Steam on Shuffle: Darksiders 2
Up on the block today is Darksiders 2. Let’s just get this out of the way, it’s a big budget game from a bigger studio and came out a year ago. Yes I’m late to the party, kind of the whole point of this column. Over the years I’ve amassed a shit load of games that have never been touched and let the RNG decide what I play next. There’s going to be a wide variety of games turning up here and most will be old news. I still have Knights of the Old Republic sitting in my backlog and that shit came out in 2003. The upshot is I may end up stumbling across some great classics that can be picked up dirt cheap today.
Darksiders 2 is not one of those cases.
The sequel keeps the Zelda meets God of War feel which worked fantastically for the original Darksiders. This time around you take the role of the scythe wielding, wall running, all around bad-ass mother fucker, Death.
One of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, brother to War, Strife, and Fury. They are the last of the Nephilim. A hybrid of angel and demon the Horsemen slaughtered the rest of their kind and are given power by the Charred Council to keep balance in the universe. Death has set out to find the World Tree in order to restore humanity in hopes War will be forgiven and prove he was tricked into bringing on the apocalypse. This shit right here is a pet peeve of mine. There is a pretty rich mythology based around Christianity and The Book of Revelations is full of dark imagery and symbolism. Why in the hell do game developers take an idea with tons of lore and resources to pull from and then basically say “Fuck it, we’ll make it up as we go!”. War is tricked in to riding and causes the apocalypse, Heaven and Hell unleash their armies. Death sees it was a set up and goes about restoring the balance. That works. Why the need to tack on all this other shit? They even changed the names of two of the horsemen for fucks sake.
Ok I’m done ranting, back to the actual game.
As a fan of the first Darksiders, the sequel was a major let down. Sure it keeps the furious button mashing combat with some puzzles tossed in, what it doesn’t have is variety. The world is huge and the main campaign takes somewhere around 20 hours to complete, plus some side quest and various hidden items to collect. Unfortunately the majority of that 20 hours is spent walking around or completing incredibly annoying side quest. The whole game is just filled with bullshit fetch quests and repetitive puzzles. Death can summon his equally bad-ass horse, Despair, to ride across the overworld maps. The fact you can fight while mounted up is great, full speed gallop towards an enemy and cut ’em down with a scythe.
What’s not so great is the only reason his little pony exists is because the overworld map is too fucking big. Since Darksiders borrows some themes from the Zelda franchise, lets do a little comparison here. Imagine calling Epona in Ocarina of Time and mounting up to ride across Hyrule Fields. Now imagine that part of the map was three times the size and still had jack shit in it. If you’ve never played Ocarina of Time and have no idea what I’m talking about then you are a horrible person. The world is big just for the sake of being big. It’s like they created this huge world but the guy responsible for populating it called in sick.
The same problems exist in the dungeons. Massive structures that are beautifully built and laid out with absolutely nothing in them. One or two types of enemy in each and like five of them total wondering around. I actually feel bad killing them. These aren’t enemies, they wandered off from some mystical tour group and are trying to find their way out. The fights are boring anyway. Dodge, attack, dodge, attack, maybe throw in a special attack, repeat til the poor bastards are dead. Then there’s the puzzles. Or more accurately, puzzle. Seriously, every dungeon is the exact same shit as the last.
Only reason to even push on is the somewhat challenging boss fight at the end. Now some bosses do have interesting mechanics and are fairly tough, unfortunately you’re also fighting the sometimes laggy controls and a targeting system that always seems to lock on to the farthest possible enemy. When everything is working right these fights are genuinely fun. Some of the bosses are friggin huge and require more strategy than poking them til they die.
Darksiders 2 does have a few good points. The added fast travel system lets you jump back to town and unload all the shiny loot you’re acquired and creates a waypoint at your location in the dungeon so you can get right back to the, and i use the term loosely, action. More RPG elements have been added along with a wide array of weapons and gear to find and buy. Some of the weapons look damn sick too but of course they all still fall in to the no variety plague of the rest of the game. Death wields various scythes as his primary weapon and different kinds of hammers, pole arms, and gauntlets as a secondary. Aside from looking different and giving a little stat boost, each type of weapon doesn’t do anything different. In this case having character levels and a gear treadmill is not at all justified. If it’s an attempt to add more to the sadly empty world it just falls short. The only saving grace are the unlockable abilities which do finally add some variety in combat. Except by the time you find something to fight you’ve forgotten you even have any new attacks.
It actually hurts to say all this. I fell in love with the original Darksiders within minutes and had such high hopes for the next in the series. The game is just full of glitches. Shadows go blocky, controls will lag for a second making you dodge into an enemy attack. One dungeon, instead of grabbing a ledge I got stuck in a wall. Good thing there was fast travel, if I had to reload my last save because of that I probably would have just walked away. Death’s pet bird can be summoned to show you where to go next in a dungeon, except its path finding is garbage and constantly gets stuck on parts of the environment instead. It’s a shame because Death as a character is awesome, wall running like the Prince of Persia, stringing together combos and juggling enemies like Kratos. This is not a man you want to cross. If the game world wasn’t so needlessly large and had some variation in enemy AI and puzzles, Darksiders 2 could have actually been a seriously fun game.