slow Nintendo machine chooses to spit them out.

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I mentioned that the ending wasn’t as good as the rest of the game, but these days, I think it’s to be expected so I wasn’t surprised. Plus, this game is a prequel so I already knew that Death’s plan to restore humanity didn’t exactly go as planned as War’s return to Earth a good hundred years later was completely humanity-free. Plus, we know that at the end of War’s journey, his fellow horsemen come to his aid, so in a way, I already knew the ending of this story. The ending of this game was just another step towards that ending of that game.

One thing I will say is that the ending of this game, particularly the last two boss battles, features some absolutely stellar voice work. Michael Wincott, of “The Crow” fame provided Death’s voice, and over the course of the game, his delivery goes from the cocky words of a man (nephilim) that doesn’t realize the enormity of the task ahead of him, to the tired, resigned speech of someone who just wants to be done with it all. By the time he fights Samael, you can tell that he’s tired of fighting, tired of killing and that he just wants Samael to hand over the key rather than make them both fight to the death over it.

At the time that I finished the game, I felt that the last two boss battles were underwhelming, but the more I thought about it, the less I felt that way. The reason that these bosses were underwhelming is because I put in the time, doing side quests, finding artifacts, building my skills and weapons so that they complimented each other. These bosses were a push over, in part of because how they were designed, but in large part due to the fact that I put in the goddamn work. The notion that every boss battle has to be the peak of an uphill climb certainly has its place in some games, but at the same time, there’s something to be said about rewarding a player for putting in the time by allowing them to be an unstoppable engine of chaos. After all, Death is the destroyer of worlds. Oppenheimer said so.

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When I was on the Quarter to Three games podcast, Tom asked me if I felt that was the game was too long. I didn’t at the time and I still don’t now that my 35 hour long journey has ended. There was only one point in the game, midway through the Soul Arbiter’s maze, where I felt that things were starting to grind. Luckily, I could sidestep most of it and get right to the end, hour long boss battle and all. I can certainly see why 35 hours may seem like a long time for someone, but for me, I was happy to keep on keeping on, slaying monsters, building up Death and spending more time in all of the well designed dungeons. Hell, as soon as I was finished I started the game right back up so that I can get to level 30 and then take on all 100 levels of the crucible.

I know that I’ve talked a lot about Darksiders II, and with this post, I think we can call it a day. I don’t regret spending so much ink on this game though, as I think that those of us with an audience have a responsibility to champion the games that we love and let those responsible for making them know that we want more of them. I loved Darksiders, I loved Darksiders II and I very much want more Darksiders games in the future. If the cost of that is multiple posts and possibly wearing out my welcome, then I’m happy to pay it.


Brandon loves games, which shouldn't be a surprise given where you're reading this. He has written for GameShark, The Escapist and G4, and made them all less relevant as a result.

6 thoughts to “Darksiders II in Review (Finally!)”

  1. Still loving it, ten hours in.

    The satisfaction at solving some of the puzzles is the best outside a Zelda. The team at Vigil does not get near enough credit for their dungeon and puzzle design.

    The loot system is also so much damn fun.

    Talk all you like, I want more of these games too.

    1. I think you’re being a little… whimsical, but you you definitely hit home with the review; it’s a solid game that does a lot of things right. It’s a good experience and you’ll have fun playing it, but they’re are some serious issues to point out.

      The camera gets you killed more often than difficult enemies, why cant you fast travel to the beginning of dungeon, sometimes its very unclear WHERE you’re supposed to go (despite having a crow to guide you). I could be just whining, but been i’ve extremely frustrated with some unclear moments in the game that is usually: beat-you-over-the-head obvious with what you’re supposed to do next.

      1. You can fast travel to the beginning of a dungeon. Just switch to the overworld map and then pick the dungeon. Fast travel there and boom, you’re right outside the entrance. Not sure if that addresses your complaint or not.

        As for camera issues, I only had problems once or twice and it didn’t result in a death so I didn’t complain.

    2. At about twenty hours in, I’m enjoying Darksiders II quite a bit even as I begin to feel that it isn’t as well paced as the original.

      Darksiders had a really taut sense of progression where every dungeon, like Zelda, would unlock a new tool that would open up new abilities. The gun, the glaive, the portal gun — there was a lot of incentive to keep playing because I knew the next cool toy wasn’t far away.

      In the sequel, it feels like they decided to space the gadgets much farther apart with the belief that the Great Loot Hunt would fill in the gaps. It leads to long stretches of game play where, while I might get a few percentage points stronger, I don’t have the satisfaction of unlocking an new way of interacting with the world.

      Looking at the moment-to-moment game play, though, I like the flow of the combat and traversal systems in Darksiders II more than the first, so it comes out to kind of a push on which one is “better.”

      1. I think they both have merit, and get what you’re saying there.

        As you and Brandon have both noted, the pace is positively laconic compared to the first game. I suspect this largely was designed to give the loot system room to breathe, otherwise it would have so little impact as to be inconsequential.

        You could argue that giving a wider variety of goodies might make up for this and land us somewhere in the middle, but it depends on how you like the loot system to begin with. I am enjoying it because I love the way I look progressively more bad-ass, and feeding things to the possessed weapons justifies the entire system in a go for me :P.

  2. Good timing, I just finished my first playthrough of this myself!

    I have to say, I agree with the pacing issues. Darksiders 1 felt much better paced. One reason is there were less dungeons, so you got a new ability in each one. Now more dungeons where you don’t actually gain a new ability is not really an issue. You can design interesting puzzles that are unique to that dungeon, such as the whole riding the Custodians and using the chain thing in the later Forge Lands dungeons.

    The second reason is that, when I reached the final boss in Darksiders 1, I knew damn well going in that this was the final boss. The final dungeon was the largest one, so large it was split into several distinct sections that you didn’t backtrack through. It was crystal clear that this was the climax of the game. In Darksiders 2, I literally had no idea I was facing the final boss. I’m not kidding.

    Getting the Angel Key was pretty easy: a gauntlet of enemies on Earth and one “real” dungeon in The White Citadel, plus the Archon boss fight. The Demon Key was just pathetic, really. The Black Stone was tiny compared to other dungeons, and it took me no time at all to get through it. A basic boss fight with Samael and he just hands me the key. Then I go straight to the final boss, who doesn’t even look like a final boss. You just pound on him until he dies. No utilizing your special abilities, nothing. Then the game just ends, saying “Yup, that was indeed the final boss.” And I’m all like “What? That was it?” I dare say this was one of the worst final bosses I’ve ever experienced.

    Now let me say something positive. The first half of Darksiders 2 is amazing. Like, seriously amazing. When I finished the Forge Lands, I was confident in declaring that this is a better Zelda game than the actual Zelda games in recent years. Unfortunately, this is easily the best part of the game.

    The Forge Lands is amazing. It’s a totally cohesive area with a lovely design with plenty of variety as you explore. It’s got the most side quests of all the major areas. It’s got four major dungeons to go through, and you go through fire, then water, then learning the Custodians in The Lost Temple, then a combined fire/water dungeon with Custodians to tie it all together, and it ends with a massive Shadow of the Colossus style boss fight with The Guardian. There’s a wonderful sense of progression to the whole thing. This world has its own mini story arc. Plus, it has several optional dungeons for side quests, and a couple optional bosses to hunt down. It’s easily the most well crafted part of the entire game.

    It feels to me like everything after The Dead Plains was rushed. Maybe they just ran out of time, but for whatever reason, it felt like the game just decided to end at a random point when nothing much out of the ordinary was happening. You got the cool portal ability and you only get to use it in one dungeon, then you get the classic “move between two versions of the same area” mechanic with the time portals and you use those even less! For all the praise those four guys who founded the studio give Ocarina of Time as the best Zelda game (which I do not dispute), perhaps they should pay attention to the pacing at the end of that game. You use every single ability you gained throughout the game to get to the top of Ganon’s Tower, and OoT has easily one of the best final boss fights of all time, and it’s totally obvious going in that “OMG THIS IS THE FINAL BOSS R U READY?!” That’s what you should be aiming for.

    Gah, this came out so much more negative than I was intended it to sound. Darksiders 2 is a very good game overall. It totally combines all these disparate elements into a cohesive experience. I was honestly amazed playing through the first half of the game, because I kept saying to myself “This shouldn’t be working. This game should be collapsing under its own weight.” But it totally does work! I’m amazed they managed to cram this much stuff into the game and still have all these systems work together well. It just seems my fears about them biting off more than they could chew were not unfounded.

    I’m not going to start a New Game Plus just yet, because I want to let it breath and let them hopefully release all the DLC first. Then I can experience all the new content along with hunting down all the optional stuff for good. I’m still glad I bought it, and the Season Pass for all the DLC, because nobody else is making anything like this and I do want to support it. Let’s make Darksiders 3 better than the first two combined!

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