Review – Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition
I was a big fan of the original Darksiders, a surprise 2010 hit that melded elements from Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise with a solid action-game base. Two years later a sequel arrived and improved on the original in every conceivable way, a sequel that has now been improved on yet again – though as a remaster, the clumsily-named Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition (DE), not the sequel I’d like to see.
Let’s run down the groundwork, for those who haven’t played Darksiders II. Where the original title put gamers in the beefy frame of War – one of the four Horseman of the Apocalypse, charged with having started Armageddon early and shouldering the blame for the human race being wiped out – the sequel stars another Horseman, one with significantly less muscle on his frame: Death.
Where combat with War was all about powerful strikes and evading enemy attacks with a limited ability to dash, Death’s take on combat is far quicker and more fluid. Rolling away from danger, then counterattacking with your primary weapons – Death’s trademark scythes – becomes second nature quickly. Those who want to find more depth in the combat system can start chaining together combination attacks with a slew of secondary weapons ranging from bucklers to giant axes and hammers, as well as incorporating unlockable powers. Need more? Find one of the game’s two trainers and you can purchase additional combinations and special moves.
And for as deep and rewarding as the combat system is, the game’s adventure portions are every bit as good. In most adventure games I start to get bored after a few hours of play – you can only move a box onto a section of floor to open a door so many times, after all – but Darksiders II: DE never got boring. Every few quests Death would gain a new ability to help traverse the dungeons, effectively freshening things up again. To add to that, many of the dungeons you’d already cleared in past quests would feature small side sections that used those new tools to access, giving you a reason to revisit those old locations as well as motivation to pay close attention to future ones.
Gamers may need that motivation, as Darksiders II: DE took me over 20 hours to finish. In addition to the already-beefy regular game content, the remaster also includes the downloadable content (DLC) from the previous release.
As for the remastering itself, done by the fine folk at Gunfire Games, Darksiders II: DE is a bit of a mixed bag. I think, thanks in large part to the art style, the game looks phenomenal running at 1080p: very clean with no screen tearing – an issue that plagued the original release – and improved textures go a long way towards helping this masquerade as a ‘next-gen’ game, but there’s still the odd weak texture that pops up, most noticeable during close-up cinematics. The framerate doesn’t see any improvement from last-gen, sticking to 30 fps for the most part. There are some odd stutters to the framerate when the game has to load a new section, a concession to the largely open-world nature of the title, but I never noticed a dip that impacted combat.
What I loved:
- The art: Comic artist Joe Madureira did a fantastic job with this franchise. The game has an cartoon-style look that makes the cross-gen leap with style.
- The fluid, creative combat: You roll away from an attack, throwing your scythe back in the faces of your attackers in a whirling dervish of death, then lay the smackdown on survivors with a giant axe before dashing through them in a burst of magic that heals you and leaves them on fire. Getting combos into the triple digits is a game in and of itself…
- The writing: Death’s superbly sarcastic and biting quips provide humour and attitude. A great cast of support characters help keep things moving.
What I didn’t love:
- Only the sequel: It seems odd to release the second game, but not remaster the first as well. It would have been nice to have the full franchise – and possible second sequel – on the new consoles.
- Resolution over framerate: While the pristine 1080p picture is appreciated, it would have been nice to appreciate it at 60 fps.