Given that this game feels as though it was targeted at a generation quite a bit younger than mine, I was a little surprised to find myself enjoying it so much. I’d expected that at some point in the deep past I’d lost interest in chopping slow-witted monster into tiny little pieces in room-after-room of some flame-lit dungeon. It seems not, or if I did, it seems Vigil is hell-bent on reversing the process, with some impressive results.
Darksiders 2 puts Death in the driver’s seat this time around, who, if you’ve seen any of the images floating around, has traded in the hooded cape for a skull mask and has been putting on a lot of weight. The intro takes us through a quick bit of baffling mythology before dropping us straight into the training level, where we learn how to make Death climb walls, jump to ledges, wriggle up posts and run along walls. We also get introduced to the two-weapon fighting system and how to best string deathly combos together (mash buttons). When you pull these off, Death pursues the perpetually falling body of his enemy with stroke after stroke until pounding the exhausted corpse with a thunderous final blow. I thought this would get old, but the animation, sound, and control system have polished the experience into such a perfect little nugget that it’s a bit like pulling a lever on a pokie machine.
The game diverges from the first in that soon after receiving his first real quest, Death is let loose into a large, freely-explorable world. The look-and-feel is something along the lines of a cartoony Lord of the Rings, with beautiful vistas, ornately decorated characters with exaggerated features, and a basic colour scheme that makes it all easy to see. The design is not working at odds with the plot or the gameplay, meaning the whole thing can be taken lightly, which suits it best.
On the way to quest objectives players are free to stop off at other dungeons to explore and look for loot. Death is often confronted with puzzles, à la Prince of Persia, which form a nice balance against the action. You’ll often need to have a good look around the place, and when you manage to find that route from pillar, to ledge, to vine to balcony, putting Death through the sequence of moves is a great bit of fun.
As the game progresses, these challenges become tougher, though at times there’ll be a distinct feeling of ‘been-there-done-that’. Enemies, of course, get tougher too, particularly the bosses that are placed generously throughout the world. These big guys require that you put Death through more acrobatics to dodge attacks, and you’ll need to perfect the timing of your dodge-dodge-attack until you’re rolling and chopping like a ninja.
You’ll also be collecting a lot of loot – gold, garments, weapons and potions. The interfaces for managing all this are fairly straight-forward (though loading times while transitioning can be frustratingly long). The introduction of possessed weapons, which allow you to sacrifice other items to improve their power, provides the added bonus of allowing you to keep your inventory tidy while on the run.
On the surface, most of what Darksiders II offers has been borrowed from a number of games that came before (Zelda, Diablo, the afore-mentioned Prince of Persia, and probably about a hundred others). But it has definitely succeeded in putting them into a package that’s tidy, fun, and perfect for when you’re not quite able to summon the energy for something more demanding. You’ll be spending at least 20 hours on the main quest alone, and more than twice that completing the rest. Not a bad bang for your buck. 
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Vigil Games
Classification: R16 – Contains Violence