Welcome to the WiiU! This is a sentence that, sadly, few people can really say. But I have recently gotten my hands on the system. Once I had satisfied my curiosity about all the various extra features the system has, it was time to pick up a game and play, and I already had my first game picked out. It took a little bit of hunting, but I came home with Darksiders 2. So how was it? Well, I wish it could have been as amazing as my last time playing the original Wii (since the WiiU plays all Wii games, I unplugged and put it away), but that would simply be unreasonable. Instead, well, read on.
Story: Everyone who has spent the time to see War’s adventure in Darksiders can tell you how he was framed as well as ultimately who did it, how, and I believe even why. But this was not the entire story, for while War went about trying to prove his innocence, his brother Death went on his own quest to undo the crime of starting the apocalypse in the first place. But to do that, Death will have to find a way to bring mankind back.
It doesn’t take long before this quest reveals the Tree if Life is key to Death’s goals, but the path to it and the realm it’s in is in danger. A force known as The Corruption is eating it alive like a black oily parasite, and Death will need the help to get there and save War. Thankfully he does have allies, as the inhabitance of this realm are the Makers, ancient people who’s purpose is and was to create worlds and realms. For helping them get a foothold against the corruption, they will clear the path to the tree, understanding the brotherly drive Death follows.
Nor will they be the only ones. This game has very few twists, nor are those twists particularly big. However, they will each lead you on to new maps and in a methodical manner that feels natural to the flow of the game, so I can see no issues with this.
If I had to pick an issue with the story, it’s just how it relates to the first game. It builds on nothing the original has setup, and yet has several places where you will give away spoilers that are a big part of the original’s plot, including the ending. If you could, you would be best off to play Darksiders before you play this sequel.
Graphics: Darksiders 2 is a direct port from the game released on PS3, 360, and PC previously. As such, do not expect this game to stand out as an example of anything “next gen” is capable of. It isn’t. What it is is a nicely detailed game that has performance issues.
You will be pleased with the look of the game overall, taking a very Todd McFarlane style to the graphics and yet enough variation to give each of the 5 realms you will visit their own feel… from the troubled but peaceful forgeworld, to the pale murky and barren realm of the dead, every place has it’s own feel, but all tied together by a central art and by the style of the corruption that carries the plot for a cohesive package.
But while the game is pleasing to the eye, graphically it has some serious issues. The game is plagued with screen-tearing, and it doesn’t matter if you use the screen in the gamepad or if you use the TV. Anytime you have a distance on the screen, expect to see this.
And if enough is going on, expect your framerate to suffer. Generally, I found this issue involved unleashing the zombie hoard against a hoard of enemies, but considering the power available in the WiiU and the fact that this game wasn’t new to the world when it was brought to this system, this is really a sad thing to see. But then seeing how well Virgil did with the original game and hearing about the game-ending bugs in other versions of this title, I have to chalk this up to the level of coding skill we can expect from them. They can make a great world, but they just can’t seem to write it to the game well.
Sound: I can’t really say a lot for or against the music of this game since it blends in exceptionally well to the entire feel, amplifying the mood of the realm, the dungeon, and the moment you are in. But you would never look for this music on CD.
Sound effects also fit this theme, with all the clangs, booms, and thuds you would expect as the action gets intense on the screen pulled off very well. But since your weapons boil down to maybe 3 guns, blades, and blunt objects (usually hammers and clubs) banging and slashing through meat and into walls, do not expect a lot of variation.
But like so many games these days, the voice-work is what will stand out and stand out for all the right reasons. Death comes off as a deadpan wise-ass who has no problem mocking someone he wishes he doesn’t have to deal with, all the while doing so so dead-pan you can’t always be sure he’s not serious. It is a brilliant performance and made Death an oddly endearing character to me.
Not that he is the only one with serious personality. Every major character who’s interactions with Death take center stage is just as lovingly treated with talent and writing, so expect to find a few favorites among the cast. Sadly I can not name anyone else as to do so would potentially ruin some of the suprises the game offers, but look forward to this. It’s worth it.
Gameplay: Just like it’s predecessor, Darksiders 2 is a Zelda-clone. You will spend your time exploring vast overworlds while fighting off random monsters that inhabit them and looking for hidden items, dungeons, and town-like areas with friendly characters to interact with all from a 3rd person perspective allowing you to move the camera as you need or let it follow you in a fairly natural way.
While in dungeons, the fighting gets a lot more intense, as do the puzzles you will have to solve to finish whatever quests brought you to that location. As far as combat goes, this intensity comes most often in the form of arenas that close you in while you finish off whatever group of enemies have been placed in your way. Between these arenas will be rooms and corridors that may have a monster or 3 and a fairly intricate set of puzzles you will also have to complete to move on. It’s formulaic, but it work rather well to keep you moving forward and want to keep playing and see what the game will throw at you next.
And from time to time, the game will throw bosses at you, but Im sad to say this is usually not the highlight it should be. The first half of the game basically lacks even remotely good bosses, instead having three obnoxious ones, ranging from the drawn out needlessly to “you need luck or a game guide to see what to do” kinds of bosses. To understand what I mean, your first boss encounter is with a giant spider who’s process is very obvious: dodge her till she smacks into a wall dropping an egg from the roof. From here you roll the egg into her, knocking her on her side and get a chance to do serious damage. The problem is that if you do not get to that egg in time, it hatches requiring you to repeat the process, and the room is much too large to assume you will get to if it drops in the wrong place. While the boss is far from difficult, this causes the fight to likely go on much longer then is necessary or welcome…
On the other end of the spectrum is a giant boss requiring literal dismemberment, but the second phase of the fight gives you no hint on how to fight at all. Instead you have all the ability in the world to drag it out infinitely without taking a single hit. Again, this is an obnoxious situation and a serious problem with the early boss battles in the game. Thankfully they do get better, and even fun for a little while, but you have to wade through a very large part of the game before you get to good ones. And they don’t necessarily remain at this quality from that point on.
Thankfully most of the game does a much better job at simply playing great. The level of exploration and ability to find ways to climb over literally everything in the game is a rare joy. If you are a fan of exploration, you are in for an absolute treat that will more then make up for the downfall. And on top of this you can rest assured if you see places to go you can’t reach right away, you will eventually get a power that will let you go back and look to see what you can find at your own discression. You will never be forced to backtrack, but you will more often then not be rewarded for your efforts, so the game very much leaves this up to you with fantastic results for the most part.
But that is not to say that even this is perfect. When they made this game, they made a choice between animation and controls, and I’m sorry to say animation won. Most often this will not be a serious issue, as the penalty for environmental death is virtually non-existent. You literally have to watch a death scene that is a few seconds long, the screen fade out, and then bam, back into the brink you go without even enemies respawning! But there are times, when that design choice will get in the way as when you are in a race against an environmental threat. The example that immediately comes to mind is an elevator shaft you have to climb before the elevator catches up and the spikes/red-hot metal bring you to your doom. To escape you must navigate the wall-grips and climb the path ahead of it, but you have to be careful. If you try to jump up before Death is done going sideways, you will glide along the wall off the path and to an early grave. Same goes if you try to jump sideways before Death is moving. Even if you slammed that analog stick, he will try to jump up and waste your precious seconds scrabbling for a hold where there is none.
Still, points where this rather bad design choice has any significant effect on the game are exceptionally rare and the rest of your time exploring and running around will be an absolute joy. Add to this a nice leveling system to give it a tasteful RPG flavor and It would be a shame to miss out for what amounts to about 20 minutes or so out of a 20-30 hour game.
Bugs: Just like the first game, Darksiders 2 has some serious issues with bugs, outside of the framerate and screen tearing issues I’ve already talked about. A few came to mind specifically:
- Game Crash: Yes, the ultimate issue a console game can have exists in this title. It only happened once but while in the second to last level, my WiiU froze solid. After a moment of hoping it was just taking a moment to load but not showing me the loading icon for some reason. This hope ended when the music did in favor of one very loud tone that played until I forced the WiiU off by holding down the power button. On top of this, the crash happened while the game showed me it was saving, making me seriously worry that my save was about to be corrupted. Luckily my save remained from the point before, but this brings me right into the next issue.
- Potentially Game Ending Bugs: Not only did that crash make me wonder if my game had come to an abrupt ending, but it was the first of two points where the potential was there. The other was the second to last boss fight in the entire game. Halfway through the fight, he was supposed to move the arena, but didn’t. Instead the fight went rather odd, and rather then show the animation that should have granted me the item I needed to finish the game, I fell into the lava about 3 seconds into the cutscene, cutting it short, denying me the item, and ending my progress. Had I decided to try to learve and find a way to proceed without reloading my save and refighting that boss, a random autosave could have ended it all.
- Loading Times: Apparently this only became an issue with the latest update of the WiiU, but loading times in this game are fairly long and fairly often. The game itself is good enough you will put up with it to keep playing, but to say it isn’t noticeable or annoying is a straight up lie.
Overall: For all the faults in this game (and there are a lot of them) there is something here that is a genuine blast to play. If you enjoy adventure games, you will absolutely have a blast. If you like action RPGs, you will have a blast. Basically, this is the kind of game that for the most part you will have a blast playing. Just be aware your good time will be far from trouble free.