Review: Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition (PS4)

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Title: Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (14.15 GB)
Release Date: October 30, 2015
Publisher: Nordic Games
Developer: Gunfire Games, Vigil Games, Nordic Games
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: M
Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The second adventure of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has been remastered for the PS4 with Nordic Games’ Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition. This time the player sets off as Death to clear his brother’s name (War) and to resurrect humanity.

Gameplay:
Jumping into the game, I was excited to check out the new environmental graphics, new lighting and shadow engine, and new loot distribution. This update also comes with the previous DLC armor and weapons. Besides the graphical improvements and minor tweaks to the game balance, this is the same game as the PS3 version.

With most games setting the player in a futuristic war, a fantasy setting, or in a zombie apocalypse, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is such a refreshing and unique idea. That’s why it is so frustrating that the story never becomes anything more than a generic fantasy quest from point A to B.

The Makers whom Death meets along his journey feel more like something from Norse mythology than from the Apocalypse. The Darksiders series is not the most original series, but it does borrow mechanics and ideas from some of the best.

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The combat is straight out of God of War and Devil May Cry. Use the Square button for light attacks and Triangle for heavy attacks. There is even a button icon above an enemy’s head letting the player know they can perform an execution, and a gun that seems to only serve the purpose of shooting bombs and continuing your combo.

While these are two great combat systems to borrow from, the combat in Darksiders II never reaches the potential of those games. You never feel as powerful, the combat does not flow as freely, you do not have to the abilities to juggle many enemies, and you cannot rack up huge combos.

… combat also lacks depth …
Most of the boss fights are very similar and lack depth. Very few bosses require any more strategy than to dodge the attacks and then strike. Death has light and heavy attacks, but it does not matter which one you use.

The combat also lacks depth. The game never requires a heavy attack to break down a wall or smash an enemy’s shield so you can kill it with quick light attacks. When playing on harder difficulties, combat can be a real challenge as Death’s health does not regenerate, making it important for the player to manage their health potions as you can only carry five at a time.

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When Death is not riding his horse around an open area, he is working his way through a dungeon. Each dungeon contains multiple platforming sections where you will wall run, jump to wooden posts suspended from the ceiling, and climb up walls to jump from edge to edge.

The platforming feels great and the game does a good job of mixing all the actions Death has at hand. There are only so many actions, but the game does a good job making sure you’re not doing the same ones in the same order over and over again.

You can save the game at any time when you’re not in combat or cutscenes. It is recommended that the player saves after every long platforming section. It is very frustrating to run a platforming section only to die in combat and have to redo the platforming.

… Dust will point you in the right direction …
The other part of the dungeons are the puzzle elements. There are bombs, pressure plates, levers, and at one point you can even summon a ghost. The puzzles feel great at first but quickly get old. The dungeons are very similar in term of puzzle elements.

There are a few different puzzle mechanics that get added, but dungeons never feel new or unique. Even when Death has the ability to summon a ghost he is mainly used to stand on pressure plates you cannot reach because iron bars block the pathway. This is a potentially great new mechanic that is squandered.

One excellent addition to Darksiders II is the introduction of Dust, a crow who serves as Death’s guide throughout the game. When you’re lost and don’t know where to go next, hold down the left thumb stick and Dust will point you in the right direction.

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I did run into a few problems with this though. The first few dungeons are only one or two levels but the later dungeons can contain four or five levels. With one in particular, I beat the boss and all I had to do was pull a lever and walk out of the dungeon. The problem was I could not figure out where to go. Dust kept telling me to go North on the map which was leading me nowhere. It turned out I had to go down from the fifth level to the second before going north.

By far the best advancement from Darksiders to Darksiders II was the inclusion of loot. Loot! The answer to “what one thing can practically make any game better?”.

Death’s animations with a hammer or mace are the same but the variety of different looking weapons throughout the game was a nice treat. Eventually you will come across possessed weapons. You can feed other weapons and armors to them to increase their stats.

… loot is a great addition to the game …
It takes a lot of items to fully upgrade a possessed weapon and it did not seem like it took too long before I found another non-possessed weapon with better stats. I wonder if I would have been better served selling all my items and just buying new more powerful weapons and armor.

All in all, the loot is a great addition to the game. My biggest problem with it is that the game never tells the player what the stats do. Strength and defense are fairly obvious ones. But how am I supposed to choose between arcane boots or resistance boots if I do not know how those stats affect Death?

Darksiders II has all the foundations of a great RPG, but even the RPG components feel shallow. There are only two branches to the skill tree and even those are relatively linear and straightforward. Instead of giving Death many new exciting ways to dispatch his foes, each branch is largely stat boosts for only a handful of new skills.

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Visuals:
Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition is a remaster and not a remake. The PS4 version has improved visuals running natively at 1080p. While the game looks great, it is obvious that it was not made from ground up for the PS4.

The game has many beautiful landscapes. Many times while riding around an open space, I would stop and scan the horizon and get lost in the environments. That said, when you walk up to a wall or cliff, the flat and textured visuals make it quite clear this was originally a PS3 game.

The improved lighting and shadows engine shines in the game’s many dungeons. With more lighting and more tones of gray in the shadows, the dungeons feel more alive. The enemies now look more crisp with more defined armor. Armor and shields were also added to some of the enemies’ designs.

… runs with hardly any problems …
The improved visuals of the enemies are nice, but the enemy variety was left unchanged. Focusing on the limited enemy variety would have been a better use of the developer’s time.

The game runs with hardly any problems. There were only a couple of times where the frame rate slightly stuttered. And only once where the game got bogged down into a single digit frame rate.

Audio:
The audio is good but there is nothing memorable about it. The voice acting is enough to progress the story but leaves something to be desired. There is no real emotion or sense of urgency in the voice acting even as the corruption closes in on Death and the Makers.

All that said, the sound of a few quick slashes from Death’s scythes and a heavy pound from his mace or hammer crushing an enemy can be quite satisfying.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition easily has one of the best elevator pitches for a game. An RPG with open areas to roam around and explore, God of War-like combat, Prince of Persia-like platforming, Zelda-like dungeons, and loot. But ultimately the game feels half baked.

The developers mixed and matched all these great ideas and mechanics but never fully fleshed any of them out. The open areas are largely empty and not worth exploring. The story is weak. The combat lacks the fluidity and the ability to juggle and manage groups of enemies. The dungeons quickly become repetitive. They lack the level design and puzzle mechanics to make each dungeon stand out and feel different.

… it is worth experiencing …
I know my review seems harsh and has been mostly negative. That’s because Darksiders II is only a good game, when it has all the makings of a great, or even amazing, game. The whole time I was playing it, I kept thinking this is a good B-tier game. Then I remembered that the series was originally published by THQ.

Yes, for my all negativity Darksiders II is a good game. For those who played the PS3 version, this is the exact same game with slightly improved graphics. There are no major gameplay tweaks or story DLC. So I do not see any need to replay this on the PS4.

It would have been smarter to release Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition during the summer instead of in the middle of the AAA holiday season. But for those who missed Darksiders II on the PS3, it is worth experiencing, especially for $29.99.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Makai Ookami

    OMGZ you put 7.0 now the interwebz thinks you hate the game because they forget that numbering systems can actually go lower than 5, so they consider a 7 the equivalent of a 2 on a 1-5 scale. XD because all the 9s have made them forget how numbers work!

    I disagree slightly with the score though. Shouldn’t the $30 buy bump it up to 7.5? I think there’s something to be said for a sub $30 price with all DLC. Then again that’s subjective and it’s your call. Maybe it’s 7.0 even with the price point calculated in.