Release Date: August 21 (Europe), August 14 (North America)
Platforms available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Vigil Games
Delivering a fan-pleasing follow-up to a hit video game is no easy feat. The masses are always hungry for fresh ideas and new experiences, but dishing these out while remaining true to franchise hallmarks is where the challenge lies.
Vigil Games has made it look easy with Darksiders 2. It's a bigger, bolder version of its forbear that builds upon the series' framework while retaining its essence. In many ways, this is a masterclass in developing a successful sequel.
Death is on a mission to unravel the mystery behind his brother War's apparent treachery in the first game, a betrayal that initiated the Apocalypse. The beauty of the setting is that it works very well as a standalone offering, but those who played through the original will be treated to new perspective and context.
Our new protagonist Death is a different animal to War. He's a heavy-hitter like his brother, while being considerably more agile. The character's athleticism gives rise to new gameplay opportunities, paving the way from daring platforming segments replete with wall-running, pillar-scaling and more than a few leaps of faith.
Incorporating these elements into the Darksiders formula quite literally takes it to dizzy new heights. There are additional skills-based challenges and new ways to interact with the environment, not to mention the thrills on offer when using the Death Grip, the Horseman's personalised grappler hook.
So with our most substantial criticism out of the way, let's move onto the positives, and we're pleased to tell you there are plenty of them. Combat accounts for a significant portion of the game, and it's backed by a rich and robust system that makes slicing through the legions of hell an absolute joy.
Battles are intuitive to jump into with little to no schooling, but layers upon layers of complexity are added as the game progresses. There are new basic movies to unlock and incorporate into your repertoire, devastating attacks to assign to each button, skill trees to ascend, and stacks of weapons and armour to help tailor your character accordingly.
That brings us on to one of the most significant additions that Darksiders 2 brings to the table - mountains of loot high enough to give Diablo 3 a run for its money. Felled enemies spew currency and weapons, both of which can be used to fine-tune your offensive and defensive capabilities.
The beauty of the system is that you can play the game through 20 times and have a different experience during each outing thanks to the volume of items on offer.
Dungeon crawling played a prominent role in the original Darksiders, and it's back with a vengeance here. The game is divided into four open worlds, all of which are awe-inspiringly vast and littered with side quests, ranging from seeking out items to killing specific enemies.
It dwarfs its predecessor in size and scope with a story campaign that is around 20 hours long, with a whopping amount of additional gameplay to be found in the optional missions. Dungeons themselves are trap-laden, filled with inventive puzzles, and far bigger than before.
Puzzles are your usual mix of tripping switches and pushing objects around, but there are some interesting twists on these concepts. It was the dungeon escapades that earned the Zelda comparisons for Darksiders, and while they still apply, the addition of looting and aerodynamic platforming distances it from the Nintendo franchise.
Many of Darksiders 2's key ingredients have been borrowed from elsewhere. The dungeon crawling from Zelda, looting from Diablo, and the oversized bosses wouldn't look out of place in Shadow of the Colossus, but Vigil Games has weaved these influences together into an original and varied package.
It's a prime example of a sequel done right, and a significant step up from the original. This is one action-adventure that is worth playing to death.