Most years on my birthday all I’ve gotten was a free breakfast at Denny’s. In 2009, I was given the gift of Assassin’s Creed II. This year’s birthday will feature the launch of a video game console. On November 18, 2012, Nintendo plans to release their next venture into the home market by unleashing the Wii U. Preorders have been flying off the virtual shelves since Nintendo’s mouthpiece, Reggie Fils-Aime, announced price point and launch date. GameStop has stopped taking preorders and now has a waiting list for those poor lost souls who couldn’t get in on time. Analysts are saying that the launch of the Wii U is going to be the biggest thing since Pac-Man! I’m exaggerating, but they did say they expect holiday sales to go through the roof.
All the window dressing and hyperbole aside, the skeptic in me needs to look under the hood first to see if everything checks out. The first thing I want to look at is the strength of the launch titles. In the past I’ve been blessed by Sony, Microsoft, Sega, and Nintendo with such awesome the likes of Tetris, Panzer Dragoon, Virtua fighter, Halo (Combat Evolved), Soul Calibur, and Super Mario World. I’ve also been burned by these same companies with titles such as Night Trap, Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game, and Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
The Wii U’s launch titles include, just to name a few, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Wipeout 3, Epic Mickey 2, Fifa Soccer 13, Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition, New Super Mario Bros. U, Ninja Gaiden 3, Nintendo Land, Darksiders II, Assassin’s Creed III, Zombi U, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition. The most awesome thing about this lineup is that Nintendo now has proper third party support. These look like full games coming out for the Wii U. In the case of Arkham City, it’s a game with extra content exclusive to the Wii U. Gone are the days of Nintendo having to delay releases in order to make a sanitized, watered down version of a game. A lot of gamers are still mad at the lack of blood in Mortal Kombat for the SNES, and the fact that Nintendo 64‘s Cruisin’ USA was not only a poor port, but that it was highly censored.
The bad thing about these third party launch titles such as Assassin’s Creed III, Darksiders II, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and Batman: Arkham City, is that they are coming out later than their Sony and Microsoft counterparts. I don’t have much urge to play these games on the Wii U because at this point I would have already played them on a different console. Even in the case of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which would have only been out for five days, if I’d wanted to get in on the ground floor and play it day one, I wouldn’t be able to count on Nintendo. Also, no one is really sure how online is going to work if it works at all. Nintendo is virtually untested in these online waters, which is why they’ll most likely drown.
New Super Mario Bros. U looks interesting, but it’s a rehash of a game that has three iterations: first on the DS, then on the Wii and the recent release on the 3Ds. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge could be worth its salt, but it’s not worth the 300 dollar opening price tag. There are a few significant added extras in the Wii U version that the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions do not have. Decapitation and dismemberment will be brought back, as will the Karma Counter. You can do some nifty extras with the game pad including weapon selection and extra bits of information. Wii U’s version will also add in new enemeies, as well as a female ninja. To top it all off it will include all the DLC from the previous two versions of the game. Truth be told it might end up being a great game but it is not a system seller.
Nintendo Land and ZombiU look very promising. The fact that Nintendo Land is going to be set as a theme park tickles my childhood. It’s like Showbiz Pizza, but without the terrible tasting pizza and highly disturbing animatronic band. It comes with 12 really cool minigames, and beer for your parents. Zombies are hot right now. ZombiU is a reboot of an old PC game I used to love called Zombie. The survival horror genre has needed an injection of something cool, and this just might be it. The amount of awesome things you can do with the GamePad are in fact very innovative. Alas, I’m just waiting to see how Nintendo will disappoint us this time. Also, as horrendous as Epic Mickey was, the sequel will probably fare no better. However, I am interested in the Oswald the Rabbit shorts that will be included on the disc, but I can wait until someone uploads them to YouTube.
Once again Nintendo is playing catch up to the big boys. They’ve struck gold in the past with the Rumble Pack, analog sticks, and of course, motion control. Aside from that Nintendo has, recently, been as stubborn as a mule when it comes to innovations. It’s as if they fail to realize they need to move forward to survive in an aggressive market such as video games. While they were so busy “printing money” with their motion control they didn’t realize that they were shooting themselves in the foot when it came to the more core gamers. Now that they’re starting to push third party games they’re coming off like the scorned former boyfriend who barely procures a prom date at the last minute while the ex has had guys lining up at her locker to ask her out.
In 1992 there was a Robin Williams film called Toys starring himself, LL Cool J, Joan Cusack, and Robin Wright. The plot of this film centers around a children’s toy maker who up and dies one day. Feeling that his son was not ready to take the reins of the company, the toymaker puts his warmongering military brother in charge of the company. The brother wants progress in the company. He wants war toys and action figures, which the toymaker never believed in creating. When the brother asks for sketches from the new war toy division he is presented with colorful animal tanks and trucks in the style of the original toymaker’s vision. The brother yelled and called it “baby [crap!]” That is Nintendo in a nutshell, stuck in the past and still producing baby crap.
Instead of progressing Nintendo makes their tiny leaps and bounds with Kid Icarus shoes and Tanooki suits. Gamers wanted Nintendo to do away with expensive cartridges. They wanted full motion video and discs like the Playstation and Sega 32X. Instead gamers got another cartridge that was super expensive and couldn’t do half of what other consoles were doing. However, polygons and cylinders never looked better! When Nintendo did finally go to discs they were those adorable chocolate chip cookie looking things that brought back painful memories of the early 90s and those horrible minidiscs. Nintendo wanted us to ignore that and focus on the console being square and cute. Baby crap!
The people wanted online play and the ability to connect with other gamers when the Wii launched. Nintendo gave us friend codes as long as our arms. Mine was 93843947274234798274837, give or take a few numbers. The people wanted a cool first person shooter the likes of Halo or Call of Duty. Nintendo gave us The Conduit. Baby crap! When XBLA and the Playstation Store took off with indie games Nintendo gave the world Wii Ware. While we did get some cool indie series like Bit.Trip as well as And Yet It Moves from Wii Ware, progress was too slow, and the interface was absolutely horrendous to look at. People clamored for Netflix. Nintendo gave it to us…two years after everyone else.
While none of these points I made are truly indicative of how the Wii U will perform, it merely helps to show the history of Nintendo when it comes to innovations and catching up with its two console cousins. High definition finally coming to Nintendo is too little, too late, especially since Sony and Microsoft will once again put Nintendo behind graphics wise when they come out with their own next generation consoles.
The Wii U Controller looks cool, but for some games, people will still have to use the WiiMote and Nunchuck, which are still in the dark ages when it comes down to it. Why isn’t the WiiMote rechargeable and why isn’t the Nunchuck going wireless? Maybe Nintendo loves seeing those YouTube videos where people smack themselves in the face with the Nunchuck; They are a riot! That is the only logical explanation I can give for why that thing is still wired like a 1960′s rotary phone from Ma Bell. The Wii U will make money no matter how far behind Nintendo is. However, they won’t be getting a dime of my 299 dollars!
There’s something about discovering a game that simply brings joy to you. The original Darksiders, for many, was one of these surprises. Developed by then newcomer, Vigil Games, Darksiders was part God of War, part Ocarina of Time. The combat was rich and the world was expansive. It was a near perfect experience. The hype for Darksiders 2 was palatable.
However, hype can be a double edged sword. Sometimes, you can get your hopes up so much for a game that, when it fails to deliver, it can break your heart. In the case of Darksiders 2, the hype is, sadly, too much, especially given how broken of an experience it is.
Darksiders 2 takes place concurrently with the original Darksiders. While the original saw War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, framed for starting Armageddon and bringing about the end of humanity, Darksiders 2 acts more as a side-story. Death, War’s brother, is trying to uncover why his brother was framed and tries to clear his name. Along the way, you uncover the Rider’s past and why a new force known as the Corruption is trying to destroy all of creation.
The problem with the story, however, is that we already know how things end. For almost the entire game, you’re supposed to be uncovering this mystery that has already been solved. While there are some new elements, such as learning about why the Corruption is trying to destroy everything in heaven and hell, nothing is terribly interesting. If you finished the original game, there’s nothing crucial here that you will learn.
However, the story was not the most interesting part of the original Darksiders. The combat, dungeons and overworld were what really made the game feel special. For the first part of the game, all of these things feel special about Darksiders 2.
The combat itself is far more involved, as there is an RPG system in place to level up your character. There are two different skill trees that will unlock new abilities and buffs for your attacks, the Harbinger attack style and the Necromancer attack style. You can level them up simultaneously, allowing for a variety of combat styles. The Necromancer summons a variety of creatures to fight by his side, such as a group of zombies or a flock of crows. Sadly, much of the time these feel very weak and do very little to help in combat.
The Harbinger, on the other hand, is much more combat focused. There are a variety of attacks, such as a dashing-slash attack that will regenerate health or a cyclone attack that can be used to handle a large group of enemies. The Harbinger style is much more effective, especially considering how fast the combat feels.
The combat itself still feels like a mix of The Legend of Zelda and God of War. Attacks can be very fast, while allowing for a great deal of precision with the lock-on system. Death carries two weapons, a scythe which provides for fast attacks, and a secondary heavy weapon that the player chooses. Magic attacks can be mapped with the Left bumper and any of the face buttons, but this causes a very large problem with how the game is actually controlled. Your lock-on is the Left Trigger and it can be awkward to try to press both the left trigger and the left bumper at the same time. It’s a clear oversight that should have been handled better.
The game has a much heavier emphasis on platforming. Much of your time in dungeons will be spent climbing up surfaces or wall-running. However, the platforming doesn’t always work as it should. Sometimes, when you try to drop down to a ledge, you will simply jump off and kill yourself. Other times you’ll find yourself trying to slide along a wall, only to have Death jump up instead of over. This isn’t a huge problem, except for when your platforming is timed, meaning that one wrong move will kill you.
There are various items that you can unlock as you progress, such as a grappling hook or the ability to create a clone of yourself. Sometimes, though, these abilities don’t work right. The grappling hook is especially broken, as often times you will need to be precise when you are platforming and sometimes hitting the trigger to launch the grappling hook won’t work.
The game still has a strong emphasis on dungeon crawling. While there were only a few dungeons in the first game, Darksiders 2 has an over abundance of dungeons that you can access from the over-world. There are three major over-world areas that you can access and each has their own series of dungeons. However, having more of a good thing isn’t always better. The world, often, feels too large. You can easily get lost and not be sure of where you are supposed to go. While there are waypoints that you can see on your mini-map, there are times where they simply won’t tell you the correct area to travel to.
This problem is even more prevalent in dungeons. You can access a dungeon, travel through it for a half-hour and simply not be sure where you’re supposed to go next. Even worse, you can access dungeons without having the proper equipment, meaning you can go down levels without being able to finish a dungeon. This is a problem that could have been easily solved by blocking access to dungeons you can’t complete.
This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if it weren’t for two things: first, the system designed to provide waypoints doesn’t work. You summon a crow to direct you in the way you’re supposed to go. However, you can summon this crow, it will tell you one direction to go in, summon it again and it will tell you a totally different way to go. The second issue is far more frustrating. While combat feels fast, Death moves extremely slow through environments. Even when you summon Despair, Death’s horse, you feel like you’re moving slowly. You can trigger short bursts of energy to make Despair move slightly faster but the bursts are done almost instantly.
Through the game’s first act, many of these problems can be forgiven. The combat is still fairly fun and the quests can be interesting, such as an escort mission that has you escorting an NPC who can fight off waves and waves of enemies. It’s a game that leaves a great first impression. Then, you hit the second act and everything begins to wear on you.
The second act is dreary and grey, with nothing terribly interesting happening. Moreover, the quests become nothing more than glorified fetch quests. You find yourself doing things for people with no clear goal. Worse, you will do sub-quest upon sub-quest upon sub-quest. At one point, I had to do a quest to access an area blocked by someone. This quest involved finding a group of people. For each of those people, I had to do individual quests. At some point, the main plot line just got totally lost and there the game just drags on and on. The third act picks up substantially, but that second act is so bad you might just stop playing.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the game is the deep loot system. Many enemies will drop a variety of weapons and armor with different stats or buffs, like the ability to light enemies on fire or freeze them. There are a select group of weapons that you can upgrade by sacrificing other weapons to them. This can add stat boosts and buffs. The environment is filled with a variety of chests with loot in them, allowing you to easily find more and more weapons. It’s fun, but it can only last so long among all the other issues.
If you pick the game up new, you’re treated to two special features. One is The Crucible, a wave-based arena, in which you can unlock new armor and money. However, if you fail, you’ll not get anything for your work. Considering how good the combat is, this might be the best part of playing the game. The second thing you’ll unlock is the Serpent Tome, which allows you to trade weapons with your friends online. It’s a neat feature that adds a very interesting element to the loot system.
On top of all of the game’s problems, the Xbox 360 version is technically flawed. Every so often, you will randomly reach points where the game will load in. You can find yourself fighting enemies and the game will pause to load in more of the environment. The game’s sound can drop out completely, causing characters to pantomime their speeches in cutscenes. The menus can be extremely laggy, as well. When you try to cycle through your map and weapons, the game will take a second to load in a different menu. It’s a slight issue, but it is notable when you’re trying to cycle to your weapon select screen.
When you’re at the overworld map, you can also find yourself fast travelling past dungeons. At one point in the second act, you’re supposed to go through a dungeon to access a different new area of the game. However, you can just fast travel past the dungeon by accident. If you do, you’ll still be directed to the dungeon, regardless of whether you’ve moved to a different quest or not. Eventually, you’ll figure out what to do, but only after an hour or two of searching.
Darksiders 2 is a very deeply flawed game. Things are just so broken at times that it’s hard to find enjoyment in several parts of the game. The combat is so good that it could hold the game for ten or so hours alone, but the game can run well over twenty hours. It’s just a frustrating experience and a good third of the game is nearly unplayable.
Darksiders 2 shouldn’t be a bad game. The original is a modern masterpiece that shocked many in the gaming world. With Darksiders 2, Vigil Games simply bit off more than they could chew. The game moves slowly, there a number of bugs and the overall design is just not that good. There are some really fantastic moments in the game. Those few moments can’t hide the fact that Darksiders 2 isn’t that good.
Darksiders: The original game was a much more compact experience. This served to create a well rounded game that did fewer things than its predecessor, but it did everything well. The sequel, however, has so much that it’s trying to do that something just gets lost. The combat is still fantastic. That said, the sequel is also very buggy and just nowhere near as much fun.
Prince of Persia: The rebooted Prince of Persia has a very similar style in platforming. The character movement feels identical when you are running on walls and grabbing grappling hooks in the environment to swing yourself though an area. The game will generally respawn you on the last solid surface you stood on if you die. However, the platforming isn’t precise enough in Darksiders 2 and you’ll often die much more here.
Darksiders II’s Lead Combat Designer Ben Cureton gives a sneak peek at the game’s new Arena Mode, known as “The Crucible.” Check it out and try to not get too excited once you realize that Darksiders II is just days away.
Today we get the final pre-release trailer for Darksiders II. In it, Death himself explains why he has embarked on his quest. All I know is that next Tuesday can’t get here quick enough.
Check it out guys.
Just a few weeks until Darksiders II is released and I can’t wait.
THQ and Vigil Games have been releasing mostly CGI trailers since the game was announced. Today we get a new trailer entitled Death Comes For All made up of all in-engine gameplay.
Check it out.
Join Darksiders II Community Manager, THQSledgehammer as he unboxes the first Collector’s Edition for Darksiders II.
Today we get another behind the scenes glimpse at the making of Darksiders II.
Join General Manager David Adams, Producer Ryan Stefanelli and Creative Director Joe Madureira as they discuss the parallel stories between both games and what you can expect from Death when the game releases in August.
THQ has made a couple of announcements regarding Darksiders II today.
First up, all existing and future pre-orders of the upcoming sequel will be upgraded to a Limited Edition of the gameÂ that includes a DLC voucher for the game’s first piece of DLC, entitled Argul’s Tomb, once it becomes available.
There will also be a Collector’s Edition of Darksiders II. Available for $99, the Collector’s Edition will include:
Today we got a little bit more information on Darksiders II.
In this behind the scenes trailer, Creative Director Joe Madureira, Game Director Marvin Donald and company give a bit of insight into what sets Death apart from the series’ original protagonist, War. It also briefly showcases some of the new environments Death will be exploring.
Darksiders II is set to release Summer 2012 on PC, PS3 , Xbox 360 and Wii U.