Republished on Wednesday 29th November 2017: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of December's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
When THQ went bankrupt two years ago, we feared the worst for our favourite franchise that the publisher produced: Darksiders. It's an underrated yet fantastic hack and slash series inspired by God of War and The Legend of Zelda, and just a year before THQ's collapse, you could say the company released one of its most ambitious, high quality titles with Darksiders II, which we believe improved on the original game in nearly every area. Naturally, when we discovered that Nordic Games had picked up the rights to the franchise, we breathed a sigh of relief that it will live on. In the meantime, as we pray for a third game to be developed, the newly-appointed publisher is attempting to prove itself worthy of handling the series with a "Deathinitive" [Groan - Ed] remastering of the most recent entry tailored by ex-Vigil Games employees at Gunfire Games. Is this yet another inexcusable port that shouldn't have been bothered with, or has Death's journey been resurrected to a degree that's worth reliving?
First things first, the game plays and is structured identically to the original version in terms of all its content with the exception of DLC missions and items, which are now integrated into the main story. Other than that, this hack and slash, platforming, and puzzle-solving escapade still feels as tight and satisfying as ever. Combat usually has you fighting a crafty assortment of beasts and undead with your scythes and a heavy weapon like a hammer or gauntlets that literally pack a punch. You use dozens of combos with these weapons and mix them all up with special weapons like the pistol and unlockable Skills that you equip to the d-pad, all while dodging and circling your foes during intense brawls. While it can be annoyingly difficult to keep the combat flowing due to the erraticness of some fights, most encounters are a blast, especially the larger-than-life boss battles.
Backing the combat is an RPG system where you level up to not only unlock the aforementioned Skills, but also increase a range of stats that can be bolstered by armour down to your feet and up to your shoulders. You'll come across all kinds of incredible things to wear with the loot system – which is slightly more balanced this time around – and in merchants' shops. The same goes for all the weapons and stat-boosting Talismans, which are fun to look for in all of the treasure chests and enemies that you'll find. As for the platforming, it isn't exactly challenging, but the ways that Death gets around environments is fluid and mostly seamless as he flips, slides, and climbs everywhere he needs to go, which always feels great to execute.
Speaking of the environments, Darksiders II has a massive open world with smartly-crafted dungeons to be explored and meaningful side quests that you'll stumble across that are too alluring to pass up. And as a side note, Jesper Kyd's moody, atmospheric soundtrack of Celtic flair is a pleasure to hear on these missions and while exploring. Anyway, the dungeons largely owe their appeal to the puzzle-solving, since you get to use awesome abilities like going back in time to affect the environment in the present or splitting your soul into two bodies to solve bigger brainteasers. While the game famously suffers from the "get three of this" and "go to three places" design trope, the majority of Darksiders II is more distinguished, well-rounded, and entertaining than its predecessor.
What makes the game so recognisable are the gorgeous visuals, which truly make you feel like you're in an epic fantasy of Biblical proportions. Comic book artist Joe Madureira essentially gave birth to this world with his expressive, bulky, stylized art style, which never fails to impress with memorable character models, large-scale areas of sheer beauty, and more. What does the PS4 version enhance, though? In our direct comparisons, we were impressed by the reworked assets throughout every environment; the developer even took the time to add new ones in countless crannies and backdrops to maintain visual consistency and fix bare-looking spots. Materials now resemble their real-life counterparts more accurately, such as wood, water, and stone. Even metals in armour and weapons have reflective surfaces now and react to the improved lighting – which looks substantially more natural now – and the overall textures are noticeably sharper.
That's not to say that this "Deathinitive" edition will ride away unscathed. It's incredibly disappointing that it doesn't run in 60 frames-per-second, which should've been a must for this fast-paced game, and with frustrating frame rate drops sometimes, that adds insult to injury. We noticed some blatant screen tearing, a few graphical hiccups with the assets, and experienced some crashes, too. However, these negative factors shouldn't sway you from experiencing this version.
We should also mention the story, which we found to be entertaining all the way through. While it's not as cohesive as Darksiders, the dialogue itself is cleverly written, spawning outlandishly humourous conversations to epic exchanges thanks to the spot-on voice acting cast. On the downside, the game can feel like one gigantic fetch quest with Death always needing to go retrieve something, so it would've been nice if the missions had been more diverse in their objectives. And while the sequel is significantly detached from the first game's narrative, it mostly stands on its own to build and give background to the wonderfully brooding, sarcastic Death, who you'll have a grand time with given the game's massive amount of content that will guarantee you at least 30 hours of reaping soul after soul.
Darksiders II was one of the more memorable titles from the previous generation, with breathtaking, mythical settings supported by interesting characters, fascinating lore, and snappy gameplay. This very decent Deathinitive Edition includes all of the DLC and commendably improves the assets and lighting effects, but it gets slightly cut down by our scythe of criticism for minor glitches and framerate woes.
I absolutely detest the art direction in Darksiders. Having said that, people love this game, so I feel like I should give it a chance. I may get the remaster if I ever see it cheap.
Thanks for the review, Joey.
@get2sammyb No problem! However...
"I absolutely detest the art direction in Darksiders."
At least you're giving it a chance though.
Whaaaat? What's wrong with the art direction? I think this game has one of THE very best art styles of modern gaming!
I get tired of realism (which EVERYONE is doing now).
Hmm.....given the positive review here, I might pick this up while I'm waiting for Fallout.
As far as the art direction.....well, it's much more appealing than Journey, that's for sure.
I played it on PS3 for about an hour and hated every second, don't know why, I think it was everything.
I agree, I haven't played this game yet, but it's more a matter of time - just got through Halo 5's campaign and will likely get hooked on multiplayer and still have AC Syndicate to complete with Rise of the Tomb Raider and Black Ops 3 also on the way - rather than being turned off by the art style or anything like that. Variety is the spice of life and like you said, not every game needs to look hyper realistic.
I enjoyed the first but never got around to playing this one. I might have to pick this up on the cheap down the line.
I adore this game, although I thought the ending was a big let down.
I really hope a third one appears sooner rather than later
never got into darksiders 1, I doubt i'll ever pick up this one.
Picked this up as a digital download on PSN last night. Absolutely love it. Hopefully Nordic has the third game in the works.
Loved it on the PS3, but it needs to have a super smooth framerate on the PS4....
Never played neither of these, but wanted to. Definitely looks like a 'God Of War' type game, so will definitely pick it up. I'm still hoping for a Dante's Inferno re-release, but I doubt that will happen. Seems like Dante's Inferno was another good game that didn't do well.
@JaxonH I just hate it. I can't stand the chunky characters and the heavy metal-esque designs. Not for me...
The game itself sounds great, though, so I'm sure I can look past it.
Ya I think it'd grow on you. Nothing about it says heavy metal to me, but you probably have a memory you're comparing it to that I obviously don't.
I bet it's Death, with the rock star pecks and hair lol.
It is a fantastic game though as I'm sure others have mentioned. If you love Zelda (and let's face it who doesn't) and if you love combo based games (which I know you do) this is right up your alley.
I really encourage you to pick this up.
My brother first turned me on to this game back when it launched with Wii U. He told me it was hands down one of the top PS3 games released, and he wasn't wrong. It's everything you love about a good Zelda game (mainly the dungeons with puzzles and treasure chests) but with a combat system that could rival the best of the combo-based genre.
Then it's got an RPG side to it as well, you loot gear from enemies, and everything has stats. You're always swapping out armor and weapons for ones a LITTLE more powerful. But they have so many stats to consider it's not as simple as just picking the one with highest attack or defense.
Yes, I really encourage you to pick this up. Games like this are rare indeed, and everyone needs a break from the typical open worlds and shooters occupying release lineups this gen.
I personally love the creator's art style for Darksiders and I thought sequel was a pretty good game as well.
I also tried the first Darksiders demo but I didn't like it though. I think it has to do with War feeling more like a brute character which I'm not a fan of. Whereas Wrath is more agile and I usually pick those sort of characters when I play video games. Plus, Wrath looks cooler than War too.
It really blows there is no save import feature. I would love to go and play the game again on New Game + with all my progress and most of the best armor set.
This is the third time I've seen this game release, choppy 30fps and glitches shouldnt be happening by now. No wonder they refused to use the actual word "Definitive" in there.
I'm going to get it, it's just a matter of when. It will be before the end of the year.
Do i need to play number 1 before this? and i think the art style looks great
great game.. but i think the remaster work is not that great...
Nice review. Strange it isn't 60hz, will be interesting to see what Digital Foundry says about it if they do. My order is already on its way. Maybe Gunfire brings out a patch to sort out the bugs.
I got this game during a Steam sale for four bucks, but haven't gotten around to playing it. I'll play it when I go home for fall break, and if I like it enough, I'll pick up this version sometime next year. I heard it's a really good game that unfortunately fell out of the radar.
Have they improved the ridiculously small text in the menus? What's the point in me having a 50" TV when they use a font the size of an amoeba?!
@chiptoon I agree. I like how the ending connects smoothly with the ending of Darksiders 1, but the last boss fight...ugh. So lame. So many better bosses throughout the game.
@Neolit Oh man, if you liked Darksiders, you'll love this one! I too liked the unobtrusive RPG elements, but DS2 takes them farther with a great skill tree, leveling system, tons of armor/weapon/talisman loot to sort through, and more. The voice acting is just as powerful in the sequel, the open world is even larger and a bit less linear (though it's easy to follow objectives and get around with fast travel), and it's just a blast. Death is also more agile than War, so the way he gets around and fights is faster-paced than the way you played as his brother.
@JaxonH Took the words out of my mouth. Those are great reasons why DS2 is something you got to play, and like I said in the review, I love how this one tries to stand out more as its own game than the first one. The obvious LoZ and GoW inspirations are still there, but with the RPG elements, bigger open world, and new ways you interact with characters, it took what Darksiders did well and made it even better.
@Warruz YES. I was bummed out when I didn't see this! I was hoping I could import my save data over to the PS4 version, but no...
@SKC_Diamond You don't need to in order to understand the story, but playing the first game gives a lot of context to who War is and what's going on with him. What's interesting is that DS2 essentially takes place at the same time as all the events of DS1 are going on. With the sequel, you just see what Death was doing to try and clear War's name...while War was on Earth trying to do the same in his own way (ha ha). So yes, I would play the first game if you could. It's great! But if you don't, you'll still be fine. You could even play them in reverse, if you want!
@whywai88 I noticed other reviewers have said this, but I disagree. Could it have been better? Well, sure, if we're talking about a remake. But for remaster work? I think Gunfire Games did an exceptional job with the assets. However, like I said, the glitches, frame rate, and screen tearing is disappointing to see in this remaster.
@EWolf Ah, I've heard of DF before! I'd love to see their in-depth review of the Deathinitive edition. And yes, I can confirm after correspondence with the developer that a patch is on the way to fix the glitches I mentioned in the review.
@Dodoo Ha ha, if I remember correctly, I don't think they changed this. In fact, the symbols on the open world map you go to to fast travel are even smaller! This nor the size of the font personally bothered me...but it might bother you, if you weren't a big fan of it.
Oh, I have only a PS3 console, but I loved Darksiders 1 to death
Played it twice and both I found all the Abyssal Armor pieces.
It was such a nice game. Never play the second but have a plan to. And Nordic Games said, there is a plan for a third game or even more. At least they can show us all the horsemen.
@splat unsure if you ever got round to buying it from your comment above. Now the price is right! Free!
@themcnoisy Yeah, I finally did. They had 1 and 2 bundled cheap awhile back. I still haven't played 2 yet tho...
@get2sammyb Interesting. Is it the obsession with asymmetrical design that puts you off? Or the color palette? Because I had some gripes with that too.
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