Death Takes A Holiday
The first Darksiders came out in the summer of 2010 and surprised everyone by being a decent, Zelda-esque romp through a post-apocalyptic world as imagined by comic artist Joe Madureira. It was a game that was as much about puzzles, exploration and getting new gear/abilities for further puzzle solving and exploration as it was about the 3rd person, brawling action in tradition of God of War. Well, now the sequel is here, and it has jettisoned the previous hero, the Horseman of the Apocalypse War, for his slightly less beefy, more morose sibling Death. And in some ways, Darksiders II may just be better than its predecessor. IF it gets patched.
Don’t Fear The Reaper
Darksiders II starts things off with a surprising—and not entirely convincing—sidetrack to justify the switch over to a new character. It takes place sometime during the introduction of the first game, when War was in limbo, awaiting trial from a celestial governing body known as the Charred Council for supposedly initiating apocalypse and ending humanity without authorization. His brother, Death, takes exception to this, convinced it’s a frame up, and decides the best way to solve the problem of War being accused of killing humanity is… to bring humanity back. Being Death, you’d imagine this would be a straightforward task, but no; after beating the secret out of The Keeper of Secrets, Death is told that the key to bringing humanity back may lie with the Tree… of Life. And off he goes to lands far and strange in his quest to absolve his brother. This is classic, 90s Image Comic writing at its “best” with meaningless names, questionable motives and entirely forgettable and disposable dialog that strings together the usual “go here, solve this and kill that” gameplay that is the true strength of Darksiders II. It won’t win any awards, but it may amuse some with how earnest—and yet juvenile—the writing is. If you were 14 years old and had no background in mythology—or even Vertigo comics of the 21st century—this would be mind-blowing stuff for sure. As is, it stumbles onto the stage with awkward intensity and utters its lines with a crack in its voice and sandbags falling to the ground behind it, but hey, the show must go on.
The High Cost Of Living
If the first Darksiders was a weird hybrid of God of War with The Legend of Zelda, then the sequel continues this ill-ftting tradition, as a hybrid of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Diablo. With a little bit of that GoW and Zelda vibe still mixed in. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but amazingly, Vigil has pulled it off.
I have to dock points, SERIOUS points, because of one major problem. There is a game breaking bug—at least in the Xbox 360 version of the game—that is unavoidable, and prevents completion of the game. At the time of this writing, since the game’s not out yet, there is no patch for this, but I encountered a surprising error deep into the late game that caused the game, without fail, to crash whenever I entered a portion of a dungeon that was necessary to advancing the plot. This in itself is bad, but when that crash also occurs as the game attempts an auto-save, then a corrupted save file is the inevitable result, and that’s exactly what happened to me, after over 30 hours of play. The fact that such a fundamental bug managed to completely escape the QA process at Vigil makes me suspect they probably use the same crew as Bethesda. I can’t speak for the PS3 version, and I can’t even speak for the 360 version on launch day, but I can say right now that if this game had actually worked for me that way it was intended, my score would easily be an 87.
As it is, it’s hard to enthusiastically recommend a good game to players if you know that game will inevitably crash on them. As such, it gets a 75, and with any luck, such an obvious, game breaking bug will be patched in short order, and Darksiders II will enjoy the sales that a game of this quality—if it works—so richly deserves. This is a perfect game for summer if it doesn’t crash on you.
To read Wayne's full review of Darksiders II pick up the August/September issue of Comics & Gaming Magazine coming soon to Zinio and a newsstand near you.