Darksiders II is a hack-and-slash title that borrows so many signature elements from other games, it comes dangerously close to offering no distinctive features of its own. Yet Darksiders II's most distinguishing feature might be how deftly it weaves together the best elements of top action-adventure games, including Prince of Persia, God of War, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, and The Legend of Zelda. There's even a dash of Diablo sprinkled in for good measure.
The story in Darksiders II finds Earth in ruin and mankind doomed. To save his brother War, the protagonist of the first Darksiders, Death decides to resurrect humanity. This will involve scouring the world for items of vast importance, venturing into numerous dungeons, and battling throngs of creatures. The action is pure sound and fury, with fast-paced combos combining magical spells and acrobatic dodges with slicing and dicing from weapons gripped in both hands.
While the camera is a bit unwieldy at times, requiring you to rely on a lock-on targeting system to keep you from becoming disoriented, and the action seems to err more on the side of button-mashing than finesse, battles are nonetheless exciting and visceral. One of the game's highlights is the towering boss characters you'll encounter throughout the 20-hour campaign.
New to Darksiders II is the ability to gather weapons and equipment from fallen foes to enhance Death's abilities in combat. The random nature of the items gives the game a carrot-on-a-stick appeal, though truth be told, the variety of equipment is not as diverse as it could be, and it's perhaps too easy to find extremely powerful weapons that are more than adequate for the tasks at hand.
In addition to combating various creatures, Death will explore wildly different environments that are laid out in a similar fashion to Nintendo's Zelda series. Instead of a completely open world, the areas in Darksiders II are essentially hubs, with linearly constructed dungeons that let you show off some of Death's surprisingly agile moves. Getting lost is never a problem in the game, thanks to Death's crow companion, who acts like a compass of sorts, pointing you in the right direction by flying toward the correct path through a given location.
Death will be able to climb and run across walls, fling himself from pillar to pillar, flip through the air, and use the environment in interesting ways to traverse the atmospheric areas. The controls are fluid and responsive, and the level of character customization is also welcome. As you gain levels through combat, you can acquire new moves and abilities across two distinct skill trees: harbinger and necromancer. Harbinger skills improve Death's melee abilities, while necromancer skills let Death summon creatures, such as life-stealing crows or offensive-minded ghouls.
The developers also included a new game plus option, allowing you to continue to build on your character's stats, equipment, and abilities against more challenging enemies once you complete the main game's story. While there is a surprising amount of content packed within the campaign, some will take issue with the camera, the frequency of fetch-oriented quests, and the pervasive sense that you've done most of these things before in more original games.
Yet Darksiders II always manages to hold your interest, whether it's exploring a new landscape, learning new skills to improve combat, finding a specific amulet or weapon type, or solving puzzles within the game's plentiful dungeons. It certainly doesn't hurt that you're playing a scythe-wielding, pale horse-riding character that's truly bad to the bone.
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