Death by a thousand re-releases?
Three years on, Darksiders 2 is the latest game to see a re-release on modern consoles, although this time with a budget price tag. Is it worth the price of admission?
The DLC featured in the ‘deathinitive edition’ is mainly loot, rather than story-based content, so don’t expect any of the otherwise average story changed up.
The character of Death is pretty angry and full of teenage angst, which doesn’t make for the most interesting character. I much preferred War, the protagonist of the first game. Whilst much of the story may be fairly mediocre, some of the supporting cast are thankfully more interesting (although not really more nuanced), which saved it from really bugging me during the pretty generous 20-30 hours it will take most people to complete the game.
Darksiders 2 remains the closest thing to a Zelda game you’ll find outside of a Nintendo platform. The sequel added in a number of new gameplay elements, so the combat became more reminiscent of God of War, whilst the increased amount of loot is inspired pretty much straight out of Diablo. Most of the DLC is simply additional weapons and armour, which makes the idea of this ‘special edition’ pretty pointless in my opinion. There’s so many bits of treasure to find you simply won’t notice the difference unless you’re pretty eagle eyed. The pacing, large hub world and dungeons are all very-much tropes from Zelda, right down to the mix of puzzling and combat.
Obviously the tone is a little more adult, the combat more visceral, and the XP and levelling system somewhat more complex; yet the inspiration remains clear. Whilst sometimes the sheer number of systems to remember became tiresome, Darksiders remains a decent jack-of-all-trades with regards to gameplay, even if in the meantime a number of games have markedly improved upon a number of the individual elements.
At 20-30 hours, and with a budget price tag, it seems hard to argue the value, but PC users should note that this version of the game has been available cheaper than this on numerous occasions, and runs at 60FPS, even if you do miss out on the other minor enhancements.
The 30FPS cap here is my biggest problem. Yes, you get a 1080p presentation. Yes, there have been other improvements to lighting and textures. The hub worlds benefit from more foliage and detail overall, whilst retaining a similar look and feel. But realistically, resolution differences aside, you’d need to run the two games side by side to really tell the differences.
Given the modest PC requirements though, it’s disappointing to see that the Xbox One version, at least, suffers from reasonably regular screen-tearing, and also has a tendency to hitch up and drop frames, especially when loading new parts of the world in transitional areas, or when autosaving. It’s a better state than the old consoles, for sure, where the game continually struggled to meet the 30FPS target, but still hardly impressive given hardware more modest than the console equivalent can run the original 2012 PC release at 60FPS with little to no bother. It’s a shame, because the re-worked graphics do certainly add to the experience, but given the choice, I would have rather seen some improved performance.
What remains excellent though, is Darksiders 2’s orchestral score, which is pretty outstanding. I’d certainly be happy to leave the game running and listen to some of the inspiring music in the background. What has been missed though, is the opportunity to improve some of the overall sound design. Combat feels a bit lumpy, with some of the weapon effects sounding pretty simple in comparison to modern standards.
Darksiders 2 remains a fine game. But even with a 1080p presentation, some re-worked lighting and graphics, it’s not a fabulous looking game by today’s standards. So the 30FPS cap, v-synch issues and hitching are disappointing. There’s no reason to return to Darksiders 2 if you’ve already completed it, but if you’re looking for a cut-price way to spend an enjoyable 20-30 hours, the game still has considerable charm and remains worth a look.
And on a personal note, whilst I didn’t enjoy this sequel as much as the original game, I genuinely hope that this gives the new studio, Gunfire Games (which includes a number of former Vigil staffers), the opportunity to continue the series forwards in the way that they intended. I’d certainly like to see what they could do now they are no longer constrained by the financial issues and uncertainty that surrounded the original release and the subsequent collapse of original publisher THQ.