Saturday, October 31, 2015

Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition (Xbox One) Review

Darksiders II follows up on the original Darksiders, but stars Death as he seeks to gain redemption for his brother War, who was unjustly blamed for the events of the previous game.  I originally played this on the Xbox 360, but now the Deathinitive Edition has been released for the current gen consoles, and bring with it some improvements, the previously released DLC and a cutesy name.

The graphics have improved some, but it isn't a huge jump.  Lighting effects, on the other hand, look much better than I remember.  This is one of the things specifically mentioned as an improvement, and it is obvious.  The game loads a little quicker, although there are parts where it studders a bit while doing so during gameplay.  Also, there were times during cut scenes where the audio was out of sync with the video.  I'm not sure if it's just a problem with the Xbox One version, or if that was present in the 360 version (it was a few years ago that I played it after all).

Combat is action-oriented, but with many RPG mechanics.  The X Button is your main weapon (scythes), and the Y Button is whatever your equipped sub-weapon is, which ranges from claws to giant hammers.  There are a few different combo moves to fill out your arsenal, but I really only stuck to a few I found useful.  Where War (in the previous game) was beefy, Death is much more lithe.  Hence, he dodges instead of blocks.  The timing can be very strict, as many times I was a hair too slow and just ate an attack.  If you dodge too early, most enemies will track your movement and hit you anyway, so you have to be pretty precise.  Sometimes Death didn't want to dodge in the direction I was pressing, which again would lead to me taking unnecessary damage.  Locking on to enemies helps your attacks aim at them, and is especially helpful when using the gun Death gets.  Plus, it will show the enemy's HP.

Besides two weapons, Death can equip a few different pieces of armor on his shoulder, waist, hands and feet.  These can be purchased, found in chest or dropped from enemies, and will show up on his character model.  While most of them will increase stats like defense, some pieces have skills attached to them, like health regeneration.  Also, there are some special weapons that you get when you defeat a boss.  The last special piece of equipment would be the possessed weapons.  These rare items can be fed other pieces of equipment to power them up.  While cool, I rarely used them, as I tended to find better stuff.  I do like the boss weapons, though, since I'm a special item hoarder.

Every kill and completed quest gets you experience, which will predictably level you up after you gain enough.  Besides increasing your stats, you will also gain a skill point to put in one of Death's two skill trees.  There are several active abilities in each, and more upgrades to modify those active skills.  Each "tier" of skills is accessible by leveling up, and you can freely choose to mix and match abilities.  Plus, you can buy a respec from Vulgrim the shopkeep if you want to reallocate your points.  The only part that isn't the most user friendly is mapping the active skills.  You can't do it from the skill tree, but must press down on the d-pad when not in the menu.  Then you can highlight a skill and hold down the Right Bumper and the button that will activate the skill.  Not a huge deal, but can be hard to remember all of that if you want to put on a new ability or change one you have set.

Besides combat, there is a lot of exploration for Death to do.  There are several areas you travel to, and dungeons to overcome.  Each area tends to be connected by narrow canyons that are a perfect time to mount your horse and run through them.  I'm not sure if these areas are so the horse feels useful, or to helps seamlessly load the next area (or both), but ultimately it doesn't matter.  They are just there.  Anyway, there are lots of little side areas that tend to have collectibles in them, or at least an extra chest.  You can also fast travel to many explored areas, which makes  jumping back and forth to dungeons and finishing up side quests much less of a hassle

Dungeons have the most platforming sections, and a fair amount of puzzle parts, too.  The puzzles aren't too hard, mostly pulling switches and placing balls in the right spot, but I do really like the ones that use the golems.  Death can ride around on certain golems, and they can destroy the corruption and fire their fist off on a chain that Death can use to cross some chasms.  They are fun to use.  Death also has some now standard platforming skills at his disposal, like wall running and climbing around specific wall areas.  For the most part the controls for these are spot on, but there are instances where I was trying to run along the wall and the game thought I wanted to run straight up.  Sometimes Death will also do this when you are jumping next to the wall, even if you aren't pushing toward it.

The game has supposedly be re-balanced from its initial release, and some fights did seem a bit easier.  Still, the game isn't too hard on the normal setting, just make sure to have spare health potions on hand, since you will very likely need them.  It's very easy to get hit, especially from off-screen, and the best source to heal yourself is potions.  There are some skills and abilities that will heal you, but it is not near enough to help you in a tough fight.  I did also occasionally get lost in a dungeon and not realize what I had to do to proceed.  It was usually me not noticing an area I could platform to, and not a result of the dungeon puzzles.  Lastly, there are times where the camera won't cooperate during combat.  Sadly, that is par for the course in 3D action games, but it is annoying to take some cheap damage when you can't see what's going on or get your bearing and try to dodge out of trouble.

Content-wise, the game is closer to RPG than action title.  This gives the story over 25 hours, and even more if you are like me and search around for all the extra stuff to do.  Since this version includes the DLC, you will even get another 3 hours or so of extra stuff.  There's also a lot of collectible stuff to pad the length even further.  If you are going for achievements, you will likely go through the game again to get the difficulty related achievements.  Overall, a good length for the cost.

I like Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition and think it is a very fun game.  It has a few small issues and the combat isn't as tight as, say, a Platinum Games game, but it's still solid.  If you like action RPGs and didn't try out Darksiders II when it was initially released, I would recommend trying it out now on the current gen systems.  It's less worth it for repeat buyers, but if you didn't get any of the DLC last time and would like to go through the game again, it is worth the price of admission.

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