The original Darksiders was an incredibly solid action-RPG that borrowed heavily from a handful of genres that next-to-no-one was touching at the time. It was a great game with a surprisingly competent narrative that, in many ways, surpassed its own source material. However, the seams left by welding together so many disparate genres were highly visible, and made the game feel like a Greatest Hits collection of the past few decades of gaming, rather than its own beast.
Darksiders II could have built upon and expanded on the blueprint of the original, but instead chose to borrow from an entirely new set of sub-genres. Zelda, God of War and Metroid were eschewed in favor of Devil May Cry, Prince of Persia, The Elder Scrolls and Diablo. What the developers at Vigil learned in between the two titles was instead how to sand down those ugly seams and make a game that — while clearly based on that which had come before — does feel like a wholly independent animal.
Into this smoothly shaped predator they poured a less generic protagonist with a more pronounced character arc, and settings that felt more fanciful and unique.
It’s not a perfect game. It’s nature as a side-story leaves the cliffhanger ending of its predecessor still dangling, and some of the loot in the first, non-new game plus playthrough could be more varied. It is, however, the quintessential example of how to sculpt a proper sequel, simultaneously changing up the formula while improving upon the original in almost every way.
And so, we place it here, as our number 10 game of the year.
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