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The release of Darksiders II signals the end of the mid-year gaming drought, and is the first of the big budget games that come in a deluge in the last months of the year.
For: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U
Rating: R16 +
Darksiders II follows on from the conclusion of the first game, where the Charred Council has condemned War for bringing on the Apocalypse.
Playing as his brother, Death, you must redeem your brother and prove his innocence. Playing the first game first is obviously recommended from a story continuity perspective but it is not essential.
The game has been called by many a cross between God of War and Zelda, and that sums it up pretty well. It has elements of combat from the acclaimed God of War series (but nowhere near as in depth or as gory), and has the dungeon exploration style of the Zelda series. The result is a very addictive style of gameplay, where you find yourself saying "Oh just one more game" and the next thing you know, it's 3am.
The gameplay is really satisfying, and also strikes a balance between being deep (keeping the hardcore gamers happy) and simple enough so that newcomers can jump in with little difficulty. On top of this, players have some choice as to how they upgrade Death's abilities - through two separate skill trees offering differing powers and perks to suit differing styles of play.
Those to have played the cel-shaded Prince of Persia game released not too long ago will be instantly familiar with the platforming (wall running and post climbing), and the games even appear to share the same enemy.
Newcomers may want to play the game on the easier difficulty setting, as Darksiders II proves to be challenging on the highest difficulty level. Much like Spec Ops The Line, choosing the hardest difficulty right off the bat proved to be a silly mistake, as some of the boss battles can prove to be tricky.
The first thing that will strike you in this game is the quality of the cutscenes. They are truly amazing, certainly some of the best out there on this generation of consoles.
However, as soon as you get into the game itself they prove to be a little hit and miss.
Environments are vast and very pretty to look at on the most part, but some of the character animation and detailing is average, at best. Even on Death, the textures are often blurred and not up to the same standard as the rest of the game, which came as a surprise.
For the most part, the game is fantastic but there are a few small things that irritate, such as the loading that seems to take place when travelling through dungeons.
It doesn't occur all that often, but often enough that you really begin to notice it, especially if you change your mind and want to go back the way you came. On top of this, all the secret chests and collectable items are marked on your mini-map from the moment you enter the cave, which sort of removes the challenge of finding the loot and doesn't encourage players to really investigate areas fully.
These are only minor issues, and shouldn't have an impact on the enjoyment of the game.
Darksiders II is perfect to sink some time into before the big guns of gaming land in coming months.
- Simon Bishop