games / Previews

Darksiders II (360, PS3) Preview

January 24, 2012 | Posted by Adam Larck

In January of 2010, Darksiders released to surprising success. The Zelda-esque dungeon crawling, mixed with the action, proved to be a hit on the consoles.

Now, Darksiders II is set to release this summer, with Death taking the place of War. According to producer Ryan Stefanelli, Death’s story will follow “essentially parallel” to War’s story.

“The whole idea is that a lot of people were interested to know what the other Horsemen were doing while War was out doing his thing,” Stefanelli said. “Were they banished? Were they just sitting on a couch somewhere watching War do his own thing? No, Death was actually doing quite a lot. The way they’ve handled that situation, the differences, really gets to the core of the character. So, you get to see how Death handles the fact that War was falsely accused of the Apocalypse.”

In the gameplay demo shown off, the first thing that was noticeable was the increase of weapons and armor that will be available to Death. Death will wield dual scythes throughout the game, and will be able to find different types throughout the game. While attacking, the scythes will sometimes join to form a longer scythe, and can be thrown short distances to have them come back, similar to how War did with his secondary weapon scythe in the first game.

A big change for the series is the armor customization. There are three different armor sets: Necromancer, Slayer and Wanderer, each of which will benefit certain types of players.

“They sort of define statistically how the armor supports,” Stefanelli said. “You have one that supports a caster play style, if that’s the way you want to go with your skill tree. You have one that supports the melee, if that’s the way you go.”

The armor will be available in side quests, which I’ll talk more on later, and through random drops from enemies.

Another change is the addition of two skill trees: Harbinger and Necromancer. While not a lot were shown about the trees, we did see two skills: Exhume, which will summon zombies to aid Death, and Murder, which summons crows to help out. The crows are slightly weaker, but can attack more targets.

While I’m on the subject of combat, I ought to mention that secondary weapons are back, as well as guns. In the demo, only a hammer was shown off as a secondary weapon, with more available.

Also, taking the place of the gun sometime throughout the demo was the Ghost Hand. The hand, which can be used in the environment to traverse gaps or grab ledges, can also be used to grab smaller enemies towards Death or launch Death towards bigger enemies.

There’s two other points to talk about before getting away from combat: the lack of block and Reaper Form. First, Death will not be able to block like War did. Instead, he has a quicker evade on the battlefield to get away from enemies.

Meanwhile, Reaper Form will be available to use in two ways: during combos you’ll sometimes see glimpses of the form and Death can transformer into the Reaper once the Reaper Meter on the left side of the screen fills up, letting Death cause huge damage for a short amount of time.

One thing to make note of now is that both dungeons shown off were side-quest dungeons. Vigil Games has added hours of side-quests in the game as one of the many ways to increase the scope and replay-ability of the game.

“Scope is a big, key difference from Darksiders I to II, in a lot of ways,” Stefanelli said. “The world’s bigger, the narrative is larger, the difference in scale and depth of the creatures is bigger, the depth of the experience is larger. You didn’t really see War change a whole lot. In Darksiders II, (Death’s) going to be changing constantly. There’s thousands of items to pick up. There’s two skill trees for you to play with. So, we wanted to make the game bigger.”

The side-dungeons looked as big as some of the main dungeons in the first game and featured puzzles to solve and mini-bosses to fight. The mini-bosses, such as Ghorn and the Construct Hulk, are another place scope has changed. They hulk over Death, yet aren’t nearly as big as the bosses we were told. We were shown a picture of the hammer, seen at the right, which is reportedly one of the boss weapons.

The other big difference from the first game to talk about is the movement. While Death will control the same as War, he’s a lot more limber and more akin to the Prince of Persia. I say that because Death has a wall run that’s really similar to the Prince.

Death will be able to run on walls a short distance, and can jump to another wall to chain wall runs together for longer distances.

Also, Death will be able to bounce back and forth between walls, run across beams and even use the Ghost Hand, once acquired, to latch onto certain points on walls and grapple towards them.

It’s good that Death is faster when it comes to travel, as some puzzles and areas will revolve around getting through before platforms give away or before lava catches up to you. Those are two of the set-pieces shown off, and there’s no telling how many more will be like it when the game releases.

Another ability Death has is to be able to activate ancient robot constructs to help cross the terrain and use special abilities to grant Death access to new areas. Don’t worry, though, because the constructs can also be used to wreak havoc on enemies in the area as well.

While the demo shown off was fairly short (a whole dungeon wasn’t shown off, THQ and Vigil just showed off part of two dungeons) it looks safe to say that everything good from the first game is back and polished, while a lot more has been added. Darksiders II looks to be an early contender for action game of the year.

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Adam Larck

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