Review: Darksiders II (PC)

Darksiders 2

By on August 18, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Generally, when you’re buying a PC port of a console game, you’re doing it for one of two reasons: you don’t own that console and the game is so amazing that you need to have it anyway, or the port offers an excellent selection of graphical options and upgrades. Maybe down the line, the ability to mod the game in weird and wonderful ways will come into play, too.

For Darksiders II, right off the bat, we can eliminate the second reason. The PC port offers only the ability to change your screen resolution. The visuals are otherwise identical to its console counterparts. That, however, is not the greatest sin of Darksiders II.

There are shockingly few strong action-RPGs of the Darksiders variety on the PC, likely for the same reason that there are so few fighting games: human hands don’t bend on a keyboard the way they’re needed to in order to pull off the button combos so central to these games. It’s uncomfortable and clumsy, and as Darksiders II has no option to customize key layouts (update: tehwes points out in the comments that you can un-intuitively do it from an in-game menu apparently, just not the main one) and the default key settings are unintuitive, your best bet is to plug in a gamepad or Xbox360 controller. It’s not completely unplayable with a keyboard and mouse, but it is pretty close.

Assuming that you’re now looking at Darksiders II for reason number one – you’ve only got a PC and you think you’ll like the game – then Darksiders II may actually provide you with many hours of enjoyment. The aesthetics are colourful and exaggerated, and shift greatly in tone after the first major part of the game, and while the story threads that are intended to push you from dungeon to dungeon are little more than whisps, the dungeons themselves are full of clever platform puzzles and really test your spatial-awareness. They’re also lovingly designed and crafted — visual details and gameplay clues are everywhere, and an intelligent layout means you rarely retrace your steps.

Combat is fast and responsive, but lacks some variety. Most advanced moves are timing-based and other than the abilities you get from skill-points, which all have a Wrath cost associated with them and as such can’t really become a core part of your combos, they’re store-bought — making them feel optional and mostly unnecessary. Instead, loot is used to spice up the swordplay (or scytheplay?), which does a fine job but never delivers that Diablo moment where your jaw drops at the sheer numbers.

There’s a certain formula that Darksiders II follows which it stoically refuses to break. For lack of a better word, we’ll call it the Zelda formula. Essentially, it’s the “you need the magical pebble of Steve the Merciless – it’s in that dungeon over there” formula. There’s a moment towards the middle of the game where you’re sent to fight in an arena. Sweet, sounds like it’s time for some epic boss battles, right?

Nope! It’s a series of three mini-dungeons to find some dumb crystals. Zelda games follow the same formula, but break it up with a richly fleshed-out world full of silly and serious side-quests and mini-games. Darksiders II only has its combat, for better or worse. If you’re alright with that, then absolutely check it out.

Good:

  • Clever, efficient dungeons.
  • An appealing and unifying art-style.
  • Swift, frantic combat.

Bad:

  • Nearly unplayable without a gamepad.
  • Highly formulaic. Though if you really love the formula, this could be excellent!

Darksiders II is available on Steam for $49.99.

8 comments (Leave your own)

I have a PS3 and played the original on that but was thinking of buying off steam this time to save $10-$20 + the better graphics, is it worth getting on PC or should I just get it on PS3?

 
Unworthy King

The PC graphics really did not impress me. Fugly as all fuck.

 

You CAN change the key layout, including setting specific keys for specific abilities. It’s done from an in-game menu, not from the main menu. Pretty unintuitive, but there you go.

http://community.darksiders.com/go/thread/view/138731/29314129/Controller_Options__Remapping_Controls_PC

 

fitzad,

I would recommend getting on PC, just for the fact that you can have the game at a native resolution. I would recommend having a gamepad though, as it makes the experience much better in a third person hack’n’slash, naturally.

unworthyking,

Graphics aren’t great, I agree, but the art style is so good that I didn’t even care.

 

Thanks tehwes, I’ve updated the piece.

 

samurai047,

Yeah I have a xbox controller lying around here some where will just use that…thanks!

 

I pretty much agree with this review, except I must be one of those folk who enjoy the highly formulaic aspect because I’m enjoying the daylights out of this game. Except combat occasionally gets annoying…

The funny thing about this game is how many times I’ve done something and gone “oh that reminds me of whatever game.” Performing one of the many climbing puzzles is very reminiscent Prince of Persia. (the one with the claw guy) Pop open a chest of loot and it’s Diablo. General combat reminds me a little of the God of War series. Fighting against Guardian and Shadow of the Colossus springs to mind. So many bits of the game just feel like “I’ve seen this before elsewhere” but I don’t think I’ve seen a feature yet that screams “wow a new unique idea, I’ve never seen it done this way before!” The whole game is just completely filled with unremarkable ideas, and it doesn’t necessarily do them better.

That said, it seems to work anyhow, and the total sum of its parts is still very entertaining. Just not very unique.

 

I explain in this post the simple and effective way to connect your PS3 controller to your computer with just the USB cable (or Bluetooth). The good thing about the method spoken about in the aforementioned post is the ability to emulate other controllers; from all the different PlayStation flavours to emulating an Xbox controller which is required for GfWL games.

Go nuts…

 
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