Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 29.10.2015

Review for Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition on Xbox One

Darksiders proved to be a pretty decent hit when it first came out in 2010. The concept was a dream project written by Joe Madureira, who also provided much of the character designs. Joe Madureira's distinct art style, which is best remembered from his comic "Battle Chasers", would prove to be an asset when distinguishing itself from other popular action games at the time, making it a cult favourite. When Vigil Games first pitched the original concept, it was to be a brutal God of War style hack 'n slash with Ubisoft's Prince of Persia: Sands of Time's parkour wall-running and, of course, the scope and adventuring found in most 3D Zelda games. With a game being so derivative of highly regarded games, it was only natural that Darksiders would be a hit and get a sequel soon after with Darksiders II. After the demise of THQ, the original publisher, Nordic Games - now owning the franchise - has put the ambitious sequel on current gen hardware as Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition. Is Death's quest worth a second look? Find out as Cubed3 saddles up and the Grim Reaper rides once again in this Xbox One review.

When the original Darksiders came out, it was a pretty exciting game; it basically copied gameplay concepts from many games people liked and put them into one nice big game to play. It helped that it also had unique visuals, thanks to the veteran comic book artist calling the shots for the designs, but when it came to making the sequel the team had to step it up. The protagonist of the original game was a big, red, goofy-looking, action figue-esque horseman named "War" who had been disgraced due to beginning the apocalypse too soon - whoops. War controlled with heavy weighty attacks but the game in general had issues with sense of scale and weight throughout making him seem light as a feather. Darksiders II has Death as the protagonist, whose quest runs simultaneously with War's. As Death, his mission is to clear War's name and prove his innocence, which is basically the plot of the first game just with a different protagonist. Death will traverse a huge variety of locales, most of which look like massive 'themed' fields and a nice selection of dungeons.

Many of the same control and animation issues that plagued the first game are present here still. Animation speeds are a bit off for some attacks and there is a noticeable input lag for many of the moves too. Dodge cancelling is also done in a way that is just not apparent in some moves. One of the worst control design choices comes in the form of how the special attacks are implemented, since the left bumper has to be held to cue up the new prompt list. This becomes exceedingly uncomfortable since the left trigger is the lock-on button and the right bumper always demands a finger hovering over it to dodge. The result is the user forming a painful claw gesture while holding the controller. Even without relying on these special abilities/spells, the game doesn't always register the commands for some of the attacks that can be purchased from NPCs who teach them. There is some effort put into the combat system in Darksiders II, but in many instances it just doesn't feel polished and feels a bit sloppy at times due to how unresponsive it can be. Most of the game's core combat issues may not have been so bad if it weren't for the utterly horrible enemy designs.

Screenshot for Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition on Xbox One

The art direction in Darksiders II is a mixed bag. There are some truly inspired designs in this game, most of which are relegated to the environments and use of colour. Most of the character designs though are an overwrought mess with too many frivolous details and ill-conceived anatomical proportions. While it isn't as bad for the friendly NPCs, it becomes a strain to identify certain aspects of the enemies, especially when they are aggressive. While animated, it can be very difficult to discern the front or back of some enemies; sometimes it isn't even obvious if they are attacking or simply just trying run to the side. Probably the best monsters to fight are the large lizard creatures and most of the undead, since they are the most simplistic in their design and have very clear and understandable attack tells and wind-ups. Easily the most annoying examples are the construct enemies, since they are a mechanical mess, and the much smaller creatures that gather in huge numbers. Darksiders II isn't much of a challenging game either, the loot system allows for some absurdly powered up gear that can allow Death to truly live up to his name. Thankfully, the boss fights in Darksiders II are much better. These usually borrow from the Zelda playbook of boss design, involving puzzle elements so players don't get too bogged down in the game's mediocre combat system.

Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition suggests it would take advantage of the power in the Xbox One. Thanks to an art style that leverages complex shapes well for the last gen platforms, it would be natural to assume that this Deathinitive Edition would run fluid and smoothly at 60 frames per second. Unfortunately, this "definitive edition" runs at 30 fps... sometimes. Most of the time, the game is a sputtering nightmare complete with moments of freezing. Usually this happens in choke points while exploring, which are used to mask loading the new areas, which, even despite this technique being used, are still pretty prevalent. The textures have received a minor boost, while some look like they were left in their original resolution. There are some issues with the lighting; when shadows are cast they come out very jagged and it is extremely noticeable and laughable when the shadows appear on characters. Even other parts of the graphics, such as grass, will appear 'glitchy' in the distance, looking like they are covered in white snow despite being in a forest, but will render properly upon closer inspection.

Screenshot for Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition on Xbox One

As mentioned earlier, the plot of Darksiders II is very similar to the first game: War's name still needs to be cleared. Then again, the story really isn't the reason why people like this series. People enjoy it for the action-rpg elements, dungeons, and spectacle of huge characters with massive weapons.

The most enjoyable part of Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition is easily the dungeon exploration and the puzzles mechanisms that hold these locations together. Sure, sometimes they can feel way too large or empty as a result of Death's ridiculously slow running speed, but the layouts and architecture seen in these areas are quite strong and thankfully make up a sizeable bulk of the game. As Darksiders II progresses, Death will gain additional tools that will aid his quest, which adds an extra layer to the gameplay. The Zelda comparisons continue, each dungeon has a theme (fire, water, ghost ship) and the latter half of the game even introduces a variation of the "dark world" too. Darksiders II may not be original, or even all that inspired, but it does at least show effort.

Screenshot for Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition on Xbox One

The convoluted story, and the horrible way it is told, takes itself way too seriously, and is not helped by the voice actors delivering their lines in a very stern and serious manner. Michael Wincott as Death gives a way better performance than this game deserves, but his character never really feels like he is a true force of death. As the story plays out, Death really may as well be any generic barbaric warrior. It also doesn't help that he is the least physically imposing character in the game. Disappointingly, Death's horse is barely utilized, other than allowing quicker movement out in the field, and seems like a missed opportunity to have it be a more integral aspect of his character.

The performance and polish of Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition is extremely questionable. That being said, there are some moments of quality thanks to the boss fights and dungeon design. This is a pretty long action game, running over 20 hours for just the core content and probably another 10 to 20 to complete the rest, including the added DLC from the season pass. Compounded with the new game plus, battle arenas, and maxing out Death's abilities, it can take a while to access all that Darksiders II has to offer. One day, there may be a third entry in this franchise, and hopefully that game will be a lot smoother and finer around the edges.

Screenshot for Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition is a very lacking port of an otherwise milquetoast game. It has a bunch of graphical glitches, runs at an erratic frame rate, and has a lot of missing sound effects or sound that is out of sync. Sometimes it looks impressive and other times it looks laughable. Even during character conversations there will be a bugged out enemy eagerly trying to attack Death, which can be hilarious. Anybody who has already played Darksiders II should pretty much skip this, since the extra DLC really isn't worth the time it takes to get to it. This Deathinitive Edition won't impress anyone in terms of fidelity or polish. Those who do crave a Zelda style action-adventure are sure to find one here with this game and, while by no means perfect, it does deliver at times.

Developer

Gunfire Games

Publisher

Nordic

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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