War, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse is said to have disturbed the balance between good and evil.
He's only permitted to intervene when the Seven Seals of the Apocalypse have been broken - yet they remain intact. But with War suddenly finding himself on earth, conflict breaks out between Heaven and Hell.
Players found themselves in the first Darksiders trying to find out what, or who, is behind all of this. The resultant story finishes with the three other Horsemen of the Apocalypse arriving on earth as well.
And so the sequel switches time frame - we're now one hundred years later - and focus - we're now Death, on a quest to clear his brother's name and prove his innocence to the High Council. It's a story arc that drives the entire game - but as we find out, there's much more to the it than that basic motive.
It leads to an adventure some twenty to thirty hours in length, and proves that even Horsemen of the Apocalypse are dependent on the aid of others: despite our strength powers, we're still a stranger in these new lands and blind to the many mysteries of the world.
There may be an Old Testament and other multiple interpretations of the character's story, but Vigil Games paints their own version of the pale rider and the backdrop into which he travels to fantastically designed.
Gameplay is similar to original: huge castles and dungeons, interesting landscapes and places. The spaciousness and openness was already one of the great strengths of the first game and its only emphasised this time round. Happily locales are strung together like pearls, so its difficult to get lost but there's clear invite to explore. Everywhere there's something to discover, and even optional dungeons are like a smaller, yet fully-fledged adventure.
Despite those parallels Death is a very different from his brother War. Unlike the heavy, cool fighter in the previous iteration, we now have a more skillful, nimble guy who is slim and manoeuvrable.
He's also able to switch between direct combat and long-range attacks, with two talent trees in place for those who want to amplify a specific style: the confrontational Harbinger for melee strikes, and the Necromancer to invoke ghouls and crows to swoop in on enemies.
Battles have gotten bigger in the sequel. We were used to tackling a few opponents. In Darksiders II we're combating small hordes ten-strong, with more joining as the battle rages.
We try and keep our lock on one enemy, blindly hammering attack and occasionally tapping evade. We actually find ourselves watching the energy bar rather than the fight itself. It's chaotic. Yet these moments are great. Cutting down so many opponents, tackling small and massive bosses, is a celebration similar to what God of War fans love about that franchise - and QTEs very rarely factor into proceedings.
There's also the inclusion of Prince of Persia-style sections as you climb and slide along walls. Unlike in the preview build, the control is now very good and there's only a few spots were that silky smoothness disappears. Basically, unnecessary gameplay elements have been removed and what remains is stunningly beautiful to play, with quiet passages of climbing that offer a pleasant balance with the action-packed battles.
Disappointment only arrives come the game's conclusion, with a final battle that fizzles out rather than leaving the game on a high. Shame, as Vigil had gradually shifted up gears as we came to the title's last quarter, only to have the sweeping adventure stall come the finishing line.
It's not the problem of the plot, intended for multiple titles and so we're left with no real end. The story of Death is completed, even if it is part of a much greater whole. It's a reasonable conclusion for the character, though we'd have wished for a grander close to his tale.
Looking closer, Darksiders II is a much more polished and prettier game than the first. While its predecessor inevitably drew comparisons with The Legend of Zelda series, here that's blurred by new elements - though some of them again are borrowed from other franchises. We mentioned Prince of Persia and God of War. A special section later into the game recalls a zombie shooter, while collecting gear and weapons recalls Diablo.
Nevertheless, Darksiders II stands independent. Not only has the composition of the various elements has formed an entirely new product, but the style of the Darksiders series is what makes it so special. Without creative director Joe Madureira the soul of the game would be missing. I've rarely seen sights so impressive and beautiful in terms of design like the underworld in this game. And there are always moments like that which astonish us.
And although there are graphical flaws, this game is so beautiful. It's the little things, like little skulls flashing on the doors in the realm of shadows and their eyes begin to blink green the closer we come to them. It's this variety and attention to detail which we already have been seen in the previous game. And the soundtrack does a great job too - because if it is possible to influence my tension just by the music, or to enrage me subtly, increase my alertness or calm me down, it's the best thing that can happen.
As a whole the package is amazing, so it doesn't matter in the end where the inspiration for the game come from. The achievement of Darksiders II is the seamless connection of all these different ideas with its unique style and thus creating a whole new experience. It is a fully playable comic book that is top notch from the beginning to - well, let's say almost to the end.
- System:PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360
- Developer:Vigil Games
- Offline players:1
- Age limit:From 16 years
- Release date:21 August 2012