Review: Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition

Approaching the critique of a game that was barely on the market before a remastered/updated version of itself was released is somewhat odd. Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition is not the first game to so quickly receive a 1080p upgrade. The Last of Us Remastered, for example, is a more serious offender as it was released just a year after its original (Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition was released three years after its original) one console generation prior. Sure, new hardware is certainly a good reason to push a game to look and play better, and it is no doubt that the remastered version of any game will at least be somewhat better than its predecessor, but what does that leave for a critique, other than to say, “It’s like the original, but better?”

Taking into account that not all who play Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition will have touched its predecessor, let alone the original Darksiders, the Deathinitive Edition serves mostly as a good entry point for new fans, rather than a reason for older fans to come back to the franchise that many had presumed would never be heard from again after the piecemeal auction of publisher THQ’s properties and subsequent closure of the company in 2013.

Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition is mostly the same game it was in 2012, but now, in 2015, it’s aged enough to look more handsome than its younger self. If only it had matured in other ways, as well. Combat and environment traversal is still something to fight with on a regular basis (environment traversal more so). Camera angles are sometimes the only thing keeping you from being able to see your objective, getting stuck in animations that halt the natural flow of gameplay are never fun, and the epic mythological story sometimes trips over its own details, leaving the player confused as to how, exactly, all of the narrative elements are connected.

In 2010’s Darksiders, players took on the role of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In Darksiders 2 (and by extension the Deathinitive Edition), players take on a different Horseman, Death, who is on a quest to free his brother, War, from imprisonment. In his quest, Death goes from one grand location to the next, such as the Forge Lands, where beings known as the Makers created all that exists; the Land of the Dead, where Death must go to retrieve the souls of humanity; and even Heaven itself. It’s certainly a tale of epic proportions, but with so many fantastical elements at play, it was sometimes difficult to remember how all of it was connected, let alone remember that saving Death’s brother was the primary motive in all of it.

While the story might feel bloated at times, the combat makes for a lot of fun, especially when new weapons and abilities are continually added to Death’s repertoire throughout the game. The combat is hack-n-slash at heart, but when combined with some of the other spells in the game (I was necromatically-inclined in my playthrough), the different ways in which combat can be approached and swapped on the fly are what distinguish both a player’s skill level, as well as the enjoyment that can be drawn from a good boss fight or tight encounter. In short, the more that is learned about the combat system, the more rewarded the player feels. 

Just as the original Darksiders did, Darksiders 2 draws a lot of inspiration from games like The Legend Zelda where puzzles and level design are concerned. Many sections of the game are split into what can effectively be described as dungeons. Within the dungeons are plenty of puzzles to solve, and while, initially, most puzzles are solved by finding a way to get a ball in a hole, the puzzles do get progressively more complex and are sure to scratch that itch certain players look for. This variety in gameplay found in the combat and puzzle-solving is balanced fairly well and never seemed to contain one or the other for terribly long stretches of time.

When reading words from a member of the development team at Nordic Games that paints Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition more as marketing material than a genuine stab at the Darksiders franchise from a new developer, it’s tough to see past that information and wholeheartedly recommend the purchase of a game that has been around for three years. Returning players need not pay any mind to the Deathinitive Edition, especially those that already consumed its additional add-on content. That said, those that have yet to step into the shoes of a Horseman of the Apocalypse and are seeking a solid action-adventure RPG need only to knock on Death’s door.

Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition is developed by Gunfire Games, Nordic Games and Vigil Games, and published by Nordic Games. It’s available for $29.99 on the PC, Xbox One and PS4. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.