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August 19, 2012
Darksiders II - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
16/8/2012THQTHQVigil Games1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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THQ's Darksiders II is an impressive game.
Launching a new IP is always a risky business, but in January 2010 THQ took the plunge with Darksiders. Developed by Vigil the game received critical praise, but failed to sell in the numbers the game deserved. Fast forward to August 2012 and the sequel is now here and promises to expand on original in all areas. So what's Darksiders II about then...

Awakened by the End of Days, Death (who is the brother of the first games' main character War) the most feared of the legendary Four Horsemen, embarks on a quest to undo Armageddon. Along the way, Death discovers that there are far worse things than an earthly Apocalypse, and that an ancient grudge may threaten all of Creation. Become the terrifying force which everything fears but nothing can escape in this action game which takes in parallel to the original title.
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Death uses his pistol on the enemy!
Darksiders II is a third person action/adventure game like the previous title, however the developers have beefed up the RPG elements to become a major gameplay element. Controlling Death is quite a fluid and exciting experience. Unlike the main character from the first game, War, Death is a lot lighter and nimbler relying on fluid attacks rather than brute force. As such Death doesn't have a block but has a wide range of melee attacks, some long-range attacks (including the ability to throw bombs and use a pistol), call in magic powers and jump and climb around the levels.

Controls in the game are pretty much as one would expect with the square button offering the light weapon attach, the triangle heavy weapon, X button to jump, O to perform actions such as moving levers, R1 to perform a doge, L2 to lock-on to enemies (and see their health bar), R2 to perform special actions such as using Death Grip or the gun. Beyond that Death is able to use a range of special moves and powers, while pressing the R3 button starts up a first person aiming mode, essential for aiming or throwing items such as bombs.

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Characters in Darksiders II look fantastic.
Gameplay is generally very slick and does have a little God of War feel to it with slick action on the battlefield, some interesting enemies, and a range of weapons that are always changing due to the numerous treasure chests and loot dropped by enemies. Certainly the most impressive moments in this game come with the epic boss battles which will often test your abilities, and your character, to the limit. These bosses all have different attack patterns and can be absolutely monstrous in size. Definitely a highlight of this game.

So the game is pretty slick in the action gameplay, but Vigil Games have really pushed the RPG side of things too with the ability to customise Death to suit your game style via either Harbinger and Necromancer Skill trees. Each has their own abilities and benefits to the main character. Furthermore the game throws a tonne of weapons at you, each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses - and each which may deal with some enemies better than others.

Throughout the world, which is several times larger than that in the original game apparently, you will find large characters called "Makers" who will not only provide advice and quests to complete, but also act as shops where you can buy and sell goods (including weapons) and abilities. Fortunately the developers have included an option to quick travel from one location on the map to another and it's possible to press L1 and R1 to summon your own horse to ride around on.

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A XBox 360 screen, but it shows the large inventory and customisation in Darksiders II.
Interestingly in reading Michael's review of the original title (which you can check out here) one of his main criticisms was the lack of in-depth storyline and this is actually something which I don't think has been addressed here either. At least, as I played through this game there wasn't as much of a storyline as I would have hoped. Perhaps this could have been aided with more NPC's throughout the game world, even just small throwaway conversations can add a lot more depth to the world, the impact of events on "regular" people/characters.

Unfortunately that's not the only issue we had with the game. Also disappointing is the fact that many of the locations have the same "feel" about them. Not only do many locations look similar, but it was quite disappointing that despite the range of puzzles, the vast majority were solved in the same way - climb the ledges to reach the switch, roll the ball into a set location to trigger a switch. Occasionally the developers switch it up with something new, but it's rare. Also disappointing is the lack of multiplayer, which brings us to a related point...

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It's possible to ride around the levels on your horse!
Gamers should be aware that while THQ have included an "Online Pass" in Darksiders II, and despite the name including the word "Online", the game isn't online at all (besides the ability to message friends with the game or gift them an item from your inventory. The "Online PasS" in this game is used to unlock the Crucible Mode - a series of 100 arena challenges which will unlock some unique and powerful items which can then carry over to the main game. Oh, but the stupid thing is, this mode is only unlocked after you defeat The Guardian boss, around 10 hours into the game. Fortunately, and as usual, the "Online Pass" is included with every new copy of the game, so this is more for those looking at second hand purchases.

As you may have noticed from the table at the top of this review there is no multiplayer in the game at all. Despite some elements being perfectly suited to co-op or competitive gameplay this is absent in this title. Still given the size of the single player campaign it doesn't feel like the developers have taken any short cuts with this title.

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Enemy design, particularly bosses, impresses.
Visually Darksiders II is an impressive title with a wide range of visuals across the game world, some brilliant character design and modeling with equally impressive animations, of which there are around 1000 for Death, and plenty of other niceties that will leave you impressed. The game doesn't include a lot of cut-scenes with a preference for in-game dialogue between characters.

There are a couple of minor niggles though including some minor screen tearing and some frame rate skips on occasion. The latter generally occur when travelling around on the horse - potentially due to minor data loading - and while it's present it never kills the gameplay. What does affect the gameplay a little more is the camera which occasionally fails to follow the action as well as it should. Fortunately you can manually rotate the camera around, and the click of a button Death can enter a first person perspective to look around (as well as target objects).

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Darksiders II is a very solid action RPG.
Sonically Darksiders II is fairly impressive on all counts and will, at times, have you very impressed indeed. Probably the most questionable component in the audio is the dialogue - often well scripted some characters are let down by the delivery which, while never terrible, can be variable. Oh, and what's with the Scottish accents?

The absolute highlight for us though was the wonderful orchestral music which, at times, had quite a resemblance to the music in The Lords of the Rings trilogy of films. It's epic, moody and totally fitting for the scope of the game and it comes as no surprise to see that the composer is none other than Jesper Kyd who has worked on many video games most notably Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed.

While I never played the original game, this sequel doesn't require that you have played that game to play this game. Audio visually the game impresses while the gameplay is slick and very addictive. Whether or not you played the original game, Darksiders II is a title well worth picking up. Superb.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSArtistically superb only minor issues hold this back from a top score.
SOUNDThe music is a highlight while the effects and speech also impress.
GAMEPLAYThis is a solid action RPG which has sound mechanics and puzzles, but can become repetitive.
VALUEYou could rush though it in 20 hours, or explore everything and double that. No multiplayer is disappointing.
OVERALLDarksiders II is everything and more you expect from a sequel. Bigger and better in every regard this is worth a purchase despite still falling short of essential.

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