As one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death isn’t the sort of chap you’d assume you’d like much, if at all. so you wouldn’t automatically assume he’d be a chap that you’d actually like – but I liked Death in Vigil’s Darksiders 2, the follow-up to an action game that featured one of Death’s brothers, War, and great voice acting from Mark Hamil.
OK, so Death isn’t the sort of chap you’d take home to meet your mother, but despite his often mean-spirited comments to some of Darksiders 2’s NPC, he’s actually a likeable character. As likeable, I guess as you can make a man who wields fiery scythes and hammers that can smash an enemy in one blow.
Darksiders 2 runs parallel to the events of Darksiders (in which War apparently jumped the gun in bringing about the end of the human race) which Death wanting to confront the Charred Council to see why War got such a hard time. He smells a conspiracy.
Darksiders 2 is a much bigger game than the original, in both scope and ambition. The game world is huge, which some sequences reminding me of God of War 3, where the lead character is dwarfed by the environment he has to climb. It’s like that in Darksiders 2: in an opening location Death has to negotiate a frozen landscape, giant chunks of ice crumbling has he climbs and shimmies along.
He’s not alone: at the push of two buttons Death’s horse, Despair, green flame licking his equine limbs, appears. It makes traversing the wide open landscapes much easier – but Despair can’t go everywhere, and Death will say as much, reminding you that he must go alone at times.
Combat is a mix of light and heavy attacks using Death’s scythes, as well as Redemption, a pistol that belonged to his brother Strife (another of the Four Horsemen), and defeated enemies will drop more powerful weapons (scythes, hammers, claws, axes) and chest littered about the game world – wonderfully opened by a ghostly pair of winged arms that rip the chest apart – contain potions, clothing items and weapons. Some weapons are possessed and by “sacrificing” other items to them they’ll take on the more powerful characteristics. The colour of collectible items indicates their rarity – and Death can also sell items to non-player character, using the money to buy new attack moves from the Makers, a race of Scottish-accented giants charged with keeping the Cauldron and the Tears of xxx safe from the corruption that has appeared.
Death has a more powerful attack mode, called the reaper, which is activated when he has gathered enough wrath energy from defeating foes. Activate Reaper mode and a giant more horrifying form of death appears and will wreak havoc to all those around him. It’s good for when Death finds himself overwhelmed by enemies, which happens quite a bit.
Darksiders 2’s combat has an almost mini-RPG element to it, which each successful strike popping a number above an enemy’s head, indicating the amount of damage Death has inflicted – or received.
Death is an agile fellow, too, able to leap from suspended pillar to suspended pillar, scramble up walls and flip himself off wall-mounted studs. He can also swim, handy for negotiating many of the water-flooded dungeons.
The game has also introduced a feature seen in many games these days: the ability to fast travel from one location to another. It’s a welcome addition and means once you’ve completed an objective you don’t have to backtrack to the next location. Seeing as Death is a creature of the ethereal realm the fact that he could fast travel seems entirely plausible.
Gameplay involves wall climbing, obstacle negotiating and puzzles (some require more in-depth thinking than others) involving pressure switches activated by glowing balls that Death can roll into place. Then there is the constructs, magic-infused creations formed by the makers out of rock, which Death can ride and use to activate out-of-reach locks (the construct can fire a chain that Death can walk along).
Like all good action games, Darksiders 2 is punctuated by boss battles near the location of key mission objectives, and the first battle was a pain in the proverbial, but chip away at it and you’ll find a game that has a solid combat system, a wonderous world to discover and a surprisingly likeable lead character.
Some of the dungeons go on for too long and sometimes I was wishing to myself that the end of level boss, which usually indicated the end was in sight would just appear. It’s also a little jarring to have the game freeze mid-corridor while the rest of a level is loaded and I hit one glitch mid-boss battle, where my lumbering opponent got stuck on a piece of scenery, making defeating him and his vulnerable spot all the more enjoyable.
Darksiders 2 was a game that pleasantly surprised me, but then, that shouldn’t be a surprise, given that Darksiders was so good. Darksiders 2 is a game that features a rather likable lead character, despite the unusual job description on his CV. Recommended by me.