Death is many things. The last great adventure. The one thing all beings have in common. Inevitable. Terrifying. Mysterious. And now that I've played Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition, I can add "pretty good" to that list. Somehow that seems less poetic.
Darksiders 2 is a third person beat em' up puzzler that, much like the first in the series, didn't make much of a splash. So, it came as a surprise to me to see a re-release of the second game touting improved graphics and all of the DLC. Once I got over my astonishment as to why anyone would go through the effort to resurrect a franchise that can only be described as "tepid," I saddled up with the pale rider and rode.
Or, I would have, if the game didn't crash on me. I see you're banking on depth over first impressions, Darksiders 2. My second attempt to launch the game was considerably more successful, though my expectations were tuned to a suitably low level. A cartoonish cinematic laid out the excuse plot: the four horsemen of the apocalypse are actually a quatrain of anti-heroes who enforce balance between creation and destruction. Also Pestilence and Famine are replaced by the more marketable sounding Fury and Strife. War stands accused of bringing about the apocalypse and Death hopes to redeem him by finding the Tree of Life. Once I was through with the cinematic and the tutorial, I found myself smack dab in the middle of Generic Fantasy World. Massive shoulder pauldrons, European accents, and ancient conflicts between good and evil passed through one ear and out the other. All of this made sillier by the fact that Death looks like an anemic bodybuilder at a heavy metal concert.
Once I got past the generic aesthetics, I managed to dig up a small gem. Platforming and puzzling is all the modern standard with wall running and ledge climbing, but the combat of Darksiders 2 is actually quite stimulating. While it does occasionally smack of a watered down God of War title, the simple two button combo system and straightforward abilities make for an engaging experience that rewards good reflexes and careful attention. There's even a Diablo-esque loot system, where new weapons and armor drop from fallen foes and have a host of incrementally increasing stats and effects. Like a bag of theatre popcorn, I know it's got very little substance to it, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Even Death's dialogue carries a quality that tickles my sweet tooth for meaningless fun. His quips and the exasperated tone he takes when presented with mundane side quests made me chuckle consistently. It is almost as though he is riffing the very game he is shackled to, though he unfortunately never touches the subject of bugs and shoddy optimization.
While I have not experienced another crash to desktop when playing Darksiders 2 (the developers released a hotfix), the game is not well wrought. Merely turning the camera too fast causes stuttering and jumping, going into aiming mode ratchets up the mouse sensitivity to near unusable levels, and shadows look off. Furthermore, the lock on system used in combat is disorienting when trying to select one opponent from many and wall running can be inconsistent. Still, despite its foibles and flaws, Darksiders 2 is just quirky enough to earn a tentative thumbs up from this reviewer. If you're looking for high concepts or top-notch engineering, look elsewhere, but if you're willing to endure a bit of saddle rash, go ahead and mount up with the pale horseman.
Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Shallow, but entertaining, this HD re-release is a passing distraction that will placate fans of the action platformer genre.