Players take control of Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The core gameplay is an action role-playing hack and slash style. The game makes frequent use of interactive puzzle elements, requiring the player to think their way through a series of levers, doors, elevators, portals, etc. in order to traverse areas and reach objectives.
Maps are vast and each contain open world "overworld" regions that can be explored freely on foot or by horse, along with numerous dungeons where quest objectives are generally carried out. There are main and side quests, with main and side boss fights. Worlds can be traversed via "fast-travel", whereby the player can teleport to certain map points instantly. While inside a Dungeon, the player is also allowed to fast-travel back to the overworld while saving their dungeon location for continuation later without losing progress.
Death is aided by Despair, a horse that is available for use in open areas of the overworld for faster travel, and Dust, a raven that guides him to his objectives. Each is accessed with a key/button stroke. Death's primary weapons are two scythes, one wielded in each hand. Secondary weapons include typical melee weapons like hammers, axes, and maces as "slow" options; "fast" options are generally gauntlet-style weapons that provide the player with claws and other bladed arm extensions, at the expense of less range and power than the slow weapons.
There are several different movement options, including swimming, running along walls, and several different climbing options that are available on specially placed wooden elements, such as wall pegs and beams (players learn to recognize wood as climbing elements, in contrast to the stone that dominates most of the world's structures). In the course of quests, Death also acquires "Death Grip", which operates as a grappling hook on certain objects; and "Voidwalker", which operates similarly to the Portal Gun from the Portal video game series, though it only works at certain designated locations. Other abilities like "Soul Splitter" and "Interdiction" are also acquired, which allow the player to control multiple characters to traverse puzzle areas.
Health, Wrath, and Reaper resource meters display on-screen whenever they change, along with an experience meter that shows how close the player is to the next character class level. Wrath is the game's mana-type system, being a resource used for special abilities. Reaper is a separate resource used only for the Reaper ability, and when full, Death can transform briefly into his grim reaper form, which is more resilient and deals more damage (graphically it is the more typical depiction of Death as a spectral figure, rather than the flesh form normally used in the game).
There are eight player statistics, including a character class level that increases at various experience levels. Each new level gives the player a skill point that can be used in a skill tree that contains new abilities. Other statistics can be increased by equipping items, with each item having various stat-altering characteristics. The player's inventory contains seven different pages of equipment classes (primary and secondary weapon, shoulder, armor, glove, boot, and talisman, with an additional page for quest items). New equipment can be acquired via enemy drops, looting chests, or purchasing from vendor characters. New combo moves can also be purchased from "Trainer" characters.
"Stonebites", which are blue stones hidden throughout the world, can be collected (after several quests have been completed) and traded to a character named Blackroot, in groups of three, in exchange for various permanent statistic upgrades. There are three Stonebite types, and the particular combination traded determines which upgrade is received.
Money is dropped by enemies and chests, and can also be acquired by selling items to vendors. Special "Possessed weapons" are rarely acquired, which provide another more unorthodox mechanic for trading in unwanted items, whereby the possessed weapon can be upgraded by "sacrificing" other lesser items to it.
Darksiders II is parallel to the previous game. The Four Horsemen (War, Strife, Fury, and Death) are the last of the Nephilim, fusions of angels and demons who waged war on creation. To preserve the balance of the Universe, the Four, tired of conquest, received incredible powers from the Charred Council in exchange for slaughtering the rest of the Nephilim. The Horseman Death trapped the souls of his fallen brethren in an amulet, earning the title of Kinslayer, among others (though he kept its preservation a secret, since the Council ordered the Nephilim' souls destroyed).
While War is charged with his crimes, the horseman Death, sure that his brother is innocent, sets out on a personal mission to erase his brother's 'crime' and resurrect humanity. He first travels to the Icy Veil—a dimension between the three kingdoms of Heaven, Hell, and Earth—to seek the Keeper of Secrets for proof of War's innocence and the way to restore Earth. The Keeper of Secrets, also known as the Crowfather, tells Death that he must go to the Tree of Life in order to restore humanity. The Crowfather, bitter about being given the Nephilim amulet (which torments him without end), refuses to let Death pass and attacks him in the shape of War. Death is thus forced to kill the Crowfather, but the Amulet shatters and embeds itself in his chest, knocking him out and sending him into a portal created by the Crowfather's death.
Death wakes up in the Forge Lands, a world populated by the Makers—physically imposing beings who are the Architects of Creation. He learns that their world, and many others, has been overrun with Corruption, a dark force that has blocked off the Tree of Life and has taken over many of the Maker's constructs. The Makers had crafted a massive Guardian to combat the Corruption, but had to abandon it before finishing the task due to the surrounding threats. With the help of constructs and a Maker named Karn, Death eventually reaches the Guardian, but upon activation, the Guardian is tainted by Corruption and goes on a rampage. Death battles the Guardian and destroys it, allowing it to be reassembled without Corruption. The Guardian self-destructs in the grasp of the creature blocking the path to the Tree of Life, which allows Death to reach his goal. Upon reaching the entrance, however, Death is seized by Corruption and is dragged into the Tree. There, Death is accosted by the shadowy form of Absalom, the first Nephilim, whose hatred lasted beyond his slaying at Death's hands and caused the Corruption, enabling him to take his revenge on creation.
Death is transported to the Land of the Dead, where he encounters the merchant Ostegoth. From the Merchant, he learns that in order to resurrect humanity, Death must find the Well of Souls, and to that end, he must speak with the Lord of Bones. After completing an array of trials to gain an audience with the Lord of Bones, Death is transported to the City of the Dead to find a soul capable of telling Death what he needs to know about the Well. After facing off against a creature housing all of mankind's souls, Death meets the soul the Lord of Bones alluded to: the Crowfather's. The Crowfather tells Death that while the souls of humanity are no longer bound in a host, they have merely been transported to the Well. Death learns that the Well of Souls has power over life and death, and that with it, the spirits of all things living are cleansed and renewed before they are sent out to be reborn. In order to access it, Death would need two keys: one kept by the angels, the other by the demons. Death asks why he and the other riders never knew of such things, to which the Crowfather replies that power must be tempered with ignorance: the Council feared that if the Horsemen ever learned the truth about the Well's power, they might try to resurrect their kin.
Death first seeks out the key held by the angels and is sent to an outpost of Heaven called Lostlight, which is being assaulted by Corruption. At the Ivory Tower, he meets the Archon, who tells Death that his answers are in the Ivory Citadel, which is shrouded in darkness and Corruption. The Archon sends Death to Earth to bring back the Rod of Arafel, a powerful holy weapon, so that the way to the Ivory Citadel could be cleared. On Earth, Death encounters remnants of the Hellguard being led by Uriel. With their help, Death reassembles the shattered rod. Upon returning to Lostlight, Death eventually realizes that the Archon has possessed the key the entire time and that the angel has fallen to Corruption himself. Death confronts the Archon, kills him, and acquires the first key. Death then proceeds to Shadow's Edge, described as a dark reflection of Lostlight. When Death arrives, he sees that the world itself is in the process of being devoured by Corruption. Intent on acquiring the second key, Death travels to the fortress home of the demon lord, Samael, but finds Lilith, a female demon-queen that created the Nephilim (she thus refers to herself as Death's mother, which he angrily denies). Death learns through Lilith that Samael is gone, that Death will be able to meet with the demon lord by utilizing a time portal. Before he leaves, Lilith urges Death to "follow [his] heart" and revive his brethren when he finds the Well of Souls. After traversing through the fortress in both the past and present, Death finally meets Samael who is not willing to just give Death the Key. After testing Death in a fierce battle, Samael gives Death the demon key, saying that no matter what happens, it should prove to be an interesting show. With both keys in hand, Death returns to the Tree of Life and has his penultimate meeting with the Crowfather, who reminds him of what's at stake: the fate of two races, humanity and the Nephilim. He warns that Corruption has chosen a named champion to block Death's efforts.
Death enters using the keys and proceeds to the Tree's core where he is met by Absalom. The Nephilim taunts Death by saying that the reason he is not harmed by Corruption is that the horseman is already "blackened by the sin of betrayal." Absalom and Death battle, and Death defeats Absalom just as he did eons ago. It is then that the Crowfather appears one last time and explains that Death may tap the Well's power to restore one race, but a sacrifice is needed. Warned that choosing one race will forever doom the other, Death chooses to save his brother War and sacrifices the souls of the Nephilim, still trapped in the scar on his chest, for humanity by leaping into the Well. An epilogue retells the final moments from the first game, with Uriel questioning if War intends to wage his campaign against the Charred Council alone, to which War replies "No, not alone." The scene then shows the arrival of the other Horsemen. The narrator states "And the number of the riders shall ever be four," and the Horsemen appeared: War, Strife, Fury and finally, Death.
In a post-credit scene, Lilith is seen being berated by a being who is completely in shadow (referred to by Lilith as 'my Prince'), angered that humanity has been restored and the Nephilim are lost forever. Lilith says she awaits punishment with a slight smile, but the entity states that "[she] will get no pleasure from it this time". The screen fades as Lilith screams in agony.
THQ's creative director Luis Gigliotti revealed in an interview with GameAxis that Darksiders will be a franchise and that they are contemplating a sequel. Joystiq stated that a Darksiders sequel was planned for the fiscal year of 2012.
An article on the Official Xbox Magazine website confirmed that Darksiders II was expected to be released in 2012. It was announced at E3 2011 that Darksiders II would be a launch title for the upcoming Wii U with modifications necessary to fit the controls of the Nintendo console as well as some new features unique to the console.
The game will take Death across multiple dungeons and city hubs. City hubs feature NPCs who can give out side quests etc. One city hub will connect to a number of dungeons and that one city area will feature more dungeons than the whole of the original Darksiders. Loot will also be included, dropping from encounters as rewards ranging from 12 different armor piece categories, which can have different enchantments and may power up Death's Wrath Powers.
At the San Diego Comic Con, it was revealed that Michael Wincott would provide the voice of Death. On June 19, 2012, James Cosmo (who appeared as a priest in "The Last Sermon," a live-action trailer for the game) was announced as the voice of Maker Elder Eideard, Death's guide throughout the story.
On February 14, THQ has announced that Darksiders II would hit stores on June 26, 2012. Pre-order DLC bonuses for the game were also announced, for GameStop, Best Buy and Amazon. On April 18, 2012, THQ announced on their website that Darksiders II was to be delayed until August 2012. The PC requirements were released on July 19, 2012.
A remastered port of Darksiders II known as the "Deathinitive Edition" was released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2015. It was published by Nordic Games, which had acquired the rights to the Darksiders franchise following the bankruptcy of THQ. The port was developed by Gunfire Games, a studio that was founded by Darksiders creator David L. Adams following the closure of Crytek USA (which itself was established after the closure of Vigil by THQ) and consists almost entirely of Vigil staff. Along with higher-resolution graphics and a revamped lighting engine, the studio also made changes to adjust the balance of the game. The Xbox One version of the edition was announced on June 11, 2015.
A Season Pass is available and includes The Abyssal Forge (a story-driven installment taking place in the Shadow Lands), The Demon Lord Belial (another story-driven installment taking place on Earth) and The Maker Armor and Scythe Set. Argul's Tomb is another story-driven pack not included in the season pass. The Angel of Death Pack includes new enhanced weapons and armor along with a new visual effect for Dust. The Deadly Despair pack offers a speed boost to Death's horse Despair. Various other DLC packs have been released offering weapons and armor much like the Angel of Death pack.
Darksiders II received mostly positive reviews. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Wii U version 84.96% and 85/100, the PlayStation 3 version 84.75% and 84/100, the Xbox 360 version 83.39% and 83/100 and the PC version 82.00% and 81/100. IGN gave it a score of 7.5, saying "Despite its problems, I was compelled onward in my quest with Death because Darksiders II is simply a fun game".
The game was the best selling game of August with over 247,000 units sold in the U.S As of November 5, 2012, the game had only sold 1.5 million copies, with THQ stating that the game "did not perform to our expectations."
A third Darksiders game was originally planned by Vigil Games, however, the fate of its franchise is threatened due to financial complications. Its parent company, THQ, filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The company's assets were sold at an auction, excluding Vigil Games, which was shut down along with the parent company THQ. In April 2013, THQ began a process to auction off the remaining IP that it had not yet sold, including Darksiders. Two companies publicly expressed interest in bidding for the franchise; including the Japanese developer PlatinumGames, and Crytek USA, a new Crytek subsidiary led by former Vigil CEO David Adams, and primarily staffed by former Vigil employees. Adams had expressed interest in allowing Darksiders to come back "home" to its creators. On April 22, 2013, Darksiders, along with Red Faction and MX vs. ATV, was purchased by Nordic Games in the final transaction of THQ's assets. On June 14, 2013, Nordic Games has stated in an interview with Joystiq that fans "[should] not look for a Darksiders 3 before two years from now".