Darksiders II Benchmarked
Vigil Games produced a surprisingly decent result with its first Darksiders game. The young studio (a branch of the financially stricken publisher THQ) at home in Austin, Texas delivered a daring action adventure game that mostly found positive response among the press as well as among gamers in 2010. The average PC rating is respectable 83% on the rating platform Metacritic. Does the successor, laced with all kinds of innovations, also have what it takes to be a hit?
Where the player embodied the apocalyptic rider "War" in the predecessor, he is now personifies the more agile "Death" in Darksiders II. The blue-green sinister character's scope of movement is quite remarkable. Other action games, such as "Assassins Creed" or "Prince of Persia", inspired the added skills. In addition to climbing walls, the personified Death can also perform spectacular wall runs and leaps over yawning chasms. The player can even swing hand over hand along some ceilings (see pictures).
Generally Darksiders II is a blend of various genres. The jump & run sequences are complemented with flashy battles and a nice loot system. During the adventure the apocalyptic horseman collects innumerable items that can be examined and with which he can be equipped in the clearly arranged inventory. Some NPCs also have useful items.
There is also an exciting skill system, comprised of the skill trees "Harbinger" and "Necromancer". So that the player does not lose the overview, Vigil Games includes a handy map in the game. Disoriented players will also be happy about the integrated "GPS crow". Far distances can be bridged with a horse conveniently.
Death meets many interesting and detailed characters that supply him with main or side quests. The conversations have a similar style as in the "Mass Effect" series, so by using a "dialog-wheel". If you are expecting profound conversations with far-reaching consequences when thinking of "Mass Effect", our experience shows that you will be disappointed. Darksider II is an action game at its core.
Talking about action: Although the battles get a bit tiresome the longer you play (keyword: shortcuts), the fights are a lot of fun. Owing to cool jump-attacks and smooth dodging maneuvers, the battles make a quite sleek impression. However, the game is basically sooner designed for advanced players. Even in the easiest level, you sometimes meet tough opponents that can only be defeated by skilled use of combos and would otherwise overpower Death. The developer likely wants to create incentives for revisiting familiar areas.
Since the game world is teemed with treasure chests and other secrets, you should regularly stray from the main path and explore the optional catacombs, caves and temples. The track even occasionally requires some brainpower. Smaller riddles provide plenty of diversity.
Darksiders II actually does everything right with the staging. The atmospheric intro (ala "Diablo III") and the pretty camera perspectives will delight the player just as much as the professional cutscenes and the stylish script sequences. The action-role game often lets a downright firework of effects explode. Breathtaking boss battles against towering opponents are not seen every day, either.
Overall, the game's design basically reminded us of both Batman games "Arkham Asylum" and "Arkham City", which also combined climbing, action and riddle elements. A few words about the soundtrack that we found very convincing: The music and the battle sounds accompany the game perfectly and the English narrators do a great job.
The track is not first-rate in terms of looks. The nice cartoon look and the sleek animations can only compensate the moderate textures and the lack of polygons to an extent. The somewhat stubborn camera also reveals the game's console origin. It is also too bad that the developer does not add an extended graphics menu to the PC version. In addition to the resolution and the gamma value, merely the video options and the vertical synchronization can be modified.
All technical aspects (anisotropic filtering, anti-aliasing, etc.) are always constant. The advantage is you need not search for the perfect settings. Disadvantage: Darksiders II never looks really good and cannot be down-regulated for weaker systems. The developer should renew the engine in the next part at latest.
We use the second intro video for benchmarking. It is calculated directly in the game's graphics and is perfect for comparisons because of its constant stream. As far as we can judge, the sequence provides a good overview of the general performance range and the maximum average frame rate. The performance is partly lower in effect-heavy battles and large outdoor areas (semi-open world) and tends to be higher in undemanding levels. This means that a benchmark result of 30-40 fps should indicate an acceptable gameplay.
Darksiders II has moderate hardware requirements. The action hit can be enjoyed in the Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 using an upper midrange graphics card (e.g. GeForce GT 650M). A lower midrange model, such as the popular GeForce GT 630M or the older Radeon HD 5650, should suffice for 1366 x 768 pixels. In return, Intel's CPU-integrated graphics (HD 3000 & HD 4000) are unfortunately not strong enough for the game.
Our two-hour game session definitely whetted our appetite for more. Darksiders II proves to be a fun, multi-facetted and excellently staged genre mix that cannot simply be classified as a specific genre. Vigil Games has likely met the taste of a fairly wide buyer base (fantasy, hack & stay, etc.). The game earns the title recommendable despite a few minor flaws in controls and technology.
Many thanks to Schenker Notebooks who kindly provided us with the following laptopss: (mysn.de):
- XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670M, GTX 675M & GTX 680M, 8 GB RAM)
- XMG A502 (Core i5-3360M, GeForce GT 650M & HD Graphics 4000, 8 GB RAM)
- Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000, 8 GB RAM)
Nvidia drivers: mostly 304.79 beta; AMD drivers: 12.4 (desktop) and 12.8 (laptop); Intel drivers: 188.8.131.5296
Finally a constantly updated benchmark chart: