They say that in games only two things are certain: death and sloppy console ports – which makes Darksiders 2 something of a karmic inevitability.
What was a surprise, however, was that despite my avowed hatred of half-baked console ports, the stupid name and even the gamepad-optimised interface, I actually quite like it. Even the snoozeworthy story isn’t too offensive, and strong voice acting keeps the otherwise forgettable cutscenes watchable.
You play apocalyptic scythe-wrangler Death, on a quest to clear his brother’s name and save the world – predictably, this involves lots of jumping, stabbing, being sarcastic and more fetch quests than you can shake a stick at.
The best bit by far is the combat. It’s a whirling, frenetic experience, and it’s simple to button-bash Death into all kinds of flashy combos and execution moves, making him snip the heads off skeletons and mutant cave things with great aplomb. The casual combat is great fun, but boss battles are more hit-and-miss; while there are a couple of memorable fights against giant enemies, just as many are spoilt by gimmicky weak spots and infuriating controls.
Outside combat, Darksiders is a mix of puzzle-solving platforming and a free-roaming world that you can explore to hoover up the hundred varieties of collectible coins, pages and magic stones that are scattered around. Death has a nice line in climbing and jumping, but the platforming feels a bit simplistic; even the more complicated puzzles are just extended sequences of simple jumps and climbs, and the jumping and collecting and fetching soon start to feel like padding that stretches out what’s already a too-big game.
As you progress you’ll earn more loot, more combat moves and a few unlockable abilities. These let you solve more puzzles but don’t really add much to the gameplay, and occasionally shabby movement controls combined with a lack of signposting means that it’s frustratingly easy to spend ages trying to crack a puzzle that’s actually impossible until later in the game.
That’s the thing about Darksiders: despite the obvious graphic and audio polish it feels strangely unfinished. At launch, players had to contend with minimal graphics settings and no keyboard remapping, and even now after several patches there are still problems: it’s easy to get thoroughly stuck on various pointy bits of the scenery; menus are clunky; things in the shop are sometimes labelled $assetName; mouse sensitivity fluctuates wildly between different menus.
Thankfully the combat is satisfying enough that even despite these niggles I kept playing, looking for one more fight before bed. So is it worth it? Well, if you like slightly generic console-style fun and quantity over quality, then go nuts. But if you’re looking for something that’s original and consistently good, rather than flashes of fun amidst the mundane, I’d go elsewhere.