Marathon 2: Durandal Review

Like many sequels– especially from the ’90s– Marathon 2: Durandal isn’t that much different than the first game. That’s especially true with the iOS ports. This is a little slice of history and a gaming curiosity, but it would be unfair to compare Marathon 2 with modern sci-fi shooters like N.O.V.A.

While we didn’t mind this nostalgic adventure the first time around, playing through the sequel really brings out the many flaws in both the game and the port. Of course, the graphics are pretty awful by today’s standards– even with the sold-separately HD upgrade– but they have a quaint quality to them. The terrible animation and iffy frame rates aren’t so quaint though, and whether these are glitches with the port or just how the game was is up to speculation.

Don’t disturb the wildlife.

One important change over the port of the first game is that the sequel is a universal app instead of iPad-only. Admittedly, shooters are much harder to play on the smaller screen and Marathon 2 seems especially so. Fingers end up covering too much of the screen and actually shooting is really only doable if the ‘tap to shoot’ setting is on.

Otherwise, the two fire buttons are way too small, and sliding your thumb to aim and then stopping to hit the button is an unworkable control scheme. The game just doesn’t move well, with slippery and somewhat unresponsive controls. This makes major fire fights a hassle, navigating narrow platforms frustrating, and adds to the already-high difficulty level.

Some fine-looking aliens.

Unlike the first game, where the protagonist woke up aboard a ship overrun with aliens and no other survivors except the ship’s AI, Durandal places players right in the heat of a battle between two opposing forces. As before, the ship’s surviving AI has once more woken up the same lone soldier from cryo sleep, but this time he’s transported planet side to fight the aliens already locked in combat with humans.

This should feel like a major change, but given how simple the overall AI is, it just seems like everyone runs around mindlessly and shoots each other. From a practical perspective, it makes little difference in the actual game play, as our poor hero is still basically going it alone as he kills monsters, flips switches, and listens to an AI of questionable sanity.

Marathon 2 is free, so if you liked the first game or are just curious, it’s worthwhile to check this one out. That said, the Marathon series is, at this point, merely a historical footnote more than a game that can stand on its own so many years later.

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