|System: Xbox 360*, PS3, PC|
|Dev: Vigil Games|
|Release: September 25, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Shelby Reiches
Were you a good little boy and/or girl who got on board early enough to snag a Limited Edition copy of Darksiders II? If so, you'll be happy to know that, as of today, the first content pack for the title, Argul's Tomb, is yours, free of charge. That's right. Not a penny more spent for a couple hours of additional content that will cost everyone else a cool $6.99 or the Microsoft Point equivalent.
This presents us with two very important questions: First, for those who don't get Argul's Tomb for free, is it worth the seven smackers? Secondly, if Argul's Tomb is indicative of what future DLC for Darksiders II is going to entail, is the season pass a worthwhile investment?
Rather than attempting to integrate it awkwardly into Darksiders II's four-part open world (and, thus, potentially close it off to players who are, for whatever reason, not at a point in the game where they can access it due to circumstance), THQ has made it so that one actually selects the Argul's Tomb campaign from the main menu after loading one's save. Death, as in the character that you have built up, complete with all of his traits, equipment, and levels (less one mid-to-late-game puzzle-solving ability that would break the content's dungeons), is immediately transported to "The Pinnacle," an icy realm in which he confronts Ostegoth, who serves here as both storefront and Death's questing impetus.
A brief expositional exchange between the two reveals that Argul used to be king of the Land of the Dead, before the Bone Lord took over (this ties it back into the main campaign, sort of), but he was buried, still alive, in an unknown location because he was absolutely and unequivocally mad.
The Pinnacle, by the way, is of course where Argul ended up.
You shoot your way through some ice-themed foes (the enemies, it seems, are appropriately leveled to wherever your character currently stands), which eventually provides you with a means to open the content's first dungeon. The first dungeon culminates in a boss fight that provides access to the second, which then culminates in a second boss battle against an imposing incarnation of the Abyss. In the end, this gets you some less-than-enthralling legendary loot (though some of the regular stuff dropped by enemies was powerful enough that I replaced my existing equipment with it).
This last is actually kind of strange. Given that the bulk of the puzzle-solving in the dungeon segments of Argul's Tomb uses an ability that isn't discovered until fairly late in the game, and requires that one regularly use it in manners that the game didn't explicitly require until near its end, it's odd that the legendary equipment one acquires is so underwhelming, as though intended for use early in the game.
In the end, the quality of the loot is a minor factor, but it's worth knowing that it doesn't give you anything so splendidly game-breaking that the equipment alone justifies the money (in fact, this seems to be something of a habit with regard to downloadable equipment in Darksiders II; most of it sounds incredibly badass, but is intended for the beginning of the game). Instead, Argul's Tomb will have to rely on its gameplay.
And, by and large, its gameplay is mostly what players of Darksiders II have come to expect. Button-mashing combat against a few types of icy foes comprises most of it, with the aforementioned shooting section early on. The gunplay is exactly as it was during the solitary gun sequence in the main campaign (at least it gives you the explosive weapon here), and quickly grows tedious, especially if you don't have auto-loot turned on. While there's a pseudo boss battle for this section, it's probably a good thing that there wasn't a full-fledged attempt at one. The third-person shooting is functional, but not especially satisfying.
More fun is the slashy-stabby bent of the rest of the content, both dungeons brimming with deadly foes to shatter, impale, cut, crush, and behead as appropriate. There's nothing spectacularly new, here, but the combat remains responsive and satisfying, particularly if you can get into a groove and start dodging attacks with just the right timing to activate Death's counterattack.