Due to an unfortunate lack of American currency, I was forced to cancel my GameFly account last week, returning the video game Darksiders II without ever slipping it into any of my PS3′s delicious slots. It weighed heavily on my ego. I felt like a failure as both a breadwinner (or bread-eater) and as a geek. But I eventually came to see this humiliation as an opportunity. The internet is absolutely rife with uninformed opinions! So what’s stopping me from reviewing things I’ve never even played? And at long last, I have what will become the first regular feature of Rhoades to Madness: I Never Played (Watched, Read, Listened to, Ate)
Darksiders II is, I can only assume, the sequel to Darksiders. I actually played that one, a post-apocalyptic action-adventure game that featured the Horseman of the Apocalypse known as WAR as he battled demons and angels alike on a shattered Earth where the humans are all dead. Even the famous ones.
From what I could gather from promotional materials, Darksiders II stars DEATH, another Horseman whose name doesn’t really leave a whole lot to the imagination. He also bears a passing resemblance to Casey Jones from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So the plot likely revolves around DEATH fighting the forces of Shredder and his Foot Soldiers. Which is pretty cool! DEATH battles both BeBop and Rocksteady in super-intense boss battles that seem more in-line with the difficulty and style of a Ninja Gaiden game. Expect to die hundreds, if not thousands of times as you learn every subtle movement from these encounters. For example, if BeBop’s left eyelid twitches, it means he is considering the possibility of using his Dark Dragon Flail…but he might not.
Fortunately, the power-ups, potions, weapons, armor, and special items you can loot from corpses, buy from vendors, craft, trade with other players, or buy on the auction house will make the boss battles far less harrowing. In fact, if you are able to collect every piece of Ultimate Armor for the class-tree you send DEATH down, the set bonuses alone will kill most enemies on contact. I imagine DEATH just kind of walking around an area, with all the demons and zombies and Foot Soldiers just exploding, or melting, or freezing, or killing themselves and DEATH hasn’t even drawn a scythe.
But DEATH, like WAR, also gets a horse! This horse is not only a mode of transportation, it is also a launchpad for new attack moves, a platform for massive weapons like bone-gatling-guns and raven-firing-crossbows, and its innards serve as DEATH’s headquarters/country estate. Here, you can track the status of your servants as they gather and create resources, send out trading parties to sell goods, track the status of your MINIONS OF DEATH as they go on missions and gain experience, and also host formal dinner parties to curry favor with the LORDS OF HELL. You’ll also be able to talk to your two flamboyantly gay butlers who seem to know every juicy detail about Hell’s citizens. (Plus a story about General Krang’s vacation in Thailand that most players wanted to un-hear.) Their information proves critical on several missions, and I understand that earning 100% trust with them is the only way to gain access to the Skull-Zeppelin.
With this much going on, and so much equipment and items to maintain and keep track of, it’s no wonder that some people had problems with Darksiders II‘s elaborate, context-sensitive control scheme. For example, in combat, the button made DEATH jump, jump around. He jumped up, jumped up, and if you pressed , he got down. But in free-run mode, DEATH will fire his railgun if you press . And again, if your controller is vibrating, the button un-equips all your armor and weapons. During boss battles, the controller vibrates constantly, so I can see how this could be inconvenient.
But despite these niggling concerns, and framerate, clipping, and screen-tearing issues during a late-game battle with about 10,000 maniacs, the primary concern I noted among reviews and fans was that the action-MMO-parkour-RPG-stealth-RTS-puzzle game borrowed “familiar” elements from other beloved games. But I didn’t notice any of this.
Because I never played Darksiders II.