In Vigil Games sophomore title, Darksiders II, you play as Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, returning to the realm of the living to free his brother, War, who has been held prisoner by an ancient order for destroying humanity. Knowing his brother is innocent, Death rides to bring an end to whoever threatens his brothers, and return the balance of good and evil throughout the known world. Darksiders II takes place during the hundred years that War was imprisoned in the original title, the sequel makes plenty a reference to its predecessor but doesn’t give any substantial nods to the overarching tale.
In the original, the player would maneuver a dungeon at each stage in the narrative, where in Darksiders II there is a new hub location for each new phase. Ranging from vast fields and forests to erupting volcanic mines down to the depths of the dead kingdom and up to the angel’s home, the white city, the sequel has plenty to stare at. Tossing away it’s predecessors tightly weaving paths of ruined highway passes connecting few sprawling distances, Darksiders II gives you plenty opportunity to roam but little to do outside of dungeon content. Each over world has an unique design, and enough is tucked away in the nooks and crannies to keep you busy, but the majority of the open world is empty. While clearly depicting the dying races around the world, the terrain still felt too barren, with not too much substance, stuffing most of the desirables into the many dungeons. There is more than enough quests riddled in the dungeons to compensate and I can understand the logic around painting the picture of disparity seen around the land, but I still was left wanting more side content.
Loot is everything in Darksiders II. Weapons such as scythes, hammers, axes, claws and even extending to the options to changing each piece of Death’s armor to improve his stats. These drop randomly from defeated enemies and explode from hidden chests to wet your appetite till the next great weapon to appear. Certain weapons, deemed ‘possessed’, can be upgraded to improve their own stats by sacrificing other weapons and armor. Anything can be sacrificed to power these possessed weapons, though the rarer the item sacrificed, the more energy is encased into the weapon. Several tiers of strength can be reached when upgrading each weapon, increasing the stats, while also allowing you to select a new ability from random sets.
Aside from buying combat maneuvers from the trainer and expand weapons and armor with the loot system, Vigil fleshed out an entire skill tree, allowing a better solution to accommodate variety for the player. The tree is divided into two paths, a melee combat heavy path, and a path of magical assistance. The skill tree felt a little underwhelming to me, with most of the skills being small stat upgrades to combat abilities unlocked earlier on. I can understand the underlying tactical reasons for these, and the balance of combat that follows, but I couldn’t help but want more individual powers. The initial sight of many powers is exciting, but after investigating there isn’t a whole lot there to sustain you is a bit bummer.
Several creatures help Death along his quest, ranging from angel to demons, and anything in between like stone automatons, sentient trees and beings older than the balance of good and evil. Vulgrim the demon merchant makes his return from the original Darksiders. In the predecessor, Vulgrim was a necessity, being the source of ability upgrades, new combat techniques, as well as consumables. Vigil has given him some slack, adding several other vendors to suit your mercantile needs. Pushed to the back burner, Vulgrim is left to only dealing random items of each tier of quality. The most important of the new merchants are the combat trainers. These various merchants offers the reaper assistance by teaching him various combat techniques that guarantee Death’s success.
Darksiders II is a perfect compliment to the original, adding to just about every aspect in the series. The story does its job explaining the years skipped over, while tossing in enough lore to flesh out the universe. Its never astonishing or amazing but still cohesive enough to keep you going with rolling your eyes. The combat isn’t reinvented but spreads wide enough with the addition of weaponry and techniques to capture anyone’s play style. Vigil’s skill tree is enough to savor the appetite of anyone looking for some extra tactics despite not being pushed to the limits. Not a perfect game, but enough is packed in to warrant the purchase. Though if your wallet is tight, be sure to definitely rent or borrow, Darksiders II is not to be missed.