Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Darksiders II

Darksiders II's events take place concurrently with the first game. You play as Death who has taken as his task to redeem his brother horseman War by restoring the Third Kingdom (ie. humans). He does not know how exactly is he supposed to do that, though, and the quest takes him across many realms. Thus you are not stuck on the overgrown ruins of Earth like in the previous one.

Filled with content

The game is quite long. It took me 43 hours in total to beat it on Normal, albeit I was pretty completionist with it. There are again many dungeons with obstacles. The surface maps are larger, too. Luckily Death has his pale horse, Despair, right from the start, making traveling faster. There is also an actual fast travel system this time.

Progress also gets faster towards the end as optional dungeons are less frequent in the later acts, which I thought might be the case. Often the level of detail drops as the time for release starts getting closer and a game needs to get finished. There are, however, three pieces of DLC -- The Abyssal Forge, Argul's Tomb, and The Demon Lord Belial -- that each add a dungeon to the game.

I wonder if they were dropped from the original release due to time constraints or cut out on purpose to sell them later as DLC. The latter would not surprise me as the game apparently had different pre-order bonuses depending on where it was bought from. I have noted that some scummy publishers like to practice such a thing.

Improved after original release

Buying the game now gets you all the content ever made, however. After Nordic Games acquired the franchise, Gunfire Games (formed mostly from old Vigil employees) put together a Deathinitive Edition of the title that in addition to all the DLC, has improvements for the PC port as well. It still left something to be desired as, for instance, the vsync option does nothing unless you allow Steam to update the game with a beta patch. (I forced adaptive vsync from Nvidia control panel.) I also got stuck inside terrain, fell off the world, and even had the game crash couple times. I guess I could have installed the patch but I reckoned it is "beta" for a reason. Who knows what faults it could have added.

Same gameplay with added RPG elements

Gameplay in Darksiders II is very familiar to someone coming from the first game. Apart from few small differences, Death controls exactly like his brother. He is not into blocking, though -- I did not really use that as War either, really -- and he is slightly more agile, being able to dodge three times in a row before having a recovery pause that War had after each dash. Death does not get double jump but he is pretty good at running on walls. And there is bit more player involvement in the platforming as you have to time your jumps when going from wall to wall. Twice you also have to do a fairly lengthy section in a hurry as you are being threatened by a rising floor.

Completely new features include skill trees and random loot (with rarity color coding, of course), which make Darksiders II more of an action RPG. The skills are divided between Harbinger and Necromancer ones. The former is focused on melee combat and the latter more on spell casting. I played most of the game with Harbinger but respeced into bit of both at the end of when doing the Crucible arena. Wrath steal on weapons filled the wrath bar after a single forward dodge attack and allowed me to keep constantly casting Murder and Frenzy.

I do wonder though if Achnida's Fangs' (secondary weapon) lifesteal is supposed to work even when they are just equipped and you are using scythes (Death's primary weapon) instead. I do not think the special ability of any other legendary weapon works when you are not actually using them. It seems like unintended behavior but sure reduces the need to use healing potions.

I believe the character build I had in the end would probably make a new game plus run fairly easy even on the hardest difficulty. I am half considering it to get the remaining Steam achievements but the length of the game stops me from doing that. I guess I could skip many of the side quests and dungeons, though.

Excellent audio

The soundtrack of Darksiders II was composed by Jesper Kyd. He is one of the composers for the Borderlands series which explains why the music often had a familiar sound to it. Most of the tracks are all right or good, but sometimes there is an amazing one. My favorite one is probably The Corruption tune. I also liked Death's voice work. Michael Wincott made him sound more interesting and have more character than the always grumpy War.

I hope they make another sequel one day. It would be cool to see the remaining two horsemen.

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