games / Previews

Darksiders II (Xbox 360) Preview

March 22, 2012 | Posted by Adam Larck

According to producer Ryan Stefanelli, Darksiders II is meant to put the adventure back in action-adventure.

After playing through the final dungeon of the Maker’s Realm, I’d have to say they’re on the right track.

Before we got into the dungeon, we were given a bit about the scope of the game, which is vastly improved when compared to the first game. The first realm’s map alone can fit the map of the entire first game into it.

The background of the dungeon is that death and Maker Karn are trying to restore the Guardian to make their way towards the tree of life. It’s about six hours into the game. After being told of a few new features we touched on in the last preview, such as wall running and the Maker Custodian, we were thrown into the mix.

Wall running was a fairly big part of the dungeon, as it’s used to traverse to new areas as well as during some puzzles. The wall running reminded me of the 360 Prince of Persia, complete with Death using his wings to save himself before falling into the lava.

“I think it’s clear we get inspiration from a lot of different games,” Stefanelli said. It’s funny because if you’re going to do a wall-run there’s a good way to do it and a not-so-good way.”

One thing to note about the wall running is that it wanted me to be fairly precise. If I was slightly off, Death wouldn’t grab on to the pole, running by it instead.

However, Stefanelli said that is something the team would be working with and trying to finesse before the game’s release. He added that the team tried to find a balance between the traversal and action.

“Traversal is tricky because I don’t even know if we’re 100 percent sure on how much players like traversal because some players get it and some players struggle with it,” he said. “Almost everybody likes action, but the way everybody feels about traversal and puzzles … the needle swings wildly from person to person.”

As far as the combat goes, it feels a bit quicker than the first game. The scythes work well, and the secondary weapons are actually useful to mix up combat, as you can have a weapon with elemental damage and a scythe that steals health.

You can pick up new scythes and secondary weapons from defeated enemies, as well as new pieces of armor to wear. The drops were pretty abundant, so there’s no short of trying new combos out.

While there’s not a grind feature in the game, unwanted items can be sold to a vendor or fed into Possessed Weapons that you can find as well.

Possessed Weapons may start off with comparative stats to other weapons you find, but you can feed unwanted items into it, leveling it up and giving it new abilities and stronger stats.

“It’s the highest tier of loot rarity,” Stefanelli said. “When you get those, you can essentially feed existing items and stuff into a weapon and level it up. When it levels it up you get a choice for what stat you want to put into it based on what items you put into it.”

Also useful in combat are the new Wrath abilities. Wrath, which is the game’s magic system, recharges fairly fast it seemed, especially when using the Summon Ghouls ability I unlocked with leveling up.

There are two skill trees to use: Necromancy and Harbinger. One is based more on melee, while the other is based more on summoning. I tried the teleporting slash sometimes, but really found myself sticking with the Summon Ghouls spell and upgrading that.

“When you go down the Necro tree you probably won’t have as much defense and hit points, so you’re going to have to rely on Wrath pool,” Stefanelli said. “Wrath sort of becomes your health bar. When you run out of Wrath you’re in trouble.”

The ghouls start as just one ghoul, but you can put more points into it to get more ghouls. After purchasing it, you can then use points to enhance the ghouls, letting them restore Wrath, be on fire, become a decoy and more. I had more abilities, but early on this seemed the best to help during combat.

The abilities you unlock can be mapped to LB. You just hold LB and use one of the face buttons to activate whatever ability you want.

Like most games, you’ll get points as you level up. While there was no indication of when you level up in the demo, Stefanelli says that there will be a notification in the full game.

Switching over to the puzzles, there were some varied puzzles I found during my playthrough. Some of the puzzles used bombs that were similar to the first game to blow up Corruption blocking your path. Other puzzles wanted you to roll a ball onto a certain area to unlock a door.

A few puzzles also revolved around the use of the Maker Custodians. After activation, some areas will let the Custodian sit and launch their arm as a grapple hook to let Death run on it. One puzzle in particular used the hook to create a grapple point to jump off of and get to new locations.

The Death Grip was an item found during the dungeon. It allowed you to continue wall running longer distances by latching onto ledges to reset the wall run. It can also be used to grapple to new locations. During combat, smaller enemies can be grappled to pull them to you, while you can pull yourself to larger enemies.

The grip can be used by RT, which is also where the pistol is used. The items can easily be switched with the D-Pad.

Towards the end of the demo, I fought a mini-boss of a corrupted Custodian before finally activating the Guardian with a corrupted Heartstone. Needless to say, the Heartstone doesn’t work out too well, causing you to fight the Guardian. Remember the giant hammer seen in screenshots? That’s the Guardian’s weapon. That should give you a bit of a size comparison of how big this boss is.

However, the battle itself wasn’t too bad. The battle had two distinct points to it: one where you try to destroy the arm with the hammer and one where you destroy its gun-arm.

The first part required you to shoot bombs on its arm to get to the Heartstone, while the other required you to shoot a spiked ball enough to have it charge at you and hit the Guardian instead. One thing to note is that it sometimes took a bit to figure out what the game wanted you to do, but Stefanelli said this is something they’re trying to make more noticeable to gamers.

During the battle you can also use Death’s horse, Despair. It’s useful during the first part of the battle to outrun the hammer, but found it more effective during the second half to shoot the ball without the horse and then get on it to run behind the Guardian, as the aiming while on the horse didn’t seem as fluid as being off it.

After beating the boss, there’s a short cutscene of the Guardian being resurrected by the leader of the Maker’s without corruption before the demo ended.

Overall, the game seems to have added on to the adventuring that made the first game fun. The size is definitely bigger, but yet still easy to navigate. The graphics are similar to the first as far as quality goes, but the locations seem to be more varied, at least judging by the demo.

“At this point we’re just polishing stuff up,” Stefanelli said. “The time we have left is just putting a spit-shine on a lot of stuff seen today.”

Considering the game’s June 26 release, Darksiders II is shaping up to be a great game to entertain you during the summer.


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Adam Larck
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