Let's start by addressing the big logical problem. Action RPG Darksiders II lets you play Death himself. The bad man with the big scythe, the Reaper of Souls, the Horseman of the Apocalypse. Not only do you ride a pale horse, you summon it by pressing RB and LB. Amazing.
Except not, because this is a video game, and on his quest you'll watch Death get knocked about by beetles, slip uselessly into innumerable pits, and begin every single conversation with an NPC by asking them who they are. Shouldn't he know who they are already? If this guy showed up to claim your soul, you'd probably put up the same mumbled resistance you'd show a mugger.
Even his quest is kind of sweet, which is a word we never thought we'd use when describing anything to do with Death - he's just trying to help his brother. Admittedly his brother is War, who's currently standing trial for erasing humanity during the first Darksiders, but it's important to not get caught up in the details. The point is that Death has to restore life to all humanity, an interplanar journey that sees him hopping between madder and madder realms, harassing custodians from the Tree of Life to the Realm of the Dead.
That said, you'll be spending most of your time stalking Darksiders II's generous expanse of dungeons. As in the first Darksiders, these have a distinctly thoughtful pace, with every chamber as likely to contain a puzzle as a fight or Prince of Persia-style movement challenge. Death is much sprightlier than 2010's War, and whipping him along walls, down chains or up posts is quietly satisfying, even if it doesn't come close to the (figurative) heights or breathlessness of Prince of Persia.
No, Darksiders II is much more at home nudging Death into fights, where the sheer range of powers available to you makes up for it not being the most polished hack 'n' slash game on the Xbox 360. Between dodging, countering, scything, teleporting, summoning ghouls, coughing up ravens, assuming your true "Reaper" form or delving into your toybox of equipment, Death revels in, er, death.
There's the slight irk of even the smallest enemies unblinkingly absorbing blow after blow that can make combat a bit exhausting, but unpleasantly durable dragonflies aside, it's consistently satisfying to weave through a crowd of enemies, scything and rolling all the way.
Scythe & Death
Where the combat hits speedbumps with teeth-rattling force is when it collides with the game's RPG side. Not content with combining platforming, brawling and puzzling, Darksiders II also tries its hand at being an open-world RPG, complete with quests, loot, a skill tree, doubling back to old areas and levelling up. Death doesn't just have a scythe. New, frequently irrelevant scythes, boots and jackets slip disgustingly from the guts of almost anything you kill. Even nicking a monster causes a number to float out of it, explaining exactly how much damage you did in the JRPG style.
Much like everything else in Darksiders II, and inappropriately for a game about Death, who specialises in death and dealing death, these RPG elements are entirely pleasant. Completing a quest, edging up the skill tree, and upgrading to Flaming Ghouls is quite nice. Pawing through your loot and admiring Death in a new cape with a dashing new warhammer is also nice. It's especially nice when you're having trouble with a fight, pause the game to dress up in an entirely new outfit, and proceed to shred a whole crowd of golems like so much lettuce.