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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Not So Fresh" Review: Darksiders 2

Platform, Kill, Rinse, Repeat.
So with little to play on the Wii U and a nice 20 dollar price point on the eShop for a limited time, I finally decided to throw down and check out Vigil Games' love letter to Zelda. What I ended up playing was a game that prided itself on combat and a lot of dungeons. And collectables, too.

Does Darksiders 2 deliver? Does Death bring some much-needed life to a barren overworld? Read on to find out. 

 PROS:

-Fluid combat with a variety of options in both weaponry and their respective movesets, as well as other combat abilities that enable plenty of experimentation.

-An impressive number of dungeons featuring numerous gadgets and tools that will assist the player in overcoming new obstacles. A great deal of effort has been placed into giving these dungeons dimension and scale, as well as a unique feeling for each, featuring some truly interesting formats.

-A large amount of collectables scattered throughout the many realms of Darksiders 2- weapons, armor, trinkets that will award you gold and increased stats- it is a massive game with plenty of content.

CONS:

-A heavy aesthetic muddles most of Darksiders 2, and though the first realm visited is quite varied, the others soon feel repetitive and too reliant on a dark and moody feel.

-Combat is timing-based, which means mashing the same buttons over and over will only get you the same result. Unfortunately, that works just as well.

-Puzzles sometimes implement mechanics that are never fully explained or sometimes feel "game-breaking".

THOUGHTS:

Darksiders 2 is extremely large. There's ten or so dungeons, not including mini dungeon experiences, strewn across a number of wacky worlds. The combat is varied, the collectables, everywhere. The story isn't even that bad once you get past the idea that everything you know about heaven and hell is wrong, and Death is a pretty interesting character.

So what's the problem, then? Well, Darksiders is ambitious, and certainly an expanse game. But while it has many great elements, none of them come off as particularly incredible. There was nothing that really made me grin and say "wow". The combat is neat and combo-based, but too often any sort of combo setup or finisher is interrupted by the hordes of enemies that swarm you. Dodge-based combat is a staple in adventure games but here, side-stepping is a risky venture because of how pressured you are by the number of enemies. It becomes easier to memorize the first couple of simplistic combos and spice it up with crossovers for the sake of being flashy or because your other weapon has a beneficial ability.

In the same way, the puzzles feel a bit stale. Sure, there's some neat ideas here and there but too often the puzzles are marred by the overpowering aesthetic- often, puzzle elements are hidden in places with a dark texture or one that appears to be non-interactive, or they even use mechanics that are never specifically stated or shown. The frustrating aspect is knowing how the puzzle should be solved but not knowing where the elements to solve it actually are.

And then there's collectables. Yeah, there's a lot. But again, the aesthetic and the fact that they are EVERYWHERE means you will never find them. I mean, there are stones you need to find that barely have an aura and are placed ALL OVER the place. Not to mention, there's five different variations of collectable things so there's a ton of weird things to trade and exchange. I passed on completing one of the sidequests from the opening act and came back to it in the endgame when I felt like I had time, and it told me I had to find a number of pieces of an ancient statue- I mean, that's great and all, and they're scattered throughout the world you play in the first act, but I honestly don't give a damn because I don't feel like scouring that massive place AGAIN.

Also, the game isn't that difficult. I mean, I trounced through the first two acts and really only found some trouble with the final act when the enemies just became punishing with their hitboxes. Otherwise, the game adheres to the idea that "the challenge is harsh, but the punishment is not" allowing you to continuously attack difficult puzzles and enemies numerous times. Darksiders 2 felt less difficult to me than recent Zelda titles.

Ye ultimately, there's a lot of love in Darksiders 2. It's really a huge game and it has so much content. The most memorable dungeons are awesome- trudging through post-apocalyptic Earth with a set of nasty guns in a neat third-person-shooter level is a breath of fresh air. Riding mechanical golems and wrecking the snot out of those enemies what were giving you a tough time is fun, as is a titanic battle with a corrupted Golem. But these moments are so few and far between (especially with a pretty plodding second act), and everything else is too formulaic. The dungeon design is very organic, as are the exploration elements. Is it a game I can recommend? For twenty bucks, which was the price I paid- maybe. But anything more, and I'm afraid I'd have to turn you away. It's fun, but not remarkable.

Final Verdict: With a slew of dungeons and a loot system that makes progression feel expansive (and a bit broken), Darksiders is great fun for short, sporadic bursts of dungeon and puzzle gameplay. But playing it for too long will make you realize that its quite predictable and does little to persuade you otherwise.

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