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"The hack-n-slash combat flows smoothly as you string combos together" while you "run along walls and jump across beams like a devilish Prince of Persia," though the game "lacks an elegant way" to switch between actions.

Danny Cowan, Blogger

August 15, 2012

5 Min Read

This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Vigil Games' action-adventure sequel Darksiders II, which reviewers describe as being "superior to its predecessor in every way." Darksiders II currently earns a score of 85 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. EGM's Ray Carsillo rates Darksiders II at 9 out of 10. "The first Darksiders was able to find an audience by incorporating mature themes with familiar gameplay that hearkened back to classics like Metroid or The Legend of Zelda," he notes. "So, with such a promising start, you wouldn't expect a sequel to completely overhaul many major features. Darksiders II does just that, though." "In fact, if you were to put Darksiders and Darksiders II side by side in front of a player, they'd be hard pressed to say they come from the same universe," Carsillo continues. "Yet not only does Darksiders II take place in the same universe, but it expands upon it in numerous ways, along with adding in features and gameplay mechanics from dungeon-crawling RPGs." The combat system and other key elements have also been refined. "The hack-n-slash combat flows smoothly as you string combos together," Carsillo says, "the tight free-running controls make it feel like nothing's unobtainable if you really pay attention to your surroundings, and the new RPG elements mean that your weapons and armor are constantly changing and upgrading due to the thousands of pieces of loot." "Despite minor annoyances with the level system and the occasional free-running glitch, Darksiders II is superior to its predecessor in every way," Carsillo summarizes. "It's got a larger, deeper world with a wide breadth of characters, a thrilling story that sucks you in and doesn't let go, and some insane over-the-top combat. All those elements make this a must-have for fans of action-RPGs." Kevin VanOrd at GameSpot gives Darksiders II an 8.5 out of 10. "The original Darksiders set a darkly fantastical mood, but the sequel hones its edges," he writes. "The armor is still chunky and the sound of steel on steel still rings across battle arenas, but the skies are more ominous, the shadows grimmer, and the architecture sharper, as if every spire threatens to puncture the heavens and make them bleed." VanOrd finds that narrative is not the game's strongest suit. "Darksiders II draws you in not by narrative, in spite of its characters' frequent and raspy soliloquizing. Rather, it uses sights and sounds to impress upon you the importance of your deeds. [...] The characters you meet -- undead rulers and impossibly proportioned behemoths among them -- speak with humorless gravity, and Death often responds with a sneer and a verbal challenge." However: "The joylessness of Darksiders II's characters is a contrast to the pleasure of existing in this world," VanOrd assures. "You run along walls and jump across beams like a devilish Prince of Persia. But most importantly -- and in contrast to the original -- your enemies drop coins, armor, and weapons. You can don equipment, sell it to a merchant, or sacrifice it to level up rare possessed weapons, which you can customize at certain thresholds." "In Darksiders II, a funny thing happens on the way to the apocalypse: it establishes an identity all its own, rather than one defined through the games that inspired its existence," VanOrd observes. "The game's expanded scope (about twice as big as the first game) and thoughtful pace (about twice as long as the first game) are most responsible for this. You now have a chance to breathe between battles, and each new mechanic has time to settle in before a new one is introduced." Andrew Hayward at Official Xbox Magazine rates Darksiders II at 7.5 out of 10. "Much like its predecessor, Darksiders II is an immaculately styled adventure that blends hack-and-slash combat with dungeons that'll test your wits," he says. "Vigil Games hasn't lost its knack for delivering dynamic action that seems ripped from the pages of a comic book: the game boasts stunning art design and attention to visual detail throughout." The new loot aspect provides greater gameplay depth, Hayward argues. "Death's arsenal reflects this newfound focus, and everything from his twin scythes to a secondary weapon (axe, hammer, glaive) and protective gear can be swapped out, sold, and in some cases enhanced by feeding one piece to another," he explains. "It's a good addition that lets you customize Death's abilities and appearance somewhat; moreover, it's paired with a new leveling and skill-point system that puts a variety of powerful, upgradable combat abilities at your disposal." The game's controls are occasionally problematic, however. "Unfortunately, with just four fast-swap shortcuts available for everything from special moves to Death's firearm and his portal-launching ability, the game lacks an elegant way to quickly access more than a few moves without halting the action," Hayward writes. "Also spotty is the new focus on platforming, which introduces Prince of Persia-esque wall running and elaborate layouts of ledges to scale. As cool as these dashes look, the controls are oddly finicky, with leaps not always going in the intended direction, plus dismounting that's often unresponsive." "While it succeeds in many respects as a standalone game, Darksiders II disappoints as a sequel," Hayward concludes. "Death's side story proves less eventful than War's mainline quest, with fewer interesting sights and scenarios, plus boss showdowns that are generally less memorable than Darksiders'. It also does little to advance the franchise's narrative. By eschewing a proper sequel for a new hero's quest, the developers seem to have missed a great opportunity to capitalize on their excellent first offering."

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About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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