The oldest Wii U game currently available on Switch.
When I purchased my Wii U on launch day back in 2012, Darksiders 2 was one of the games I picked up along with it. The Wii U version released just a few months after the other console versions, and was one of the games that represented that early promise of Wii U as the superior way to play seventh generation games. While I quickly fell in love with Darksiders 2’s blend of 3D Zelda and a loot driven RPG, developer Vigil Games would ultimately close down shortly after its release, ruling out the updates that the launch version desperately needed. Seven years later, Darksiders 2 not only arrives on a Nintendo platform running properly, but also brings with it portable play.
Darksiders 2 tells the story of Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Death sets out on a quest to redeem his brother War who has been accused of initiating the apocalypse and wiping out all of humanity. Death believes that if he can undo humanity’s extermination, that War can be forgiven. To do this, he’ll journey across multiple worlds, seeking a way to bring humanity back. Death is ultimately a much more compelling character than his brother War ever was. As the main protagonist in the original Darksiders, War rarely did anything other than be gruff and angry, Death is sarcastic, clever, and keenly aware that he’s being sent on arbitrary errands like a young boy in a green tunic.
The environments through which Death moves feel more interesting compared to its predecessor due to their diversity. The first Darksiders took place almost entirely on post apocalyptic Earth. Darksiders 2 spans multiple planes of existence each with their own unique cast of characters. It flaunts this right away by throwing Death straight into a lush green world in stark contrast to the drab grey cityscapes where War spent most of his time. Like its predecessor, Darksiders 2 is inspired heavily by the design of the 3D Legend of Zelda games. It also carries forward the series’ challenging, fast-paced combat.
In addition to these elements of the original’s core design, comes an equipment system built around a randomized loot drop mechanic. Death’s arsenal and gear are fully customizable. Along with key items that are found in dungeons, Death can pick up weapons and armor from fallen enemies and treasure chests throughout the world. The loot system has plenty of variability in terms of the attributes bestowed by individual pieces of equipment. Some may simply increase your attack or defense, while others may grant extra health on critical hits. All of this is represented very clearly with a prompt appearing above dropped items indicating positive upgrades with green text and an upward facing arrow, downgrades with red text and an arrow pointing down. It is a change that serves to downplay what could be seen as repetition in combat.
The general gameplay loop then consists of arriving in a world, speaking to its inhabitants to learn of the dungeons and pick up side quests, delving into dungeons to solve puzzles, leveling up Death and his gear, and then finally engaging in a large scale boss fight. It’s a satisfying loop very familiar to Zelda and RPG fans. Its only real weakness is that it perhaps overstays its welcome. Darksiders 2 isn’t a horribly long game, around 25 to 30 hours, and yet it does still feel as if its dragging on for a bit too long. While that core loop is fun, it rarely shakes things up, causing it to feel rather stale by journey’s end.
Dungeons are excellently designed and there are a lot of them. Each world is filled with multiple main questline dungeons along with optional dungeons that generally tie into side quests. Each world feels larger and more open than those found in the original. Unfortunately, this is also where the Switch version runs into problems. Unlike THQ Nordic’s previous Switch efforts such as Darksiders and Red Faction, Darksiders 2 does not feature multiple performance profiles for both graphics and performance. Instead Darksiders 2 makes use of a variable resolution. Most of the time this serves to uphold a very consistent level of performance. However, in some of the wide open areas of the world, performance can run into some real issues both in terms of resolution and frame rate. While it isn’t much of an issue during basic exploration, combat in these areas can be very frustrating.
Darksiders 2’s changes are an improvement over the original. The loot system is exciting and diverse yet implemented in a way that keeps it from being confusing. It pushes the classic formula in ways that its inspiration hasn’t outside of completely letting it go. In terms of design, its only real issue is that it spends too much time doing the same thing. Even so, its inventive worlds, dungeons, and characters make for an absolutely thrilling adventure. While the Switch port does run into some issues in specific instances, the overall experience feels very smooth. Darksiders 2 is the best entry in the current Darksiders trilogy, and the Switch version, while not perfect, is a great way to experience it. Now we just need Darksiders 3 on Switch so I can take this entire excellent series everywhere I go.