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Darksiders II: Argul’s Tomb in Review

B. B. King famously wrote that he was paying the cost to be the boss and while his sentiment was aimed at a woman who was less than thrilled with how King spent his time, the phrase kept sticking in my head when thinking about Argul’s Tomb, the first piece of Darksiders II DLC. In my game, Death is the Boss, capital B: level 30, almost the entire Harbinger skill tree maxed out, a pair of scythes that steal health faster than I can lose it. Like I said, Boss, capital B. In this case, the cost of being such a high level boss is that dungeons like Argul’s Tomb hold very little challenge and even less reward.

Is this going to be an issue with other people who were less dedicated to making Death the very best horseman he can be, or those still playing the game? Certainly not, but I can’t be the only one with a high level character and while Argul’s Tomb may have some clever puzzles and an explosively entertaining rail gun section, I think it’s still better suited to those just starting out Death’s adventure, an unfortunate situation given that the game came out a month ago.

One of my biggest problems with Argul’s Tomb is the way that it’s integrated into the rest of Darksiders II, specifically that it isn’t. One of the best parts of the main game was the ability to explore hidden ruins and dungeons as you moved through the main quest. Sure, you may stumble across a puzzle you can’t solve yet, or enemies that were too tough for you, but the feeling of exploration was worth it, made all the more satisfying when you gained some levels or got a new toy and went back to tie up loose ends.

Argul’s Tomb is not a part of the main game, so you won’t come to it while riding around as Death. I accessed it by selecting it from the downloadable content menu in the main menu, so it’s possible that you get a message in a serpent tome or some portal opens up in the main game (something I doubt given the tools you use to navigate Argul’s Tomb), but even if it does, the fact that you can’t see the tomb, or have it show up on your map makes it feel disconnected from the main experience. Granted, Argul’s Tomb exists in an icy world of exile, but still, much of Darksiders II is spent moving from world to world, completing quests, finding items and defeating monsters, so to have this one exist outside the reach of the main game is odd.

Adding to the disconnect is the lack of collectibles. Yes, loot is still available and the plot of the DLC, namely an exploration of what happened to Argul, the boss at the end of the Lair of the Deposed King and the ruler of the Land of the Dead before the Dead King took over, ties in to the main game, but there are no relics or stones or other collectibles to find while looking around. Maybe if you were lower level or still on the lookout for a particular weapon to feed your possessed scythes, the draw of more loot would be enough to set you off and exploring, but for me, more loot just meant more stuff to have to sell or toss out, so looking around wasn’t nearly as interesting without new collectibles to hunt.

The DLC consists of two dungeons and spelunking section made all the more interesting with an explosive firearm. While the cave is nothing but running and gunning, and I mean that in the best way possible, ending in a massive showdown with an army of ice covered skeletons and bone giants, the two dungeons feature the usual mix of combat and puzzle solving found in the main game. Death is given nothing but the portal gun and the death grip, no soul splitting for you, and using these tools in combination is essential to getting to the end of the two dungeons. Portal puzzles is one area that I felt got the short shrift in the main game, so I was glad to see some dungeons requiring you to think about where to place your portals, as well as revisit past portals in order to gain deeper entry into the dungeon.

The DLC won’t take very long, maybe an hour and a half, and is capped off with the usual Darksiders II boss battle against yet another embodiment of epic evil but honestly, even this boss was somewhat of a pushover. I played the entire DLC on Apocalyptic in an effort to balance out whatever bonuses my superpowered build afforded, but I barely broke a sweat during the DLC, boss battle included. Granted, this boss battle wasn’t as easy as the final two battles in the main game, but I was hoping that Vigil would use the DLC as an opportunity to challenge players and that wasn’t the case.

If you purchased Darksiders II new, the DLC is free of charge, so there’s no cost to play it other than an hour or so of your time. If you’re still playing the main game, it’s worth it to go and grab some more loot and gain some more experience. If, on the other hand, you either rented the game, or have already reached level 30, the dungeon itself has some interesting puzzles, but nothing so spectacular that the DLC should be purchased or put at the top of your Must Play list. Heck, there aren’t even any new achievements or trophies. Knowing that Vigil has a season’s pass worth of DLC in the pipeline, I’m hoping that future content either introduces new weapons, or a raise to the level cap, or some reason to play other than killing and exploring for the sake of killing and exploring. If not, I fear that Vigil will have a hard time convincing people to set about on a pale horse yet again.

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.

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.

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.

A Tale of Two Difficulties

I’m currently in the middle of two different games, at two different difficulty levels, providing two different level of challenge and two different opportunities for progress. I’ve always been somewhat averse to high difficulty levels, but never really took the time to figure out why, other than chalking it up to a well developed sense of laziness.

The two games I’m talking about are Darksiders II (no surprise) and the just released English translation of Inquisitor, Czech developer Cinemax’s 2009 PC RPG about killer bats and torture (not necessarily in that order).

I have spoken before about the Apocalyptic difficulty level in Darksiders 2 and now that I’ve spent over 35 hours with the game, and am two boss fights away from finishing this run, I need to make some alterations to my original statement. I think that Darksiders II is significantly more difficult than Darksiders. That’s not to say that it’s impossible, just more difficult. It makes a certain set of sense, as Death has more powers and gets more stuff than War did, allowing for various combinations of character builds and loot loadouts. Between the ability to fast travel from any point and the relatively low cost of a respec, if your current build isn’t working against a particular boss, a respec is just a few fast travel jaunts away. Sure, you may have to spend some time learning how to use your new powers, but at least the option is there. War had no such option.

Part of the reason that it has taken me so long to get to the end of Darksiders II, aside from doing every side quest and exploring every side dungeon, is that it may take me thirty minutes to get past a particular battle. Hell, it took me an hour to defeat one boss last night, and that was only after using every health potion, the only time I’ve had to do that. If I didn’t have full set of health stealing primary and secondary weapons, who knows how long it would have taken. Hell, I might still be fighting that skeletal bastard.


As tough as I’ve found the game at times, and honestly, the really, really hard stuff has all been optional, I still feel like if I’m not mired in an endless loop of dying and restarting. I may have to change up tactics, to figure out which bosses require patience and which ones need you to go balls out and take some hits to defeat them, but as hard as it’s been, I know that I’m making progress.

On the other side, we have Inquisitor. I got a code for review purposes, but I’m at a point where my “review” may have to be an impressions piece, as I’m not sure how far I’m going to be able to progress in this game. As I mentioned before, this is an English translation of the 2009 isometric RPG from Czech developer Cinemax. The game takes place in a European-esque fantasy world set in the 14th century. You play a paladin, priest or thief, tasked with rooting our heresy and punishing those that parlay with demons. Aside from killing monsters, and getting killed, you bring charges of heresy against citizens, torture them with various historical tools such as the rack and the iron maiden, and extract a confession of heresy out of them.

At least, that’s what I think is supposed to happen. I haven’t gotten far enough in any quest to where I can bring charges against anyone. I’m playing this game on normal difficulty, as a melee focused paladin and this game is seriously kicking my ass. I mean, to the point where I actually started over on easy after something like ten or twelve hours into the game. I have never done that. Sure, I’ve dropped the difficulty level while playing, but if a game doesn’t allow you to change the difficulty on the fly, I either stop playing or grit my teeth and get through it.

With Inquisitor, I really felt that I had no option but to lower the difficulty level and start over. This game is hard. I mean, hard. Sometimes you’ll be roaming around with your party of another paladin and what appears to be a doberman pinscher and you’ll roll up on some spiders. If you didn’t have those other life forms in your party, the spiders would kill you, straight up, or you’d burn through a ton of health potions to survive. Luckily, your party is there to help, so you kill the spiders, but whoopsie, they’re both poisoned. Now they’re leaking health at a hit point a second and the poison won’t wear off for five minutes, which wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that they don’t have 300 hit points. They have less than half of that. So now, you can either keep feeding them health potions, or trek it back to the village to have them healed, at the cost of 70 bucks per heal.

Sometimes you’ll find some mines, head down into them, roll up on some zombies and they’ll swarm you and kill you. Sometimes you’ll find a talking tree, you talk to said tree and a bunch of skeletons appear and kill you. Sometimes you open a mausoleum door and one skeleton kills you. Maybe it’s my build, but if they offer a melee character, I kind of expect to play it as such. Sure, I use magic, but most of the time my spells fail because I don’t have enough points in skills. I can spend all of my money on health potions and let my characters chug them down automatically, but even so, you’re still going to either have to keep returning to town, and eventually you’ll come across a swarm of monsters that destroy you.

In Darksiders II, with very few exceptions, if you got in over your head, you could go and do other things to get Death better prepared for the current blockage. Here, there’s nothing I feel I can do. I have a lot of quests and people to investigate, but there’s no map marker or anything telling me where I need to go to complete the quest. So, I go to a new area, kill things, usually get killed and occasionally learn something new. In one case, I fully explored a dungeon of nothing but locked gates with no way of opening the gates and exploring further. The number of areas I haven’t been able to explore due to too many monsters killing me too many times far outweighs the number of areas I have explored. Of the areas that I have explored, only one yielded a quest solution. So that’s one quest down, something like eleven to go.

I’m hoping that by restarting I’m able to make more progress. This time I took a skill point in some spell schools that have buffs and healing spells. I’m hoping they let me cure poison or disease or at least heal my party or add some extra damage. I’ve read that easy is still pretty difficult, but it may be that I have to either pick another build and restart or just say “eff it” and write up a detailed impressions piece. The game has something like 150 hours of gameplay in it, so the odds of me “finishing” the game for review purposes are somewhat slim. I figure that as long as I’m honest, it’s all good.

I guess, what it comes down to me, isn’t so much whether a game is difficult, but whether or not the difficulty prevents me from making progress. Usually, when I play a difficult game, the time I would have to spend to make meaningful progress is so high that it’s not worth it. It’s not like money shoots out of the Xbox when you finish a hard game. What I’m finding, though, is that if a game is hard, but I can still make progress, I can enjoy the experience. Witcher 2 was hard, although Dark wasn’t nearly as tough as I thought it would be. Darksiders II is tougher than I expected it to be. Both are great games, and some of my favorite of this generation. That’s not to say that I’m going to start every game on hard, but I’m not going to automatically discount it either.

And no, I am not playing Dark Souls. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

If you want to check out Inquisitor for yourself, you can grab it off of for the low, low price of fifteen bucks.