Darksiders II Preview – Death and All His Friends
Written Tuesday, March 20, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
There’s no doubt about it, switching main characters for Darksiders II is a pretty risky move. It’s a move that not many franchises actually get away with these days, aside from the obvious exceptions – Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed (for the most part) and so on. That said, Vigil’s take on Darksiders II will allow new players to get in on the action without feeling completely lost, whilst also offering franchise fans enough crossover to make sure they feel like they’re being rewarded. It’s a risky move, but one that looks set to pay off.
Throughout our hands-off presentation at this year’s Microsoft Spring Showcase, Vigil’s Studio Manager, Jay Fitzloff was keen to get one thing across: Darksiders II is the game they wanted to create when they set out to create Darksiders. Due to time constraints however, a lot of things planned for Darksiders, Vigil just didn’t have the chance to implement.
Darksiders II throws you into the shoes of the Death, the brother of the original game’s protagonist, War. Running alongside the events of Darksiders, it’s Death's job to venture through the underworld and clear his brother’s name – you know, because that’s what brothers do… or at least should do. We pick things up in one of the four realms of the underworld, in an Aztec-style environment of sorts, with Death keen to gain the assistance of the locals to rid the Tree of Life of the corruption that encases it, stopping Death from getting to his final destination. After all, the Tree of Life houses the roots that connect the realms.
The first scene of our hands-off presentation saw Death take on the Construct Hulk in a circular arena – a huge stone golem-like character, almost five times the height of death, with wrecking balls for hands. It’s not a case of just dodging attacks here and counterattacking when there’s an opening, oh no. With Death’s gun causing no long-distance damage and it too dangerous up close, he must use the bomb drills that surround the outside of the arena to open up the Construct’s heart which serves as his Achille's heel. Once the heart is open the Construct Hulk is vulnerable and susceptible to attacks, but thanks to the small hulks that drop out, it’s not so plain sailing by any means. It’s a classic puzzle-solving boss fight if ever there was one, and after the Hulk had been defeated, Vigil were keen to point out the new loot system that plays a huge new part. It’s a system that’s very similar to that of Amalur’s, with players able to check the stats on the fly and instantly equip it should they see fit.
Each of the realms, according to Fitzloff, is visually very different, each of which will have their own central town – a hub world of sorts. After defeating the Construct Hulk and riding a Construct across the green pastures of the very fantasy orientated realm of the underworld, that’s where we found our main man – in a town called Tri-Stone.
Each of the realms in the underworld will have its very own hub town where Death can speak with NPCs, learn new manoeuvres from trainers, visit shops to sell, trade or buy new equipment, and practice new moves on training dummies. While we were in Tri-Stone, for instance, Death was able to learn a new short-range scythe throw and a new ability where he could juggle enemies in the air, buy and sell potions, as well as purchase talismans that augment abilities like increasing strength or increasing fire resistance.
We also caught a glimpse at the new and improved weapon and armour systems. Death is able to buy different scythes that not only look different but have different attributes and what not too. Throw in maces, hammers – which are slower but deal more damage – and fist weapons – like bucklers and claws, which are faster, but weaker weapons – and players can align their weapons with how they want their Death character to perform in an out-and-out fight. Being able to quick-assign abilities – like summoning a murder of crows – is going to be a blessing in disguise when you’re in the thick of things as well.
Vigil also noted that being able to equip different armour on our protagonist – that was both visually different and carried different bonuses and stats with them – was something they wanted to do in Darksiders 1, but just didn’t have time, so you get all of that in Darksiders II now. We know what you’re thinking… there’s a hell of a lot more RPG in Darksiders II than in the first game, and you’re spot on. The skill trees, with the left track being the warrior path and the right track being the wizard path, and the new RPG updates are there to encourage replayability as there are different paths, weapons and looks that will come with different playthroughs of Darksiders II.
Thanks to the increased agility of our new protagonist as well, Vigil were able to slide in a few Prince of Persia-style platforming sequences as well, and these also fit quite nicely into some of the game’s puzzles. In the next sequence of events Death had to team up with one of the beefy locals, Karn, to get past a series of obstacles. This meant that our skinnier protagonist was being flung to otherwise inaccessible areas so that he could open up the way for Karn to continue, creating almost a symbiotic reliance on one another.
Darksiders II is in fact a game that seems to boast a little of everything. There’s the Prince of Persia-style platforming sequences, the RPG aspects, the puzzle elements, the looting, the huge fantasy world and more, something that is sure to please fans. While the rest of the industry is scaling back to make everything more 'accessible', almost dumbing things down too much in the process, Darksiders II is going the other way. For all intents and purposes then, Darksiders II is the game Darksiders should have been, which doesn’t mean the original was bad – not by a long shot. It’s just that Darksiders II is shaping up to be the game that Vigil always wanted to create and looking at it, the game we’ve always wanted to play.
Now, do I get extra credit for fitting a Coldplay song title into the headline or should I be hung, drawn and quartered?
Darksiders II is scheduled for a June 26th and June 29th release in North America and Europe respectively.