The Darksiders franchise has spawned three titles so far and we are still waiting on a forth staring ‘Strife’, but we have got Darksiders Genesis coming pretty soon, each of the games that have seen its release has been met with mixed opinions from gamers and media alike.
While the first game was not received very well, the second, which follows the events of the first but is not a direct sequel, received far better scores and reviews. So it comes to no surprise then that Darksiders II has been Remastered, and to be honest it is about time. Darksiders II has now exceeded seven years since its initial release, and thus the memory of the game may have slipped past those who played it. I for one had already beaten the game on PC on its initial release in August 2012, but the game was so good it prompted me to play it on new-gen system like the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 or Xbox One , and even though the gameplay is still the same, it feels as fresh as ever.
Darksiders II tells the story of the second horseman, Death, who after the unfortunate events of the first game, ends up having to avenge his brother’s misfortune. To do this he must take up a quest which will take him across all of the Forge Lands and beyond, in an attempt to fix what is wrong with the world. The game has a main antagonist, Corruption, which unlike most games is not a final boss himself but an element which is, literally, corrupting everything in its wake, and you must put a stop to all of this. This can be done thanks to a lethal arsenal of moves, which starts a little short at the beginning of the game but expands to an amazing list later on.
Death’s main weapons are the trademark Scythes which have been related to the character ever since his creation, so this should not come as a surprise. What does is the fact that Death can also handle a second weapon, being either fast-hitting gauntlets or slow hitting, massive hammers or axes. It all comes down to the choice in the end, since, believe it or not, each and every weapon type is viable. For example, gauntlets may put in five or six hits in the time it takes for a hammer to swing once, but the hammer may then stagger the enemy to get multiple scythe hits in.
Combat in Darksiders is not only based on offence though, and it comes as a relief in knowing that the evade button is of actual use in this one. Countless hack and slash games, which to be honest are good, feature spamming of the attack button repetitively until no enemies are left, without having to worry about your health bar. In Darksiders, or at least on the hardest difficulty setting, one must be careful to dodge and run around and time attacks carefully, otherwise even the most under levelled enemy can make your food for vultures. Dodging in Darksiders is equally easy and useful, and a well-timed dodge will result in the Reaper getting a stab in your enemy, making pin-point dodging that more rewarding.
Apart from combat, Darksiders boasts a skill tree which splits two classes, Necromancer and Harbinger. The two classes have two sets of abilities very far from each other, meaning committing to one of the trees will prevent you from obtaining the skills on the other side of the tree unless one plays the game over and over and over. In a single playthrough though, one may hope to unlock all the skills on one tree and a couple in the other. The Harbinger tree focuses on quick, damaging strikes, while the Necromancer tree prefers summons and a more turtle-like pace to the battle, involving Wrath and HP regeneration. It all comes down to preference or battle style. In my first playthrough back in 2012 I went with the Harbinger class, and it was incredibly satisfactory. This time I am trying out the Necromancer class, which is also amazing for its varied abilities. Well done Vigil!
The graphics in the game are what makes this the “Deathinive Edition”, and they are gorgeous. The map is beautifully detailed, and it is evident how Nordic Games, the ones in charge of the remaster, did not take any shortcuts like removing certain animations or sprites to make their life easier. Death, then, steals the show, since his character model is one of the best in any video game ever. If there ever was beauty in death, it lies in this game. On the other hand, the soundtrack in this game is just as stunning as the graphics. I have saved the soundtrack on Spotify and have probably clocked over 20 hours just listening to the game’s soundtrack itself. Jesper Kyd has done an unbelievable job, not only on the harmonies but also on the atmosphere itself, since every time a new track starts, it fits the setting perfectly. There has rarely been a better accompaniment to a game than the soundtrack to Darksiders. The dialogue between Death and the various characters he encounters is also done very well, implying a sense of urgency when needed and a sense of calmness when everything is going well.
If this game does fall short in one aspect, it has to be targeting. The lock-on system is not that bad by itself, but its range is all over the place, meaning sometimes you may lock on to an enemy from miles away and others you may lock on only when a few feet away. Changing targets is also frustrating since it does not always follow the movement of the analog stick, but rather goes in random directions. This may be crucial at times of low health when a bad case of enemy targeting will cost you your life in most cases. It is a problem which can deathinitively, pun intended, be solved through a patch later on. Until then, the targeting system will be a pain in the ass, but it will not diminish the awesomeness of the game at all.
Ultimately, this incredible balance in mechanics is the product of the hard work which original developer Vigil games have done in the title, and who any remaining workers at new developers Nordic Games hopefully may be able to implement in future Darksiders titles. The Nintendo Switch version does suffer from slow down, a slight graphical downgrade but everything is here, and the games are just as good to play on Nintendo’s Hybrid system as it is on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.