I just finished Darksiders 2.
It’s a thoroughly alright game. To be fair to it’s developers they pretty much achieved everything they set out to achieve, some of those things just doesn’t entirely satisfy me.
First off though if anyone else here has the game in their backlog still and end up playing it later on remember this: Play the DLC extra campaigns as they unlock, they are NOT end game content. They are never introduced in a seamless fashion into the original game world. You have to actually exit to menu and load them up separately.
This kind of made my own finish of the game a little anticlimactic as I after having beat the end boss got the option of starting New Game+ or go back to an older save to do the DLC. The DLC dungeons don’t really help themselves much in that they don’t have a hard end at all, once you beat what’s in them you end up left just hanging out with nothing to do but to quit to menu and load up the main campaign again. This did not make for a strong final experience of the game.
With that said, commence the griping!
This is going to be a pretty long one.
There’s a design philosophy at work in this game series that I am not particularly fond of and that’s the way most movement of the world is scripted. Not the plain walking bits but any time you’re going to jump or climb or vault across things it’s through the use of fully designed paths with objects that the character model will interact with in specific ways. Any ledge you can climb up over has a bit of scaffolding in it. You can wall run on most walls but it only matters where you’re supposed to do it and if the designers don’t want you to do it at some point there’s cracked walls or pillars in the way that clearly signposts that it’s not allowed. You get pegs on walls that helps you wall run further and eventually “hookshot” spots that serves the same purpose but limits you until you find the appropriate items.
Now my problem with all this is that I don’t really feel particularly connected to the actions on screen, I pushed A and then I pushed A again and now I’m on the other side of an obstacle course that could have been a fair bit of fun to traverse, if I had the ability to move my character freely. A lot of people complained that the controls for Mirror’s Edge were too complicated and maybe they were but it gave you full control over the character and every cool stunt you pulled off was yours. The Darksiders games takes it to the other extreme.
Sure the complexity and number of obstacles in a row increases as the game progresses and once or twice there was a series long enough that I felt like I was actually doing something. Now and then they also involve a time constraint though which only adds frustration to the experience, because I do not get to fully control the character. The game interprets single key presses to mean very decisive actions that takes a lot of time or moves you far away and the game does not perfectly capture your inputs. Sometimes it just does nothing, sometimes it jumps you straight off a ledge, sometimes you’re too fast and input lag still thinks your thumbstick is pointing left when you clearly let it go before pressing A.
So most failures in time trial courses happens because the game takes you off course for several second from a single mistake or misinterpreted/ignored key press. Not allowing the player to quickly correct a mistake completely breaks sense of control and immersion. You’re just stuck sitting there watching Death pointlessly crawl up a wall for 4s before he drops down and you can try again, but at this point the lava or spikes or acid has risen too far and you might as well just restart. There are no real player skillchecks in this game, if you know the path you need to go it’s just a matter of pointing the character in the right direction and let him get on with it.
The game has an annoying habit of wrestling control away from the player in other areas too, most noticeably at the end of boss fights. As you beat a boss the game starts running a pre-coded animation sequence where your character flips, flies, pulls bits off of monsters and other honestly kinda neat looking stuff to finish the fight off. There are lesser versions of this behaviour in ordinary combat where you can occasionally get an ‘execute’ move which launches you into a several seconds long animation on the press of a button. Some of them are pretty cool looking, but once again this renders me a spectator, not a player and it’s something that I find a little annoying.
You can make a game with cool shit happening caused BY the player, that’s how you get amazing stories between friends about this cool trick you pulled off the other day.
Overall though, as I recognize that the systems in place are a choice the designers made and they mostly work as intended, it’s a good game.
What was good about it, though?
Eh, I dunno. It didn’t bore me? I’m way better at analyzing things that bothers me about a title than what I specifically enjoyed. I enjoy the brawling fighting style and solving the puzzles and finding the paths to move through the dungeons. Even though the paths are a little too well sign posted since that’s how the whole movement system is designed. I guess the game is a 3d puzzle platformer pretty much, with some brawling thrown in for good measure.
Well that’s my take on Darksiders, it applies to both games and I suspect the upcoming #3 will have the same issues in design choices. I’ll probably play that one too though, ~5 years after release.
But now I’m going to start one of the games I’ve been given here, probably poncho, thanks to @Gnuffi.