There’s something to be said for how the Switch became the go-to console for remasters; titles that have already seen the light elsewhere and are getting a new lease of life thanks to Nintendo’s console. It’s something to be celebrated when a port appears as if from nowhere, nearly four years after its initial release, and Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition is one such port; it launched way back in 2015 with the ‘improved visuals’ and ‘better lighting’ that its subtitle hints at, much to the delight of those waiting patiently for Darksiders III to finally arrive. Four years later, and Darksiders III has been and gone, so of course the time is right for the Switch to get a port of its predecessor. Fortunately, there’s plenty to enjoy and those who have been awaiting this release will be more than satisfied.
Darksiders II puts you in the boots of Death, a stroppy emo-manchild who appears to have never grown out of his rebellious Pantera phase. His rather entertaining cockiness neatly counterbalances the game’s more melodramatic moments, and it’s never not fun to pay witness to comedic quips from one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Death is also extremely powerful, and it’s not long until you discover just how much trouble you’re in if you cross his path. Wielding a pair of Scythes that look and feel about as cool as you would expect, the combat throughout Darksiders II is perhaps its strongest asset; it never becomes tiresome as Death picks up a swathe of new abilities throughout the campaign. Trying them out for the first time on unsuspecting enemies is a complete and utter joy.
Tight gameplay has been a staple of the series since it began and thankfully Darksiders II hasn’t lost any of that particular magic. In comparison to the original 2012 Wii U launch release, this Deathinitive Edition feels both smoother and faster. Death has a fair amount of ground to explore and when you’re not on the back of your trusty steed Despair – which you can summon in open areas as if from nowhere – you’ll be parkouring your way around dungeons, castles and fantastical ruins, all of which look pretty nice.
The inspirations of other titles run heavily throughout Darksiders II, and it would be somewhat foolish to proclaim this isn’t an amalgamation of the likes of Uncharted, Zelda and God of War, all wrapped up in one dark fantasy package. Leaning heavily into their exploration aspects without feeling like a carbon copy, the game’s levels feel vast and open, even though there’s only really one way to find your way through. Thankfully, your crow companion Dust is on hand to point you towards areas of interest if you’re finding it tricky to work out where to go next. Away from the dungeons, he has a rather helpful habit of discovering treasure chests, so be sure to keep an eye on his movements.
Fortunately, there are enough puzzles buried in the dungeons keep the brain engaged – particularly near the end – as you attempt to navigate your way to the next dungeon room. Exploration is most always rewarded with either enemies to fight or chests to open, each subsequently offering some kind of loot or upgrade to your armour, clothing or weaponry.
The game’s narrative runs parallel to the original Darksiders. Death has taken it upon himself to balance the universe, the ultimate goal being to restore humanity and clear his brother War of his crimes after trapping the souls of their Nephilim brethren in an amulet. In order to return humanity to life, he must travel to the Tree of Life by order of the Crowfather. Safe to say, unless you’re fully invested in Darksiders lore, the story offers little more than tying the path you take through the dungeons together. You meet a smorgasbord of characters along the way, none of which are particularly memorable or stand out for any discernible reason. Fortunately, Death is all the company you need – a sentence that makes complete sense in the context of Darksiders II.
From a technical standpoint, port developer Vigil Games has done its utmost to squeeze a rather large open world experience into a Switch cartridge. Visually, it’s an impressive showcase of the Vigil’s obvious talent, as the ‘Deathinitive’ upgrades – namely the lighting and the crisper visuals – are all here, present and correct. This is a handsome game, and the unique vision of Joe Mad's creative direction bursts off the screen.
Due to the shiny upgrades that came along with the Deathinitive Edition elsewhere, the Switch has had to take a little bit of a step down in terms of fidelity – yet it would seem this version has come off lightly in that regard, particularly when it comes to the near-infamous framerate issues which were a major issue of the original launch. This vast open landscape looks terrific in handheld mode, while playing docked on a bigger screen means you naturally see the game’s age a little clearer; still, there’s nothing that would suggest the Switch is holding Darksiders II back or lagging behind its previously-released counterparts.
Having said that, the camera can still be a pain when you’re traversing across walls and broken pillars to navigate yourself over a lava pit; it remains firmly on you rather than your destination, which perhaps can be chalked down to the fact that the core mechanics are now seven-years-old. It’s hardly a dealbreaker and requires little more than moving the camera to your desired location – though, when you’re in the middle of a time-sensitive puzzle, it can be very frustrating. Still, in combat any camera issues are immediately purged thanks to the game’s brilliant lock-on system. As you’re surrounded by those foolish enough to think they can take you down, a quick flick of the right thumbstick is all it takes you have your attention turned.
This Deathinitive Edition naturally comes packaged with the three previously-released DLC expansion packs, namely Abyssal Forge, Argul’s Tomb and The Demon Lord Belial. Offering several hours extra on top of the already impressively stacked campaign, they round up to around thirty hours of Darksiders content to take with you wherever you go.
It feels like it’s been a long time coming and thankfully, any concerns fans may have had ahead of a Switch release can be laid to rest by Death himself. Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition is a visual feast, offering little to those who have already played through elsewhere but holding nothing back for the purists and new players alike. Age-old camera issues remain, but if you’ve been waiting to get on board with Death and his Horsemen, this late-to-the-party package is an easy recommendation.