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December 5 2015
Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition - PS4 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
29/10/2015All InteractiveNordic GamesVigil (Original)
Gunfire (PS4)
Version HDD Install Resolution Touchpad PS4 Exclusive OFLC Rating

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Darksiders II is coming, upgraded, to PS4.
The Darksiders franchise, despite receiving praise from critics, has never taken off commercially. This happens often in the game industry, but in the case of Darksiders it feels more pronounced because its publisher, THQ, went out of business not long after Darksiders II was released. Fortunately Nordic Games purchased the THQ brand and more importantly this franchise. The company, with developers Gunfire Games (made up from developers from Vigil Games), have updated Darksiders II for the latest generation of consoles. More than three years on from its initial release is Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition worth your time and money?

Darksiders II follows the exploits of Death, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, in an action-packed tale set near the end of events in the original Darksiders game. This epic journey propels Death across an expansive gameworld as he tries to redeem his brother, War, the horseman blamed for prematurely starting the Apocalypse in Darksiders, dooming humanity in the process. The only way Death can bargain for War's freedom is to resurrect humanity and to do that Death sets out in search of the Keeper of Secrets.

This is a third person action adventure game with RPG elements, meaning Death and his weapons level up as you play. With every level up Death earns a skill point used to unlock new and powerful skills to aid in battle. These are broken into two broad categories, Harbinger and Necromancer. The Harbinger category includes two attacks and a bunch of different buffs to things like Strength and Critical damage. The Necromancer category is more about support and lets Death summon ghouls and crows to attack his enemies, or a necromantic shield for his defence.

There are a wide variety of weapons at Death's disposal. Naturally Death rocks a scythe as his main weapon, but his secondary weapon is up to you. There are fast weapons such as claws, bucklers and armblades, or slower but more powerful weapons like mauls, axes and tridents. Your choice will come down to playstyle, with faster weapons making Death a combo machine, gliding from one attack to the next relentlessly. The slower weapons are much slower, but they can have the added benefit of staggering enemies, and the damage difference is significant. In the end you'll likely use both types depending on the situation.

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Now that's one big-ass enemy!
If you get lucky you will find a 'Possessed' version of a weapon. These are unique in that they can be upgraded and imbued with bonuses from other weapons in your inventory by sacrificing them (i.e. you lose the weapon being sacrificed). This is a great way to create a weapon with the exact bonuses you want such as health steal or lightning damage.

When Death isn't fighting he's exploring. His search for a cure for the Apocalypse takes him far and wide, and just about every NPC you come across has more items/quests for you to obtain or complete for them. To this end Death is amazingly spry and you'll become intimately familiar with wall-running and traversing large gaps with your Deathgrip ability.

And what would ancient ruins be without a healthy dose of problem solving? Hopefully you said 'nothing', because outside of fighting and traveling you'll spend most of your time solving puzzles. This is both good and bad. Good because puzzles are timeless, so despite being three and a half years old the game still feels modern enough. It's also bad because some areas and ruins are so big that you'll tire of doing the same type of puzzle before that area is complete. This is especially true of the main three DLC packs included in the Deathinitive Edition, which we'll now focus on.

The first such DLC is The Abyssal Forge, which you gain access to at the end of the second chapter (of three) in the main campaign. Here the Mad Smith has created a forge powered by the Abyss that continuously creates deadly Construct enemies. These constructs can in turn create more forges resulting in a loop so deadly as to threaten all of creation.

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Artistically this game looks pretty gorgeous.
The Abyssal Forge makes extensive use of the Soul Splitter ability, which creates two clones of Death that can be controlled independently. For example clone one rotates a switch which opens a door, allowing clone two to run over and stand on the pressure pad that unlocks the way forward. It's a fun technique used in moderation, but by the end of the campaign, which was around three hours for me, I would have been happy to never use it again.

The second major DLC included is Argul's Tomb, which unlocked halfway through the final chapter of the campaign. Argul is a former King of the Dead who has been replaced by the Lord of Bones, and his entire tomb was displaced to an unknown location. Ostegoth, a mysterious merchant, believes he knows the location of the tomb and he wants Death to come and destroy Argul once and for all.

Set in freezing mountains where an arctic breeze brings snow and jagged icicles reach for the heavens, Argul's Tomb is not a hospitable place. Whereas The Abyssal Forge's puzzles almost exclusively related to the Soul Splitter ability, Argul's Tomb focuses on Voidwalker. The Voidwalker ability is a lot like the portal gun in Portal - you shoot two locations with a portal and then walk through one and pop out the other. It's just as fun here as it was in Portal, and can result in some brain-bending puzzles.

Argul's Tomb, like The Abyssal Forge, is quite short and took less than two hours to complete. Another knock on these two DLC's is the enemies, which are basically re-skins from the campaign just with fire or ice elements added to them.

The final major DLC is Demon Lord Belial, which unlocks right near the end of the campaign. Rumours persist that humanity has not been totally wiped out by the Apocalypse and Death must track down a forgotten evil (no prizes for guessing who this evil is! *cough* Belial *cough*) to discover the truth.

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The PS4 version improves on last-gen visuals.
Blessedly this DLC has very few puzzles, and while the linear path makes it the shortest of the main DLC's it's also the most fun in my opinion. Death basically runs along the path, killing enemies (with a grenade launcher mostly) along the way, only stopping for the occasional story scene or boss fight. Enemies feel slighlty more unique here than the other DLC's, and in my opinion the final boss is the best-looking boss in the game.

There are other bits and pieces of DLC included here including a few new sidequests (I didn't find anything revelatory in them), and some armor sets. The armor sets have interesting perks, especially the Angel of Death set which comes with health and wrath (magic) regen, which makes them useful.

A number of weapons have been included too, such as Rusanov's Axe, Fletcher's Crow Hammer and the awesomely named but otherwise completely uninspiring Van Der Schmash Hammer. Being totally honest none of these weapons was very useful in my playthrough as I always had better weapons on hand. The same goes for the major DLC's, which all have at least one legendary weapon as a reward, though these are definitly more useful than those mentioned by name above.

As you'd expect from a Deathinitive Edition (seriously, does anyone else feel like they're developing a lisp when they say that?) the visuals have received a significant overhaul. We're not quite talking GTA 5 here, which remains the gold standard, but it's significant none the less. A quick look at a screenshot from the PS3 version (available here) and the updated PS4 version (right here) gives you a solid idea of the changes.

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Darksiders II is a pretty decent game on PS4.
A single screenshot isn't enough to judge the game on though, because in a game like this, one that relies so heavily on speed and fluidity during combat and traversal, you really want to see it in action. The good news is that for the most part the game runs extremely well, and while it's a shame it doesn't hit 60fps (it's capped at 30fps) it's not a game breaker. The downside is that there is occasional stuttering (rarely during combat), some screen tearing (which is one thing I do NOT miss from last gen consoles), and worst of all, complete game crashes. If there's any upside to that last part it's that the game auto-saves frequently, so once you reload you won't have lost much progress.

The sound remains unchanged, so here's what Dave said about it in the original review. 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.

It's been more than three years since Darksiders II hit shelves, but despite that it's aged quite well. While it does overstay its welcome at times (particularly through the middle), and the DLC doesn't offer anything exceptional, most of the time it's a lot of fun. With high-speed combat akin to God of War, traversal on par with anything Prince of Persia offered, and a visual upgrade that almost bridges the gap from PS3 to PS4, Darksiders II is well worth checking out if you're a fan of third-person adventure games.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSA significant overhaul that almost makes you forget you're playing a PS3 title. Too bad it's not 60fps though.
SOUNDThe music stands out, as does the voice work of Death (aka Michael Wincott, aka the bad guy from The Crow).
GAMEPLAYAn enjoyable blend of combat, exploration and puzzle-solving, that has a few pacing issues, particularly around mid-game.
VALUEWith a price tag of $40 on the Playstation Store you're basically paying $1 per hour of fun. I like that ratio.
OVERALLDespite its age the combination of graphical facelift and timeless gameplay mean Darksiders II has aged well and is worth picking up, especially if you missed it first time round.

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