It’s hard to believe, as I sit down to type this on a hot August morning, that today’s Looking Back topic came out 10 years ago – in 2012. It seems like barely a blink since I was playing Darksiders II on my Xbox 360, and yet here we are, a decade later and two generations of hardware later, still thinking about the game.
The early Darksiders came out of nowhere and blew me away with its mix of exploration and combat, so when Darksiders II came out, featuring the ability to control Death himself, well, wild horses couldn’t have got me remove. So travel back with me to 2012, when fuel prices were manageable and the world didn’t seem like it was going to hell in a handcart, as we look back on Darksiders II.
While doing my research for this game, there are a few interesting facts that come up. The first is that, with a $50 million budget, it wasn’t a cheap development process. Another fact is that this was a launch title for the brand new (at the time) Nintendo Wii U, but I can’t imagine trying to play this game on this huge controller.
Now, like I said, the first Darksiders was a real breath of fresh air, and War’s character was great too; both to play as you go with the lore of the game. In Darksiders II, events unfold parallel to the first game. Convinced of her brother’s innocence, sets out to prove it by erasing all evidence of a crime. He plans to do this by bringing humanity back from the dead. If Death itself can’t do that, who can? What follows is a massive game in different worlds, including Heaven and Hell, and a series of fights, not only against massive bosses, but also against increasingly powerful enemies. Can death succeed and bring humanity back to life, or has he bitten off more than he can chew? Well, no spoilers here, I suggest you go and play it.
Darksiders II had a very well-designed look, much like its predecessor, and Death in particular was a handsome character, with a tight skull mask on his face to bring him in line with the well-known Grim Reaper look. He had a horse, aptly named Despair, and with the size of some areas, having a horse to speed up the journey made things much easier. Throw in combat on horseback, Death being able to use firearms from the seat atop Despair, and the pacing of combat was on par with the best in the genre.
The soundtrack was also excellent, with fully voiced cutscenes helping to set the scene very well. The dubbing being there, the immersion was almost guaranteed. Swinging scythes, booming guns, and roaring monsters completed the soundscape, and it suited the game perfectly. Overall, there were no issues with the way the game was presented. Even today, the original game holds its own, but the remastered Darksiders II: Deathinitive Editionin addition to being one of the worst word games of all time, is even more beautiful when it harnesses the power of new generations of consoles.
However, a game can look as good as it wants, but if the gameplay isn’t up to par, then it won’t be fun. Fortunately, Darksiders II delivered.
As has become the norm with these games, it’s roughly split into two halves: one half is the combat, including epic boss fights, and the other is the varied platforming/exploration/solving side. game problems.
Looking at the fight first, Death had a choice of two sets of melee weapons, in addition to his firearm. His primary default weapons were fake binoculars (what else was Death going to use, honestly?), and he also carries a backup weapon. These are either slow and powerful, like hammers, maces, or axes, or fast but weak, like bladed gauntlets. As you progress through the game, you can learn new combos from various training characters scattered around the place, and soon you will be an enemy chopping machine. Again, as you go through the various dungeons and defeat enemies, you’ll come across different weapons and armor that Death can equip, giving him increased stats if you’re lucky; equipping yourself properly before the end of the game becomes almost a mission in its own right.
The boss fights are all pretty varied too, although the one that sticks in my mind even after all this time was the first major boss, when we had to defeat a giant Corrupted Guardian statue; a very exciting multi-stage fight, seeing Death scale the boss in different stages and gradually shrink it down to size.
The other half of Darksiders II is just as fun, just look around the place, try to find the different collectibles, fight and try to earn enough experience to level up, find new equipment, etc. The puzzles were also enough to get the old gray matter spinning, without there always being an obvious path to follow – some lateral thinking was required. Acquiring new abilities was key to this, with things like the grappling hook upgrade (it has a fancy name, but that’s essentially what it is) being useful, alongside other abilities such than Voidwalker to help you progress. Normally, in true Metroidvania style, you’d find what you need to defeat the boss right before the boss itself, then revisiting previous areas with new abilities would see new areas open up. Aside from the fights, there was plenty of play to be had.
I really enjoyed my two stints with Darksiders II, both in the original format and then in the remaster. Granted, it’s not as compelling as the first Darksiders, which was a game I couldn’t put down until I beat it, but the sequel more than held up. In fact, and perhaps a bit controversially, I think the Darksiders franchise actually got worse as the series continued: Darksiders II was worse than the original, and Darksiders 3 was even worse.
As it’s available with all Deathinitive Edition DLC, there’s still a case for playing Darksiders II today – you’ll find it on the Xbox Store in its original form or via this Deathinitive Edition, playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. But what about you guys over there? Have you played this game on any of its versions, or do you plan to play in the future? Let us know in the comments.