Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for he is with me; his pistol and his scythes, they comfort me… while he uses them to kill a whole bunch of dudes.
The Switch is quickly becoming a haven for games looking for a new life this generation, and Death it seems is no exception. War made his way to the platform earlier in the year via the re-released Darksiders Warmastered Edition, and now his big brother is looking to bring some slicing and dicing to trains, buses, cafés and toilet stalls across the globe. Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition on Switch is the same remastered version consoles, and PC saw in 2015. So, can Death hold his own in this smaller form factor, or is la petit mort more likely to elicit a groan of disappointment than one of satisfaction?
Darksiders II follows directly on from the events in Darksiders. One of the Four Horseman, War is accused of bringing about the Apocalypse that has destroyed humankind and unleashed hell's minions the now desiccated husk that was Earth. Convinced of his brother's innocence, Death seeks to clear his brother's name and restore humanity. His mission will take him across the realms of life and death as he begins to unravel a conspiracy that will literally shake the foundations of Heaven.
Where Darksiders was an uber-violent linear Zelda-like, Darksiders II is an open-ish world Action RPG with deeper levelling, quests, story, and loot mechanics, as well as a kinetic and immensely entertaining combo-driven combat system. Where War was slow, deliberate, and powerful, Death is lean and quick. His upgradeable twin scythes can rend flesh and bone in a flurry of wicked slices and powerful slashes. Chaining attacks together with various secondary weapons or Redemption, Death's' semi-automatic pistol really does make you feel like the embodiment of death. Eviscerating the demonic hordes never gets boring due to the continual unlocking of new moves, combos, and equipment that keep the combat entertaining all the way through Death's journey.
During that journey, you will need to solve various puzzles, scale walls, and jump a few platforms in order to proceed. You'll also encounter some very interesting otherworldly characters along the way. All of whom are wonderfully voice-acted, but it is Michael Wincott's Death that steals the show at every turn, even from Vulgrim himself once again voiced by the exceptional Phil LaMarr. Wincott's gravely sincerity manages to not only completely sell the inherent silliness that makes up the game's narrative foundation, but it also effortlessly adds gravitas to proceedings without ever coming across as forced or trite. It is one of my all-time favourite voice performances in video games and has lost nothing in its move to the Switch.
Sadly, not everything came across as smoothly, and I mean that literally. There are some performance issues when playing in handheld mode. For the most part, the game keeps a solid framerate, but drops do happen, and they are noticeable when they do. While not a persistent issue, they occur often enough to warrant a mention, but not so often as to mar the experience too much. The other issue is the loss of visual fidelity. When played on a big HD screen the much lower quality textures and 1080p resolution without the benefit of decent Anti-aliasing, or anisotropic filtering can make proceedings look rather dated. However, when played in handheld mode Darksiders II looks pretty damn good. This is in part due to the unique and exaggerated art style the series is known for, but also because the smaller screen hides a lot of sins.
Darksiders II is one of my favourite games; it's a fast-paced, story-driven, RPG loot-a-hon. But even as a long-time fan, I have to admit it's not especially challenging, and while the combat is fun, the skill ceiling is pretty low compared to a lot of games we've come to love in the years since its initial release back in 2012. It also suffers from some very pedestrian pacing towards the end, which is somewhat ironic as you do spend a lot of that time riding around on Despair your trusty steed.
Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition is a very welcome addition to the Switch library. For anyone looking for an entertaining story, compelling loot, and fun hack and slash combat, you'll find a lot to like here. You'll explore a wide range of beautiful and diverse environments, encounter colourful characters, and battle a wide array of nasties in various shapes and sizes. But mostly you'll have a hell of a time!
+ Enjoyable story
+ Fantastic voice acting
+ Excellent characters and voice-acting, especially Death himself
+ Useful and compelling loot and leveling systems
- Not very challenging
- Pacing issues toward the end
- Does not look great when played on a large TV