I’ve been wanting to talk about Darksiders 2 for a little while now but I wanted to finish the game first so I would have the complete picture before passing final judgement. I’d like also to mention that I played Darksiders 1 and 2 in quick succession so a lot of my views on the second games are colored a lot by comparing the two games.
What is Darksiders?
Darksiders 1 was something of a sleeper hit back in 2010 when it launched. The gameplay was a mix of God of War fighting with Zelda-esque dungeon exploring set in a Spawn like apocalyptic world (serious… I was certain Todd McFarlane had designed the game) and what seemed an odd match at first turned out to be a pretty fun combination.
But it was not without flaws. Nothing major but they were a few issues like pacing, game over too quickly, minor dungeons bugs, camera angles, too few different enemies, etc… In short, all issues that a new company like Vigil games could be forgiven for making on their first big title. In the end, Darksiders was considered a great first game for a small company like Vigil and they were high expectations for the second game to see if Vigil could fix the minor flaws of the first game and deliver what could possibly be one of the greatest game of the year.
It’s a trap!
I’ll come out right ahead and say that Darksiders is not a bad game but it’s not either the smash hit it could have been. Why? Because Vigil fell into a few too many classic traps when it came to design the second game. To illustrate this, I think it’s worth to talk about what made the first game a success and the flaws critics pointed out.
If you get down to hit, Darksiders one was praised on good combat à la God of War, exploration dungeons like Zelda and a style that felt like a comic book. The dungeon aspect in particular was appreciated as it was felt that too few games attempted the Zelda style. What gave Darksiders such an impact was the clever blend of the three elements above. What was reproached however was the shortness of the game, the rather simple dungeons and how small the world felt.
So if I’m Vigil games, I would take out of this to keep the same setting and gameplay but add way more of it to the game and work out the small design kinks. Sounds simple no?
And…. that where the trap lies. Adding more content is only good if said content is relevant and that’s where Darksiders 2 falls short most of the time. A lot of the dungeons are not really relevant to the story and most of them feel like the exact same dungeon that you just completed 5 minutes ago. I think what happened is that Vigil confused repetition and reuse as being more content.
To illustrate try to think back to a Zelda game and the dungeons in there. Every dungeon is a Zelda game is themed differently and one of the great pleasure of a Zelda game is exploring the different environments. Now try to imagine if instead of doing the forest temple once and then moving to the desert you had to do it six time in a row, then do the desert five times, then do the next dungeon another five times and so forth. Way more dungeons but is it worth it? Not really and it just makes the game drag.
And that is the biggest flaw of Darksiders 2, it drags on for long parts especially in the beginning when your tasked with irrelevant tasks and forced to redo the type of dungeon over and over. In a way in had content and lenght to the game but if that content is not that interesting to begin with… not so fun.
And the best supporting game award goes to…
Now we get to what I feel is the second issue with the game, the fact that in the end you’re playing second fiddle to the story of the first game. To make a long story short and not spoiler too many things, you’re trying to solve the first game issue by way of a rather weird and convoluted plan when in the end you know that issue is solved at the end of the first game.
Think of it this way. Let’s say the first game was Lord of Rings with the Fellowship wanting to destroy the Ring. Then Darksiders 2 would follow the adventures of Aragorn secret half-brother who was trying to raise an army to beat Sauron but when he does manage to raise said army he finds out the Ring has been destroyed anyway. Makes the whole exercise feels kinda useless doesn’t it?
To be fair, I think what happened is that Vigil has more games planned for the series and wanted to do a lot of world building with this game but they sorta forgot to make the game stand on its own. In addition, if you haven’t played the first game I seriously doubt you’ll get much out of the story of the second one as it was clearly made for people who had played the first one.
Worst sequel ever?
No I don’t think so. While I talked a lot about the flaws the game does have its moment and the elements that made the first one succesful are still there so at the very least you get a decent exploration/adventure game. Herein lies the problem, it’s only decent when it could have been so much more. Vigil only had to fine tune the concepts of the first game and deliver a couple of memorable dungeons but instead it went for the easy solution of repetition and reuse.
So here’s my recommendation. Buy the first game. It’s about 15$ in bargain bins right now and in many way it’s superior to the sequel even if it’s a bit short. If you really like it and want to see the whole story when they release the other games, then wait for Darksiders 2 price to drop and then get it. But don’t pay full price for this game.
The monkey loves:
-The unique setting and the mix of action combat and dungeon exploration. Darksiders is still the only series to blend the two genres this way and only for that I think it’s worth it.
The monkey liked:
-The Dead lands and the BlackStone. Love a well done environment when I see one.
-Boss fights. Most were well done and interesting.
The monkey disliked:
-The overall plot. I don’t like being the second fiddle in a game like this.
-Find all the tiny gems quests. I don’t have the time nor the patience to look in every tiny crevice.
The monkey thinks Death need to pay a visit to Vigil for:
-Heavy environment reuse. You can only do so many variations of the same dungeon before it gets boring
-The forge lands: They sucked, ‘nough said.
-The crucible. yet another boring wave arena. Come on game designers! Think of something else to fill your game.
PS: I know there’s a lot of rave review out there about this game. I am right, they are wrong.