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