“Horsemen are drawing nearer, On leather steeds they ride, They’ve come to take your life,” and this particular Horseman is one you do not want to mess with. The Death that is created by THQ and Vigil games in Darksiders II is one not to mess with. He is not just a looming figure in the shadows, wearing a robe under which is a skeletal figure, oh no. This Death is a fully fleshed out demon, more mobile, wielding duel scythes and on a mission to prove his brothers innocence.
From the start of the game Death is on a rampage to get this matter resolved quickly. While the first level plays quickly to get the story moving, the rest of the game does settle down. Instead of being dictated by a constant narrative, Darksiders II is a stop-start affair with Death offering his services to the characters he meets, doing a mission or quest for them, then meeting someone else and repeating the process. This does lengthen the game time considerably but one feels either Death doesn’t really think much of his brother, or he is just distracted by shiny treasure.
And there is a lot of treasure to be found. Every other enemy will spit out some form of currency or item that can be used by the Reaper, be it selling to merchants or even feeding them to his weapons for more powers, there is a lot of hoarding to be done. This can feel a little distracting as you could well find yourself fiddling with the over complicated menu system to upgrade Death’s boots rather than continuing with the job at hand.
If you do however decide to quest, you will find that the game is huge. Areas are up to three times the size of the original game, with a vast world map and large dungeons to conquer, this is by no means a small game. The large open areas do feel somewhat barren, as there is not much filling them save for a few baddies and a couple of treasure chests. Maybe this was done purposefully in order to show that Death himself is a lonely character with only himself and his horse for company, but whatever the reason it does come across as a little boring and the reason why the quick travel option is very welcome indeed.
Fighting the enemies in the game is where Death truly comes alive. The battle system is simple and effective to use and as the game progresses and Death levels up, more skills can be unlocked or purchased to grow the way he fights. Combos become easier to string together, which is a godsend when fighting groups of tough enemies, and of course the more baddies Death defeats, the stronger he will become. While the battle system is easy it feels like it has been done before in Devil May Cry. Death can even trigger a Reaper form that is stronger and more powerful than normal, sound familiar?
Similarities from other games do not stop there; the overall look of the game feels like Soul Reaver – a game from the PlayStation1 and later PS2 days where a vampire is on a mission to free himself and destroy his Lord and master. The quips that Death uses on a frequent basis, harks back to the familiarity of a game that came out some 13 years before.
This is not necessarily a bad thing; Darksiders II may borrow the feel of other games, it certainly has its own good points to it. The combat is enjoyable; exploring the dungeons will always lead to rewards that will only improve Death in someway. The sheer amount of upgrades available is staggering, and even though it takes an eternity to level up, the skills that are unlocked are fun to watch unfold on the unsuspecting enemy. The length of the game is a good size and will have most adventuring for a while – even though getting from one place to another can be tedious.
Darksiders II may borrow from games of old but on its own Death is a step above his brother War with a majestic quest and tonnes of upgradeable options. The sequel is better than the original however; at times Darksiders II can be a little hollow and slow. If you prevail with the game it is a welcome addition to what surly will become an enjoyable series – after all we do have two more horsemen of the apocalypse with tales to tell.