Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition Review
Reviewed on Nintendo SwitchAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
In Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition you take control of one of the Four Horsemen: Death. A sequel to the game Darksiders that came out back in 2010 where you play as War trying to prove his innocence to the games overlords The Charred Council. Darksiders II was originally released in 2012 but then remastered into the Deathinitive Edition in 2015 as the original publishers went bankrupt and the rights transferred over to Nordic Games. Now it’s 2019 and we have a Nintendo Switch port that has been anticipated since Darksiders: Warmastered Edition was released for the Switch back in April of this year. With both of the first games ported to the Switch and Darksiders III released in November of last year for PS4, Xbox One and PC, it makes you wonder when and if it’ll be ported to the Switch. Seems likely that it's still possible but is rolling out as a more staggered release for the Switch.
Normally the term Nephilim is a biblical term describing the offspring of fallen angels and humans but in Darksiders, the lore changes that concept a bit. In the games, Nephilim are described as a fusion of both angel and demons possessing great power and none are more powerful amongst them than The Four Horsemen. War, Death, Fury and Strife are the Four Horsemen that formed an allegiance with The Charred Council (the de facto rulers of the universe) that strive for what they call “The Balance.” In the pursuit of balance, The Charred Council’s first request was for the Four to wipe out their kin, the remaining Nephilim, which they accomplished. At the start of the first game, War is accused by the Charred Council for breaking the seventh seal which unleashed the Apocalypse prematurely and began a holy war between angels and demons and caused the destruction of the human race. In Darksiders II Death takes up the mission to find a way to resurrect the human race, thinking that will absolve his brother War of his crimes. Death sets off on a journey to many other realms including the Forge lands, the Underworld, areas of Heaven, Hell and Earth to accomplish his task.
You are Death and yes, that is as epic as it sounds. He duel-wields scythes, has numerous secondary weapons like hammers, and gauntlets with varying styles, and many powers or ranged attacks that also help him traverse the world and complete puzzles. Combat is similar to the other titles with the use of a main and secondary weapon to string together combos keeping enemies on their toes whilst dodging and performing counters attacks. Enemies vary from small flying bugs, rock creatures gripped by corruption, lizard-like monsters, demons, angels and many others that attack Death within the different realms. Then there are larger enemy boss battles which typically have a puzzle element in the fight to bring them to their knees. Also, you have abilities that require Wrath points to use that you can choose to unlock as you level up. Abilities like Teleport Slash which gains health for damage, Exume that raises Ghouls from the dirt to fight for you, and many other abilities that add boons to you and your previous abilities for further carnage. Lastly, you can build Reaper energy to transform into Death's second form, a large misty cloaked version of himself with a huge scythe. Attacking in this form makes you invulnerable and destroys mass groups of enemies with ease.
What’s different in this game from the others is a looting system and skill tree were added. There’s a lot of debate whether this improves this entry and I believe it does. To me, these added elements gave more meaning to your attributes and help dictate your playstyle. Another thing is Death's wall-climbing abilities are far superior to the other entries. Death climbs, wall runs, and jumps to get from point A to B in a very stylish and satisfying way. Something I like about Darksiders II is that it has a good balance of quality puzzles but still feels straightforward enough to progress smoothly. A lot of Metroidvania-like games aren’t laid out as overtly causing lots of frustration along the way. I wouldn’t say Darksiders II puzzles are necessarily simple but they do feel obvious at most points in the game. I mention this because the flow of gameplay and pacing is a huge deal to me and I feel Darksiders II does this well.
Darksiders games keep getting revamped and ported for a reason, they’re extremely fun to play. The fact that the original developers went belly-up and we still have Darksiders III is a testament to that, even if it did take eight years after the first game came out. As I have played all of them it was Darksiders II that got me into the franchise and I still say that this one is my favourite. The others are still quality games especially with the circumstances that were overcome to continue to make them, but Darksiders II has more going on. The other games almost entirely take place on Earth while Darksiders II stretches to many areas creating a more expansive scope that you feel throughout the game. This game is dungeon after dungeon and if that’s something you enjoy this game is a blast to play. There's plenty of exploration and side missions along with the linear story to help it not to feel like another open-world game. Darksiders I is quite linear without that much exploration and can feel pretty bare at times. Darksiders III is closer to a Soulslike game, which has its merits but when sequels bounce around with their game mechanics it can be jarring for some fans.
Darksiders II is a game I find myself coming back to and playing through it again is great. Playing on the Switch I had some reservations but it honestly performed better than I expected. It wasn’t perfect as the loading times between areas were still an issue, there were frame rate drops, and it did crash on me once. Although, some of these issues I was expecting and it was never game-breaking and didn’t detract too much from the playthrough for me. The controls do feel a bit clunkier especially when playing handheld, so it’s best played docked with a pro controller. Though it doesn’t look quite as crisp as it could playing in handheld mode, it still looks good and I think that largely has to do with the art style. Darksiders games aren’t hyper-realistic first-person shooters, they’re fantasy games with subtle shell shading and cartoon-like worlds and characters. Given this, it feels more fitting visually on a Switch than it does other consoles, though the content is a touch more mature than your average Nintendo title.
There is just something about Darksiders games that strikes a cord you just can’t find in other games. That enigmatic quality is likely due to the brutal hack and slash combat mixed with the quirky art style. There are very few games that thread the balance between gratuitous violence and humorous whit while not detracting from either. Each game in the franchise has there different strengths and weaknesses but each is worth picking up in their own right. I wouldn’t say everyone agrees but for me, Darksiders II is the best in the series and a great place to start.