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Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Gunfire Games
Release Date: Oct. 27, 2015

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.

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PS4 Review - 'Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition'

by Brian Dumlao on Dec. 15, 2015 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Darksiders II follows the exploits of Death, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, in a weaving tale that runs parallel to the events in the original Darksiders game.

In 2012, Darksiders II was released. It was the sequel to a game that could be succinctly described as a mature take on The Legend of Zelda series, but the fast combat system was more in line with action games. It sold decently on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, and a part was later done for the Wii U launch with some DLC thrown in for good measure. The death of THQ spelled doom for the series, but the subsequent acquisition of the property by Nordic Games gave people hope that there would be sequels, so fans could have the chance to play as the two other Horsemen. While there still isn't official news on a third game, there is a port of the latest game in the form of Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition.

The plot runs parallel to the events in the first game. After being duped into starting the apocalypse earlier than scheduled, War is sent before the Charred Council to answer for his crimes. Knowing of his innocence, his brother Death clears War's name by resurrecting, instead of killing off, the human race. To do so, he must clear out the corruption in a land far older than Earth and seek out the Tree of Life.


Like the first game, this entry feels heavily influenced by a number of other games. In particular, the combat feels like God of War due to the ease with which you can hack and slash enemies in a full 3-D environment. Moving from target to target while inflicting massive amounts of damage feels just as comfortable as intuitive as Kratos' outings, and the ever-present combo count really amplifies the comparison to Sony's adventure series. At the same time, there's some heavy influence from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time thanks to things like the lock-on system for combat and placement of puzzles in dungeon environments. You also traverse a large plot of land for most of the game with a horse in tow. Despite the obvious influences, it almost feels like gamers are getting a more mature version of that adventure. From a gameplay perspective, the influential factors fit so well with the game that the melding of mechanics seems more refined; critics of this approach would even say that it copied things in just the right way.

With Death being a new player-controlled character, the developers decided to flesh out his abilities. The combat is amplified due to Death's agility. It leans more toward Devil May Cry than God of War, since moves are executed faster with more fluidity and flair. Secondary melee weapons also come into play to strengthen the comparison and increases the number of combos you can execute. The added agility doesn't just go into combat, as Death can climb walls, jump great distances, and perform acrobatics that are expected from third-person adventure heroes. The game also features a XP system that doesn't necessarily make you stronger in regular RPG terms, but it gives you the ability to open up skills in a tree with emphasis on either solo combat or assisted combat, and you can temporarily call on spirits.


On top of that, the designers added a loot mechanic. Just like Diablo and other action RPGs, enemies you encounter drop a random item on the field, whether it's a piece of armor or a new weapon with variable stats. With the ability to hold a large collection of hammers, braces and boots, you'll try to kill everything in your path to see if they drop something that's even a fraction better than what you have. To add more depth, the developers threw in special "possessed" items that are completely upgradeable depending on the items you feed it. Thus, you'll care about even the weakest items because it could help upgrade the possessed item. It is a great mechanic that solves the issue of amassing tons of useless items that often plague loot grabs like this, and it also feeds into the obsession some players may have of grabbing every single item they see on the ground.

For the most part, the blending of different game mechanics works well enough. The pacing of combat, puzzles and exploration is balanced to the point where you never feel like you're doing too much of any one thing. There's also no clear definition of where dungeons begin or where boss fights should go, giving the game a more spontaneous feel. The individual parts also work nicely by themselves. Puzzles in dungeons aren't overly simple but aren't overly complicated, either. Each one can be solved without some sort of guide, though they may confound you at first. Combat is fluid but really shines during boss fights where you'll battle giant creatures that are sure to elicit some awe. Even the platforming doesn't feel too complicated, though there are a few tricky jumps that are only made difficult due to your perspective at those times.


The overall aspect that could irk players is the fact that a number of your quests are essentially fetch quests. A number of people you meet ask for a specific number of certain items, all of which are located around the large world. Considering the plot, the mechanic is fine, but players who want to take a break from searching for one obscure item at a time have been warned. Also, the online functionality for sending and receiving items from others is gone, so it makes those stations from the original a bit useless here.

All of the DLC is included in the Deathinitive Edition. Everything from the extra weapons and armor to the actual missions are here, but unlike the other releases, which placed the mission-based DLC in the main menu, they've been refactored into the game so they're earnable items and prizes for reaching story milestones. In a way, it makes the title a better experience for those who haven't played it before, since they're experiencing the title in the same way that past owners did, with the main story being completed first before taking on the extra content. If anything, it shows that there was a little more done than just creating a straight port of the existing content.

Graphically, Darksiders II looks rather good. The character models look great thanks to the designs of Joe Madureira, whose influence makes everyone from the Elders to Death himself look bold and unique. The animations are crisp, and the environments are alive with color and detail. The bolder use of color also gives the game a quasi cel-shaded appearance but without the thick black lines that normally accentuate the style. There has been some work done to the textures and lighting to make it pop a bit more, but when compared to the original game, the differences don't jump out as much as one would expect, especially with the upgrade to full 1080p. The game still suffers from a bit of stuttering when moving to new areas, but at least pop-up has been largely negated. Screen tearing is also prevalent, but what will disappoint players more is the frame rate being capped at 30fps. It works well at this frame rate, but considering the newfound power of these consoles, it's sad that a higher frame rate wasn't targeted.


The sound is top-notch all around, though those looking for something new won't necessarily find it here. The music is appropriately moody and epic, a big plus given the more open nature of the game. There are some good set pieces that help convey the game scope, and the tracks are memorable. The effects are well done, as are the voices, which all feel like they fit the characters perfectly. This is especially true of Death, whose snarkiness makes for a somewhat relatable hero.

Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition is much like Dishonored: Definitive Edition released just a few months ago. Despite it being a few years old, it remains a very good representative of its genre and is even excellent in a few areas. With all of the included DLC, there's a good amount of gameplay and value, and the revamped way it applies the DLC to the game is novel enough to force everyone to experience the content as it was meant to be. The move to a more powerful console doesn't translate into extreme visual changes, though, and those expecting a frame rate bump will be disappointed. For those who have yet to experience the title on the PC or previous generation of consoles, this is still worth checking out.

Score: 8.0/10



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