Sunday, August 26, 2012

A short review - Darksiders II.

Imagine The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  There's a great big world to explore - a vast overworld dotted with dungeons, and lots of places you won't be able to see until you return with an item you won't get for another ten hours.  Now add in combat of a smooth, expressive, stylish slickness that's somewhere between Devil May Cry and God of War.  Now toss in comfortable platforming reminiscent of Prince of Persia's 2008 outing.  Now remove anything cutsey - remove the faeries and sparkles and sweetness - and replace the setting with the aftermath of the end of days.  Replace the pig-men enemies with demons and angels.

Replace Link with a rider of the apocalypse.  That's Darksiders II.

If that sounds absolutely wonderful, I assure you it is. This time around Vigil have thrown in a Diablo-esque loot system that works rather well - and their adaptation of Ubisoft's platforming mechanics works beautifully - but the game's design is hampered by such a staggering wealth of content that relatively little of it stands out, and resonates.

The game also has jaw-dropping, progression-halting bugs that run a PS3 player the risk of having to start the entire thing over from the 10- or 15-hour mark, and a few weird choices like the removal of multiple manual save slots, or a system that locks away your ability to perform the first game's God of War-style finishers on your enemies unless you're wearing gear with the +Execution stat.  But it's the bugs that threaten the entire experience.  

Usually I would say "damnit, Vigil.  You're not Bethesda and I'm not going to take this shit from you," but The Legend of Zelda plus Devil May Cry plus Prince of Persia plus Badassness is so damned special.  No other developer is doing this.  No one else offers something even close to this heady mixture.

This combination of shamelessly-cribbed design and mechanics is a joy to play.  There's something so emotionally accessible, something so wholesome about the basic design of rambling through a large world, descending into a dungeon and scrambling up and down it, solving puzzles and defeating monsters, that I can't find it in me to condemn Darksiders II.

Is Darksiders II so special that, like Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas, it gets a pass despite its significant and egregious bugs?

God help me, I think it is.

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