Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Darksiders II Review (PS3)

Many people who've never played Darksiders II will compare it to God of War and say it is inferior and a shameless clone. They'll say it copies Zelda and is a terrible copy at that. I would say "Where in God of War do you fight a Corrupted Angel, A Stone Giant, and a Demon Prince?" I'd also ask "Where in Zelda do you slaughter waves of Zombies and behead Ghouls?" If Darksiders is a Zelda clone then SoulCalibur is a clone of Streetfighter. Their only similarity's are the fundamental basics, but everything else is completely different - Don't believe me? Then keep reading...

Or switch off and go back to God of War 3, it's your life in the end not mine.

Why Link what big Scythes you have? 
For those few of you who will keep reading I warn you this review will probably contain some minor spoilers though I'll try to keep it to a minimum.


Good now that that's out of the way. On with the review!

I should probably take this moment to say I haven't actually played God of War much beyond a demo and some time round a friends and likewise I haven't played a Zelda game in, oh probably getting on for a decade now so I didn't really go into this game expecting it to be like either of those nor was I comparing them all the way through so if you want a comparison look elsewhere.

Presentation and Graphics

The visual art style for Darksiders was conceived by Joe Madureira also known as Joe Mad and it looks unbelievably good. In a time when the majority of games these days are trying to look as realistic as possible Darksiders II's comic book like art style is rather refreshing, not that that means that this makes the graphics any less detailed then realistic games like Call of Duty (yeah right!). In particular I have to give credit for Death's character design which is just breathtakingly different from the stereotypical cloak and bones routine and given the context of how the horseman came about and what they actually are in the Darksiders universe also makes a lot of sense.

Another point to mention is the size and scale of the world around you. The last time I saw worlds this huge I was in a MMO and it rarely if ever gets repetitive. I won't spoil it too much but Darksiders II is split into several worlds with the first world you start in being a sort of tutorial world and then you end up in the first proper size world which is the Forge Lands. The Forge Lands are huge and are the home of the race known as The Makers, an ancient group of world builders who apparently 'laid the foundations for many worlds'  and are in a bit of a crisis and need the reapers help. All of the main realms in Darksiders follow a sort of theme which is constant throughout, in the case of the Forge Lands this means many wide open spaces and mountains with some very medieval like dungeons.

I should also point out when I started playing the game I had no problems with frame rate and such but after the 1.02 patch I have noticed some stuttering issues but that's small price to pay I suppose since I haven't had to suffer any major glitches early on like others or locking up.

The Soundtrack

There is always two parts to a soundtrack; the Voice Acting and the Musical Score and Darksiders II is no exception with both being done remarkably well. The voice actor for Death is Michael Wincott (The Crow, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, etc) who does a superb job of conveying the emotion and personality of a being who always where's a mask and in doing so makes Death one of the most likeable characters I can remember in a long time. By the end of the game you will greatly care about Death and his fate. There are various enemies that Death has to overcome each with voice actors ranging from good to plain excellent and the supporting cast that Death will encounter are likewise voiced from good to great. This is especially important when you realise that every cutscene and piece of information spoken to you is voiced from full explanations about various lore to Karn's ever constant "I dunno. I'm just a pup"

Then we have the musical score. Now I am not an expert on music or indeed musical scores, I know what I like but I couldn't tell you who sings what or when. The score in Darksiders II is very orchestral, you've got some really huge, loud and epic tracks that really set the theme of that area and are really cool to listen to why you navigate dungeons and solve puzzles, as well as some really nice battle tracks. I especially like the theme later in the game that plays when you are on Earth, fighting off swarms of undead in what might as well be an endless dungeon and the Boss theme that plays later on in Lostlight. There's no voiced tracks in this and nor is there any need for them, the theme music here is more than enough you'll be humming along before you know it.


Darksiders II's gameplay can be split into two main parts: Puzzles and Battle.

The puzzle elements in Darksiders II are large, clever and later on quite challenging, the only complaint I have and it is a small one is that the last dungeon for lack of a better term in the game feels rather uninspired. It works, but it introduces a new gameplay mechanic that never feels as if it was completely realised and this leaves that dungeon feeling fairly easy, but given that its near the end of the game its not a big deal. Besides that one dungeon near the end though the rest are gorgeous and inspired. You'll traverse walls, scale large timbers, throw bombs, pull levers, push switches and that's just the start; by the end of the game you'll have gained several abilities that will allow you to use an ethereal arm to swing across distances and grab bombs from a distance, shoot objects otherwise unreachable with your gun, split yourself in two and create portals between two points.

Guess what? This big guy doubles as a puzzle element!

The combat elements in Darksiders II are something a lot of people are going to be familiar with, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. For starters you've got your basic hack'n'slash formula, square button is a light attack with your scythes and triangle is a more powerful attack with your secondary weapon such as a slow moving hammer or lightning fast claws and of course you can chain these two presses in various ways for combos. The transition between these two weapons is fast and surprisingly fluid. On top of that you have the more complex moves you can acquire through the two skill trees and map to a shortcut palette accessed by L1 or you can use the down button on the D-pad to pause the game and bring up a larger menu where all your skills and such can be accessed.

The two skill trees can be divided up into your powerful melee skills aka the Harbinger tree and your spellcasting aka the Necromancer tree. Both feature some very different skills and require several playthroughs to complete. Why? Because each skill tree has at least a dozen skills and each one needs three skill points to be maxed out and at full power. Since the level cap is currently at Lv30 your going to need several playthroughs via New game + to complete this quest that allows you to get five extra skill points per playthrough from a merchant named Ostegoth. The skills vary from things like teleport slash to summoning ghouls to back you up and they have a good few branch skills such as corpse explosion to back them up.

Fortunately a merchant named Vulgrim will sell you something called a Respec that will basically un-assign all of your skill points so you can re-assign them however you see fit. If the skill set you have isn't working out, respec yourself and develop a new one.

I'm really only skimming the surface of the combat as it can get very deep and challenging later on, but in a good way. The kind where afterwards you feel deeply satisfied for surviving.


A section that perhaps deserves special note is the glitches or lack thereof in this game. I am aware that a good number of players have complained of various glitches such as NPC's getting stuck or vanishing or puzzles elements crashing the game but as of this review and the 1.01 and 1.02 patches the only glitch I suffered was near the end of the game during a boss fight. A mid boss fight cutscene that would have changed the layout of the area where I was fighting the boss was supposed to occur but did not and as a consequence the boss kept falling into a pit of lava and after I beat him I was unable to leave. I thought it was a game breaker and restarted from an earlier save but it happened again so I tried to look for a solution.

I have to give mention of the Darksiders II community who were very helpful and were very quick to provide a solution that fixed the problem and allowed me to complete the fight properly, get the trophy and continue the game. Whilst it wasn't a big thing for me as not everyone has this glitch and it was the only one I suffered through the whole game, I still hope it gets patched at some point and no one else has to deal with it. If any of you do suffer from any glitches I can almost guarantee there'll be a solution on the Darksiders II forums on the official site.

Re-play Value AKA Enjoyment

Perhaps the most important part of any game is whether or not you'll want to go back to it again. Like a good book or movie the ability to enjoy a game again and again is probably why were so passionate about them in the first place.

Darksiders II is a thoroughly enjoyable game with deeply satisfying combat and a engaging and intriguing story that'll hook you right from the start. The game takes easily 20-30 hours to complete for a single playthrough and and has a new game + feature for those of you want to get those trophies/achievements for the harder difficulty's and deeper challenges; plus there is specific equipment that can only be acquired on a second playthrough.

On top of that we have the crucible for a most satisfying challenge of 100 rounds of increasingly harder and more challenging enemies from every corner of the game which is a really good way to earn high level loot as well as a secret boss on floor 101. As of this review I am up to floor 50 and will be definitely trying to complete this very enjoyable challenge.

There is a number of side quests scattered throughout the game most of which take place is some side quest exclusive dungeons and are a nice additional challenge as well as something to do if you want to take a break from the main story.

I will be reviewing the DLC content at a later date. 


The Verdict

Well time for the verdict is it Buy It, Rent It or Leave It:

Huge worlds, full of equally huge characters!


Darksiders II is an amazing game that is a joy to play, and to explore and whether you played the first one or not, is more than a worthy addition to any gamers collection. Compared to many big budget releases of the time it was pretty affordable and the DLC only expands the universe and is not necessary to finish the game or get a 'True' ending. 

Thank you for reading and as always your comments are a joy to read. Till next time everyone, have fun!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Shadow of the Colossus HD Review (PS3)

Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games that is surprisingly difficult to review, you sit back having just finished playing it and despite any faults you know the game has, all you can think about is how awesome the game was, how beautiful the environments were and how heart shattering the ending was.



Graphics and Presentation
You are Wander and you've come to the forbidden lands to try to find a way to restore the soul of your beloved. To that end you make a deal with the shadowy being known as Dormin to slay sixteen colossi that roam the lands and in return he will restore your beloved's life. Once you step out into the lands, you realise the scale of the task ahead of you, something the game does very well to reinforce regularly.

Shadow of the Colossus is all about scale, from the size of the bridge you cross to enter the forbidden lands where you spend the entire game to the height of the shrine that serves as your home-base, to the size of these empty lands, to the size of the freaking Colossi you will face here. Perhaps that emptiness is the biggest example of scale in this game, the forbidden lands are huge and the only thing in them are you, the Colossi you must face, your horse Agro and a lot of lizards... like a lot of Lizards. They are also quite beautiful, this game looks gorgeous even more so in this HD collection, the colours are vibrant, the detail on the colossi is amazing and the various ruins dotted about are exquisite.

The art style in this game is really unique and something you really have to see for yourself. Keep in mind though this is a HD port of a game that originally came out on the PS2 in 2005 so the graphics do look a bit aged, but in a good way and things can be a bit jaggy. Also the camera can be extremely annoying at times and whilst you can lock onto the Colossi your fighting you do have to hold L1 down to do so. The game is very cinematic in the way it presents and does things so whilst the spectacle is very impressive it can also make gameplay sometimes painfully frustrating.

This game also has 3D support but as I do not have a 3D Tv, I can't comment on how good or necessary it is.


Gameplay is fairly unique and that most of the time is a good thing. You have two weapons, a magic sword which doubles as a Colossi Radar and a bow with an unlimited supply of arrows. You also have a grip meter which is very important since you will be climbing a lot of old ruins and a lot of Colossi looking for their weak spots, glowing symbols that when stabbed with your handy magic sword do a lot of damage to the Colossi. Because your grip can run out fairly quickly early on, you have to be fairly tactful, learning the patterns of the Colossi's actions and knowing when you don't need to cling for your life and can actually refill the meter. If you can do so than you may never need to climb any colossi more than once, though you can increase your grip by finding and killing white-tailed lizards, NOT the common black tailed ones and eating their tales and increase your health by finding and eating from fruit trees.

Basic formula, find a Colossi with your radar sword, work out the Colossi's pattern and gimmick, climb said Colossi and stab the weak spot or spots. It is fairly exhilarating and to be fair a lot of fun, especially with an amazing soundtrack involved, but it can also be a little irritating. For starters Agro (the horse) controls very badly a lot of the time, don't get me wrong its probably more realistic to what a horse actually controls like it is just painfully frustrating especially in tight areas or when trying to chase a colossi since bumping into anything even a thin tree and Agro grinds to a halt. Secondly the bow is likewise fairly inaccurate and clunky and trying to fire arrows on Agro something you have to do for a few Colossi is more difficult than it should be.

Despite that few games have Boss fights anywhere near as challenging or fun as this game and the Colossi are truly magnificent to see and when you do beat one of the sixteen Colossi you feel a real sense of accomplishment.

The Soundtrack

The musical score in this game was composed by Kō Ōtani and it quite possibly has some of the best music I've heard in a while, pretty much every track that played I wanted to own and hear again and again. The music in this game is stunningly good, at times you may even find yourself stopping what your doing just to listen to the music. Should the soundtrack ever be released here, I will definitely be picking it up.

The dub on the other hand is a bit unusual, Shadow of the Colossus utilizes an entirely fictional language which everyone speaks, with English subtitles so you can understand what their saying. It actually adds a bit more mystery and intrigue to the game and fits in very well, the voice actors whilst I can't understand are all very pleasant to listen to and all put the right amount of emotion into their speech to really fit the role.


I have not encountered any glitches whilst playing this game which given the size of the forbidden lands and the fact there is very few loading times at all, usually only occurring when you defeat a colossus and are returned to the shrine, is quite impressive.

Replay Value AKA Enjoyment

This game has a lot of replay value as well as some of the hardest trophies I've seen, first of all you can actually replay any Colossi fight in a nice little mode called Reminiscence mode by praying at their stone corpse. Complete with a grainy filter this mode is fun if you want to go back and do a fight again at any point, though perhaps it would just be easier to just complete the game and than make use of the time attack mode in New Game +. In fact you will probably need to use the New game + feature a few times as one playthrough can take up to 9-10 hours or more and even with collecting all the fruit from fruit trees and tails from white tailed lizards you won't be able to max out your health and stamina and get the gold trophies for doing each one respectively, so a few playthroughs will be necessary..

There is also a hard mode and a hard time attack unlocked after completing the game on normal and when they say hard they do mean it, because I struggled to even do the first few Colossi though I intend to go back later and try again. After all a game this good certainly deserves the time and effort required to platinum it.


The Verdict

BUY IT!!!!!!

Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games that you just have to experience, forget the at times annoying camera, or difficult horse controls, just experience the game and you won't regret it. At the time of this review the game can be purchased on its own on the PSN store or as part of the TeamIco HD collection and either way you need to own this game and you need to play it. Shadow of the Colossus is a true gem of the PS2 generation and should be remembered for all of time.