There was an interesting interview with Jade Raymond, producer of Assassin’s Creed, recently, where she said gamers have become less and less forgiving about bugs and that’s driven game companies to be less creative.
I bring this up because I played Darksiders II on a PS3, and while I can’t speak for the Xbox 360 or PC versions, the PS3 version that I played is… well… it’s clearly a case of not enough money and too little time for QA. Which is a shame because, when the game works, it’s incredibly fun. Unfortunately, there are way too many moments where it doesn’t work.
I’m torn because I enjoyed this game, as frustrating as the bugs could be, but it also failed to meet my criteria about bugs, which is that I’m willing to forgive them if they’re the result of ambition. For me, trying and failing is one thing: At least the developers tried something new, and if it didn’t work, oh well.
But this is essentially Darksiders, a fairly derivative game, literally writ large. The open environments are bigger, the loot system is far more sprawling, and the enemies you’ll run into start at “steroidal nightmare” and get bigger from there.
This isn’t to say that there haven’t been improvements. There have been dozens of improvements. Vigil worked relentlessly on this one. The “leveling up weapons” system has been ditched in favor of a normal RPG system. The targeting, fussy at best in the first game, has been vastly improved, although projectile weapons are still more for solving puzzles than for dealing with enemies. The pacing, a bit cramped in the first game, is made more leisurely in the second. The graphics are generally quite good, unless you’re nitpicky about textures. And the dungeon and boss design, key to any dungeon crawler, is some of the best I’ve played this year, with different puzzles, concepts and ideas in each one. The combat system is entirely different from the first game and smoothly integrated.
It’s also got some good writing, something I liked in the first game. The overall story is overblown and silly, but the dialogue and the voice acting have the right degree of pomp and portent, delivered by excellent voice acting. Death cuts a very different figure from War as a character, but he comes off as a genuinely concerned sibling. Michael Wincott gives the character a lot of weight, and you never ever see his face.
The fact that he’s often got a smart mouth helps things along. When he’s set on yet another fetch quest, he grumbles about said quest giver maybe getting his own stuff for once.
And then you leave the cutscene to discover you’re stuck in a wall.
Bugs can be patched, and I know THQ has had problems, but it’s frustrating. It’s so, so frustrating. These things seem like they shouldn’t happen anymore.
Until THQ puts some money into QA and lets Vigil fix the problems it wasn’t allowed to get to, it won’t be worth your $60. At least not on the PS3.