Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition is a game that knows what it is and what it wants to do. This is an epic quest through a fantasy-meets-heavy metal world blending Devil May Cry action gameplay with the occasional Legend of Zelda style dungeon puzzle. Though it takes inspiration from these games, it always stands firmly as an original experience that gives you the tools to feel like the powerhouse you play as, the Grim Reaper himself: Death.
The story takes place following the events of the original Darksiders. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; War, Fury, Strife, and Death, are ordered to kill the Nephilim, fusions of angels and demons who wage war on creation. In exchange for this, they receive the powers that make them the godly figures that they are. In the process, War gets accused of the destruction of Earth and the end of humanity, and it becomes Death’s job to clear his brother’s name by restoring humanity. His adventures take him too many different areas and realms, from icy mountains to the Land of The Dead. I loved how well the story flowed from the first game to the second. Even though the developer of the game, Vigil Games, has since closed down following the game’s original release, I have faith in this updated release from Gunfire Games to continue the Darksiders saga. Seeing what Strife and Fury are up to just feels necessary now.
Death spends this journey cutting through his enemies with his signature scythes, your choice of a heavy weapon, and his gun. The controls make handling these weapons a breeze. They can be chained together to perform satisfying combos, given you time your dodges well. As you level up you will gain new gear, skills, and moves, furthering the depth of the action combat. Defeating enough enemies with your scythes will allow you to enter Death’s reaper form, becoming the stereotypical embodiment of the Grim Reaper complete with invincibility and added strength for a short period of time. Interesting boss battles help highlight how well the combat works, which is tight and responsive. I always felt like I was in control of my character, making defeating tougher enemies feel like a triumph and damage taken my own fault.
I find most RPG elements in action games are shoehorned in to try and further the game’s play time, but with Darksiders II you can tell the game was built with this in mind from the beginning. Smart choices are made such as equipment being able to be swapped out without going into a menu. Hovering over the item will tell you its stats in relation to what you currently have equipped, letting you decide if you want to swap it out or store it to sell for gold later. Skill points are rewarded for leveling up and can be put into a couple branching skill trees to increase your powers. These new skills can then be used by equipping them to a quick select wheel that allows up to four skills to be used in battle by holding down the L1/LB button and pressing the corresponding face button. I was excited to level up to try a new technique or add on to some of my favorites. It was paced out well enough that just as I mastered my last skill, a new one opened up mixing up the way I fought battles and keeping them fresh.
The different areas in the game are huge with lots to keep you busy. Between dungeons, you can expect to gallop across the massive landscapes bursting with secrets to find with your trusty horse, Despair. He can be summoned on command from the very start of the game. This is a great mechanic, ensuring that the game’s pace never slows down and that you are always on the move. It makes finding the many hidden chests and collectibles an engaging task, especially thanks to the well thought out traversal system.
Your time off from combat is spent climbing, swinging, wall running, and doing a plethora of acrobatic actions to move about the environment. This cannot be done everywhere, but rather in locations that showcase how quick and effective this type of traversal is. It works well and gives the game a larger scope. I loved using what I was taught to perform impressive movements like wall running back and forth between different walls. Traversal is often a factoring element in the game’s many puzzle sections.
Dungeons are made up of a series of puzzles ranging from pushing spheres into marked holes to finding explosives to destroy shards of corruption blocking your path. While this may sound simple, each one has a layer of complexity to it that greatens the feel of progression. Most dungeons have a theme that helps progression, such as getting water to flow again so that you can swim up to the room where the final boss is. Reaching a new puzzle was exciting to me as I was always impressed at how a concept I was taught in a previous puzzle was now built upon with added depth.
This is the Deathinitive Edition, so it would not be right not to include the additions that come with this version of the game. All DLC that was available for the previous version is present, including the thrilling Crucible where you take on hordes of enemies in an effort to get new weapons and gear, including legendary loot. While the game runs great on current-gen consoles, keeping a steady 60fps at 1080p, it is a bit graphically underwhelming, very clearly not using the consoles to their full capacity and reflecting the generation it was originally made for.
Darksiders II sits on a rock-solid core that it continually builds upon throughout Death’s epic quest. Massive overworlds are full of memorable dungeons with fun puzzles and traversal sections. The fast paced action combat is responsive and gives you a plethora of ways to go about each fight. As well as a fitting and well-designed dark aesthetic placed on environments and characters. All of these mechanics evolved as I progressed, ensuring that the game was always engaging and fresh. Even after three years this game still holds up, and there has never been a better time to join the Grim Reaper for an experience that is to die for.Note: Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.