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Darksiders II Review

Darksiders II Review

Darksiders quickly became a surprise hit when it met an unsuspecting enthusiast audience back in the early days of 2010. Vigil Games' debut offering, for the most part, was praised for successfully and skillfully combining elements from some of the medium's marquee franchises into one cohesive package - namely, The Legend of Zelda's dungeon-oriented adventuring and God of War's brutal combat. Despite its derivative nature, the groundwork was set for the anticipated follow-up, Darksiders II.

Darksiders II takes place shortly after the events of its predecessor. The apocalyptic events surrounding humanity's demise continue to send shockwaves throughout the known universe, threatening the fragile biblical balance attempting to hold it all together. War was blamed, and subsequently imprisoned, for causing this chaos, prompting Death, the second Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to begin a quest to clear his brother's name by resurrecting the human race. This lofty goal sets in motion a series of interdimensional events to decide the fate of heaven, hell and the survival of humanity.

As with the original Darksiders, Death's dilemma represents a brilliant premise for an epic adventure, at least on paper. Unfortunately, the game's narrative never fully lives up to the promise of its intriguing backdrop. Aside from the generally strong voice-acting and occasionally charming dialogue - wherein Death lightheartedly draws attention to the trivial tasks he undertakes in the face of a wider catastrophe - the vast majority of characters and encounters in Darksiders II feel like afterthoughts with little depth to them beyond surface-level introductions. They simply serve as vessels to bookend periods of dungeon-crawling. Additionally, the often lengthy gaps between meaningful plot points create the impression that story took a backseat to a series of other aspirations. That being said, the story's sense of urgency picks up heading into the final act, but it's a long road to get there.

Since Darksiders unashamedly draws from Zelda's tried-and-true structure, characters also act as the gatekeepers of quest initiation. Sadly, many of these missions amount to little more than tedious fetch errands of the dreaded "Gather three [Insert Object]" variety. Even for an action-RPG, the frequency and blatant use of this contrived device surprised me. One could say the game is at least self-aware, as Death cheekily protests his courier role here and there, but it's of little consequence when he inevitably completes the task anyway.

Fortunately, regardless of quest objectives, Darksiders II offers players a generous fast-travel system to streamline the process of traversing great distances. This time around, the hub-world is much more open in design and massive in scale, so being able to easily teleport between discovered locations - midway through a dungeon, if need be - is a welcome and essential inclusion. Whether it's hunting down mysteriously powerful creatures, finding hidden relics or deciphering collected clues, you'll likely find yourself warping around the map to see a good portion of the interesting side-content, not to mention the main questline.

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