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Darksiders II
Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Vigil Games
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Darksiders II has the same visual style set in the first game, but takes the player into a much more vast and interesting set of locations. These areas are as different as the lush greenery of thick forests to vast open deserts to frozen fjords and lava-filled caverns. While the settings in the game are widely different though, they still maintain that same feel that was set in the first game.

Similar to the game's landscapes, Darksiders II's creature list is a wide array of enemies that, while pretty much completely new, still feel like beasts and enemies that would fit in the art style set in the first game. I feel that the overall art style of Darksiders II really helps sell most of the feel for the game.

Darksiders II's audio consists of a few background tunes that stay low and out of the way, a variety of sound effects that fit their associated actions and some pretty solid voice acting and dialogue. While the first game sported names like Mark Hamill, Moon Bloodgood (now on Falling Skies) and voice actor Liam O'Brien, this game's voice cast isn't quite as star studded, but still does a great job.

While playing the first Darksiders game, I couldn't help but compare it to The Legend of Zelda. You were thrown into a vast open-world that hinted at areas to explore, but gave no way to get to them, that is, until you had the right tool. Darksiders II breaks away from the Zelda feel and adds elements to make it a deeper RPG.

For one, Darksiders II has a habit of actively blocking you from areas in the world instead of just letting you not be able to access them because you don't have the correct piece of equipment. What it loses in that though, it gains in equipment customizability, quests (both primary and secondary) and a skill tree.

Where the first game took place 100 years after War inadvertently started Armageddon, Darksiders II is all about the events between humanity's destruction and War's parole. Death believes that his brother is innocent of the crime and has set out on his own quest in order to prove War was tricked, as well as attempt to bring back the human race. His journey starts him in The Forge Lands, a realm inhabited by The Makers, an ancient race that has built the universe since its creation.

The problem is, their realm is slowly dying because of a sickness known only as Corruption. This evil permeates the world and has even stopped the forge that The Makers have used to create their greatest achievements. This realm alone feels close to the size of the first Darksiders game, at least the size of the map feels as detailed as that game, but this area is only the start of Death's journey as he will have to travel to the Kingdom of the Dead and even face off against angels and demons on their home turf before the story plays out.

While Darksiders II has some pretty tough boss battles, like most games, figuring out the boss' weakness makes the fight a fairly simple task of repeating the same steps over and over again. Because of that, Darksiders II's more challenging areas are the normal areas where the game throws wave after wave of enemies at you. These encounters typically have one or two larger enemies with a horde of lesser creatures swarming around you, nipping at your heels. I found myself coming out of those fights with my heart pounding more than the encounters with the boss battles.

All that being said, Darksiders II is an RPG. That means that you will want to keep your level up, your skill points assigned and your gear as powerful as possible. If you manage that, even the hardest parts of Darksiders II are passable.

Game Mechanics:
Darksiders II is all about customization, gear and skill management. Death's equipment falls into several categories. There is his primary weapon, scythes, his secondary weapon, plus armor such as shoulder guards, chest armor, gloves, boots and talismans. Each item you find has a variety of attributes that can do everything from change Death's defense, critical hit chances, damage dealt, experience gained, wrath earned or even special abilities like causing each hit you land to yield wrath more frequently.

As you would expect, determining the right gear for job ahead of you can make your life easier, but keeping your gear as maxed out as possible on a general basis is a good idea no matter what the situation is. Darksiders II does offer one intriguing feature when it comes to his gear. There is the occasional possessed item that can be leveled up on its own. This is done by sacrificing other items you are carrying, but not wearing, to the possessed item. As you feed it more armor and weapons, it will level up and you will be able to choose how you want the item to be modified. This includes extra bonuses to existing stat modifiers, as well as adding all new modifiers to the item. If you happen to come across one of these items, you will want to level it up as quickly as possible because it will become a good tool to keep on you for as long as possible.

I really enjoyed Darksiders II. It is a lengthy RPG title that takes a lot of what I enjoyed about the first game and makes it a deeper and richer experience. While I feel like I can't quite qualify it as a "more adult Zelda game," it is still a game that both fans of the previous title and those of more hardcore RPGs will want to check out and play.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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