Darksiders II: Death lives!


Darksiders II (2012) takes place during the same life spawn as it processor from 2010. This time it is not War the player controls, but his feared brother Death. Together with Strife and Fury they form the deadly Four Horsemen, who killed their own kind, the Nephilim, in order to maintain the cosmic balance. But in Darksiders I War is accused of triggering the Apocalypse by the Charred Council, resulting in the annihilation of mankind on Earth. In Darksiders II, Death rides through different planes of existence, among which heaven, hell and Earth, to free his brother’s name.

Darksiders II is a single player, 3rd person, semi-free, single ending, dungeon crawling game series with rpg, acrobatics, puzzle and hack ‘n’ slash elements, set in a fantasy world. The game is a very good fusion of previous games and mechanics:  God of War (Battle system), Prince of Persia series and Tomb Raider series (Plat forming controls), Diablo series (Loot & experience system), Legend of Zelda series (Dungeons buildings) and with inspiration of: Gears of War, Portal, Devil May Cry, Shadow of the Colossus and Castlevania: Lord of Shadows. The game proves that making a great game does not necessarily mean that you have to be too original. The right combination of earlier ideas, mixed in the right quantity can make all the difference in the world. Unfortunately, the developer of Darksiders II (THQ) has gone bankrupted, which does not only mean that a third installment is highly unlikely, but also that a number of serious and game breaking bugs have not been patched.

Three kingdoms

The game universe of the Darksiders series is cosmological dualistic. The One Creator of which only is spoken in the game, but who is never seen or heard, gave life to the three kingdoms of the universe: the first kingdom of Heaven and angels, the second kingdom of Hell and the demons, and the relatively new third kingdom of Earth and mankind. Heaven and hell are waging an eternal war against each other (like told in the apocryphal Book of Enoch). To maintain cosmic balance an unbiased referee is chosen (or   created or whatever, it remains a mystery), the so called Charred Council, speaking in three voices and referring to itself as ‘we’ (like the plural elohiem from the Old Testament or the ‘we’ of Christina Trinitarian doctrine).

Jewish-Christian references

The references to the Jewish-Christian lore is massive in Darksiders, as was earlier the case in the Diablo and the Devil May Cry series. Besides litanies of (very often Biblical) names of angels and demons, the idea of an eternal strife between heaven and hell, the main protagonists of the two games are respectively War and Death, two of the four Riders of Horsemen of the Apocalypse. All four horsemen are from a third race (next to angels and demons) called the ‘Nephilim’, a reference to the mythical creatures of Genesis 6.4. They are created by a she demon of the name Lilith, who mixed dust from angels and demons to create a race of super soldiers for her lord Lucifer. Lilith is a reference to Isaiah 34.14, in which the word probably just meant a certain kind of bird, but which grew within Jewish-Christian folklore into a full fletched night demoness.

The Death of the Nephilim

The Nephilim grew stronger and rampaged into destroying multiple worlds or planes of existence. Four of them grew heavy of the ongoing slaughter, which endangered the cosmic balance,  and made a deal with the Charred Council. In return for unimaginable powers the Four Horsemen would destroy their fellow Nephilim, who were just busy to claim Eden, the original plane of existence of mankind. The Horsemen succeeded. Earth was given to mankind. And the Charred Council negotiated a truce between heaven and hell for the good of mankind. Only when mankind had grown strong enough the seven seals of the Apocalypse would be broken  and the eternal conflict would be fought out for once and for all.

Conspiracy

Unfortunately due to a conspiracy War is accused of beginning the Apocalypse on Earth, which resulted in the destruction of mankind. War is sentenced by the Charred Council to fix his mistakes, presuming his has been tricked in some kind of conspiracy. Eventually he learns that is was the archangel Abaddon, Heaven’s general, who broke six of the seven seals, hoping to end the Eternal War in favor of Heaven. The Council knew of Abaddon’s plans but did nothing to prevent it. They only send War to earth to be falsely accused and send back to break the conspiracy. All knowing, the Charred Council lets War’s brother – Death – ride out to clear his brother’s name by resurrecting mankind, only to succeed by sacrificing himself and the souls of all his fellow Nephilim (with the exception of War, Strife and Fury).

Nordic legacy

The European civilization has three cultural sources: the Jewish-Christian tradition, the Greco-Roman culture and the Nordic legacy. The Jewish-Christian tradition is very strongly represented in the Darksiders series, but the Nordic influence is – as is often the case in video games – not far away. An example. One of the most important  NPC’s in the game is a figure called ‘the Crowfather’, an ‘old one’ from before the three kingdoms, keeper of many secrets and surrounded by crows. He bears resemblance to the Norse god Odin, of whom is said that he often took the form of an old man and used two ravens (or crows) to watch the world. Death himself is accompanied by a black raven called Dust.

Some reflections

The Nephilim of the Darksiders world are utilized to break the ontological and cosmological dualism of the game universe, being the product of both angels and demons. At the same time a certain notion of mankind is nurtured which is somewhat at home in the Jewish-Christian tradition, that mankind is special in its own way, somewhere between heaven and hell. In the book of Enoch the renegade angels of Lucifer are jealous of man, who seems to have God’s favor. The Creator himself is absent, like the God of our postmodern times. Darksiders remembers God, but only shadows of His present are preserved.

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