|System: Xbox 360*, PS3, PC|
|Dev: Vigil Games|
|Release: August 14, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Violence|
More often than the combat, though, the puzzle elements of Darksiders II are combined with its platforming or, as the game refers to it, "traversal" mechanics. Death can run along or up walls, scale beams, boost himself off of out-cropping pegs in the walls, slide along conveniently placed hand-grips in the walls, and navigate vein-like vines along both walls and ceilings.
For the most part, this works very well, and even feels markedly satisfying. It's no Prince of Persia, though, the traversal possessed of an odd sense of deliberate rigidity. This is mostly harmless. It just means the player has to wait for Death to position himself, clearly, to move from one element to the next in the way the player so desires lest he instead end up boosting up the wall over and over before tumbling back down. If he screws this up, it's usually not a problem. About two-thirds of the way through the game, though, there is a timed traversal segment. The limit is extremely stringent, to the point where even a split second's indecision can result in the player returning to the beginning of the sequence. The pathway isn't, itself, confusing, but it's here where it becomes clear just how much of a weakness it is that Death can't smoothly transition between traversal states.
Maybe he has trouble making the switch because he's such a conflicted dude. Whereas War was a veritable automaton, set on his solitary goal and whatever path allowed him to achieve it, Death has made decisions he might regret, and struggles with the implications of what he feels he must do. Whereas War was framed for his alleged crimes and mercilessly punished, Death's greatest sin is lauded as a heroic accomplishment. It draws an interesting comparison between the two brothers, one of whom is held accountable from without for things he didn't do while the other is consumed from within by remorse for what everyone tells him was a great service. This internal conflict makes Death a much more relatable character, and flavors his interactions with others, since he is far more given to wit and banter than his beefier brother.
That isn't to say that the story itself is terrific. It's there, and it's compelling enough that I found myself driven to see how it turned out, but the gameplay is the real focus here. The story really only crops up when it feels like it, and, while the core of it makes perfect sense, it has little to do with the hoops Death must jump through to accomplish his task. Characters in this game treat him like a manservant, sending him out on tasks just to prove that he can be sent on other tasks that only bring him marginally closer to his ultimate goal. The first act and the last act, though, do much to flesh out his character and make his path an uncertain one. The middle, though, is mostly superfluous.
So you won't be coming back for the story, but odds are the game will continue to draw you back. There's a ton to do, with trinkets and baubles to be found, massive stone body parts to be uncovered, and cavernous depths to be explored in the name of loot and experience.
Is it a perfect game? No, not really, but it is well-crafted with obvious care and attention to detail, netting a smooth and enjoyable experience with just enough addictive qualities in the gameplay to keep one coming back for more.
Date: August 14, 2012