|Also available on PS3|
First comes War; then comes Death. Appropriately enough, Darksiders II turns its eyes from its predecessor's protagonist to a new one: Death himself, War's brother and one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. His story plays out over the same time period as War's, but Darksiders II's narrative isn't so much about plot as it is about place and tone. The originalDarksiders set a darkly fantastical mood, but the sequel hones its edges. The armor is still chunky and the sound of steel on steel still rings across battle arenas, but the skies are more ominous, the shadows grimmer, and the architecture sharper, as if every spire threatens to puncture the heavens and make them bleed.
And so Darksiders II draws you in not by narrative, in spite of its characters' frequent and raspy soliloquizing. Rather, it uses sights and sounds to impress upon you the importance of your deeds. While one level harks back to the angels-versus-demons, Christian apocalypse themes of the original game, Darksiders II springs forth from a more inventive vision. The dusky dungeons and desert expanses are more diverse than before, and the character designs are more imaginative, as if they've wandered in from biblical legends you've never heard. The characters you meet--undead rulers and impossibly proportioned behemoths among them--speak with humorless gravity, and Death often responds with a sneer and a verbal challenge.
The joylessness of Darksiders II's characters is a contrast to the pleasure of existing in this world. An icy opening introduces you to the basics of combat and movement. In traditional action game style, you slash away at clawed creatures with primary and secondary weapons. You run along walls and jump across beams like a devilish Prince of Persia. But most importantly--and in contrast to the original--your enemies drop coins, armor, and weapons. You can don equipment, sell it to a merchant, or sacrifice it to level up rare possessed weapons, which you can customize at certain thresholds. If the original Darksiders was an action/adventure/puzzle game, then the addition of loot drops role-playing elements into that mix, which brings to mind a potential concern: Darksiders was already a heavy mixture of recipes that had come before, recalling games like The Legend of Zelda, God of War, and even Portal. There were so many mechanics and so many tools to keep track of that the game struggled to find its own identity.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
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