This is probably not going to be my last post on The Darkness II and I really need to draw your attention to a classy smidget of exposition that’s lurking in the game. It also perhaps raises the bar for all codexes that you find in games.
I think the main expansive codex systems that I’ve ever really paid much attention to in videogames have come from the Mass Effect franchise and the systems found in Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. However, I think The Darkness II has taken things the furthest in terms of execution.
In case you’re not so sure, I’m using codexes/codex to refer to vast volumes of information that games often leave you to collect on an ad-hoc basis during the course of the game’s events. While the previous console generation found this being mostly codexes based on enemy information, this generation has really gone into fleshing out background information on the world your character/s is in that you can read about in-game.
In Mass Effect and its sequels the information has mainly text based, with some information unemotionally read out as if from a computer, which technically is appropriate. In the two Batman games mentioned above, you solved various riddles, encountered characters or picked up tapes to get extra background info: the tapes were interesting, especially the patient interviews in the first game.
Now the 29 relics that you can find across The Darkness II have taken things a step further. I didn’t realise until trying to complete the game again on Sunday that you can listen to Johnny Powell (the motormouth, forever anxious, knowledgeable occultist in the game) reel off background stories on each of the relics. Every single one has its own unique story, which in turn Johnny can relate to you in his characteristic manic way.
And they’re not straight forward bits of narration either. They’re written from the perspective that Johnny is talking to Jackie and so makes references to Jackie and how the relics affect him, but at the same time talking as if Jackie (you) is right there listening to him. Throwing in this first-person/second-person perspective is an amazing experience and goes beyond what many other previous codex systems in games have done.
The relics codex in the game can be found in the pause menu during the main game. Here’s a sample: