Death comes calling in Darksiders 2
For a chap who is the most feared of the infamous Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (they're in the Bible), Death is a strangely likeable character in Darksiders 2.
Not blessed with the bulk of his brother War, Death's ghostly white demeanour means he probably isn't the sort of chap you'd take home to meet your grandmother on a Sunday night, and his off-hand remarks almost reveal he takes pleasure in others' misfortune, but as a game hero out to avenge the rough treatment of his brother, he's starting to grow on me.
With a story that runs parallel to the events of the first game, which saw War apparently jump the gun in starting the rapid decline of mankind, Darksiders 2 sees Death out to seek justice and is a much bigger game than the original, in both scope and ambition. The game world is huge, with chunky environments that often remind me of God of War 3, where the lead character is dwarfed by the environment he has to climb. It's like that here, too: in the open moments, Death is dwarfed by the frozen landscape he has to negotiate, giant chunks of ice crumbling as he climbs and shimmies along.
Darksiders 2 unashamedly plays homage to games from the past and has nods to games such as The Legend of Zelda and the Prince of Persia series, with Death able to run along walls, leap from suspended pillar to suspended pillar, and acrobatically flip himself from platform to platform. He's an agile chap.
Combat is a mix of fast and slow attacks using a variety of weapons, ranging from Death's trademark scythes, axes and hammers, and eventually he gets handed a pistol that apparently belonged to another brother, Strife (artistic licence on the part of the developers?). Defeated enemies will also often drop more- powerful weapons, and treasure- filled chests litter the game's world, just waiting to be ripped open by the impressive winged arms that just appear.
The combat has an RPG feel to it, with each successful strike on an enemy displaying a number above their head, indicating the amount of damage Death has inflicted. Death can't generally block incoming blows so he has to rely on secondary abilities upgraded through a basic skill tree to bolster his attacks: one being reaper mode, powered by wrath energy collected from fallen foes, that temporarily transforms him into double scythe-wielding giant form of himself that wreaks havoc to all those around him. Another power lets Death conjure up a pack of little minions that will attack enemies while you can chip away at them from a different angle.
The gameplay is interspersed with environmental puzzles, often involving rolling glowing balls onto pressure plates, and some prove more cerebral than others, and about five hours in, Death is introduced to constructs, magic- infused creations made out of rock which Death can ride and use to activate out-of-reach places. One mission involves Death having to reactivate a large construct that will help in the battle against the corruption that is plaguing the land.
Death faces off against a variety of foes, and boss fights range from small enemies to gigantic foes, and at times you'll be crazily outnumbered and tested, meaning you'll have to dodge and roll all over the place to avoid their attacks, and yes, Death has a health meter and can die. It's being picky, I know, but I did find that strange: Death being able to die, and while I'm at it, having the game frequently pause to load the next part of a dungeon mid- corridor is jarring to say the least.
I liked Darksiders 2 a lot, even if some of the dungeon crawling got a little tedious at times, and some of the boss fights against the larger enemies were incredibly hard.
Darksiders 2 is a solid follow-up to what was already a great original, with a wondrous world to discover and a surprisingly likeable lead character despite his job title.
Reviewed on: Xbox 360