THQ – Nordic Games – PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U(reviewed version) – Out Now
As HCF reported previously, Darksiders II is available once more for download on the vastly under appreciated Wii U, through the Nintendo eShop. So we thought we’d see if it was worth the wait. Death, one quarter of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, is on a quest to clear his brother War, of any wrong doing after he is accused of starting a conflict, which has brought about the end of days. Taking control of death, you are thrown into a part quest, part tutorial, in which you are pursuing the Crowfather, keeper of secrets, to find out what he needs to do to clear his brothers name. He soon learns he must seek the Tree of Life, if he is to clear his brother of any wrongdoing.
The gameplay can be broken down into two main types, platforming and combat, not to dissimilar than what we’ve seen in the Zelda games, or Prince of Persia. An adventure game on the surface, there are several platforming sections, which require you to jump, grab, wall run and climb in order to get from a to b. This is usually combined with some sort of puzzle element, usually a switch of some sort, which needs solving to progress. These range from the downright simple, to fiendishly tricky. Sometimes you may find yourself over thinking it and kicking yourself once you’ve found the solution. Sometimes, frustratingly, the puzzle element really brings the pace grinding to halt, whereas you’re jumping and slashing your way through most of the stage, when you get stuck on a puzzle it really detracts from the pace of the rest of the game. The other game play aspect is the combat. Mainly this is hack ‘n’ slashery, but you do need to combine moves with evasive tactics, otherwise you won’t last five minutes. Weapons and moves are unlocked throughout the game, with some particular attributes available when the character has levelled up.
The level design is rather impressive, with the platform element just outweighing the combat, which at times does seem a bit sparse, but towards the end of the game this is a blessing in disguise, as the further you progress, the difficulty increases steadily, and before you know it, you’re repeating sections after getting killed. The latter stages have some tough enemies that really sap your health, so if your not careful you’ll be worm food in no time. Visually, the game is quite contrasting, with the first few stages taking place in the brightly lit and colourful Forge Lands, which for a game in which you play as Death, comes as quite the surprise. The latter stages however, are set in the Land of the Dead, and as you can imagine, are rather grim and grey, but the lands these stages inhabit, are epic in scale and look rather gorgeous. Getting to and from these stages can seem a bit of a chore, but there’s always the option of your trusty steed Despair, which is very reminiscent of travelling from one town to another in Assassins Creed. Alternatively there’s the fast travel via the map, but those wanting to beef their character up, may want to go the long way round, and get in a scrap with the various nasties dotted about and earn some XP.
The Wii U version integrates the gamepad with the menus, as well as the hot keys, so you don’t have to interrupt the flow of gameplay should you need to do some swapping about or to check up on anything. Also there’s a neat feature where the speaker from the gamepad acts as a separate speaker, giving it a more in depth sound, with music, SFX and dialogue, should you choose it. You can also choose if you just want to use the TV, or the gamepad on its own, which makes it handy if there’s more than one person wanting to use the TV. Darksiders II has shades of Prince of Persia, in particular the excellent cell shaded version from a few years back, Zelda in terms of the action adventure style, and it’s also quite reminiscent of the rather adult Dante’s Inferno, if a little watered down. The game has a surprising amount of longevity, as there’s several points where you’d think that’s it and you’re probably gonna throw down with the last boss, but it carries on. On one hand it can seem like a marathon, with some sections out staying their welcome, but on the other, you’re definitely getting your moneys worth.