Darksiders II – Preview
Following up from what was one of my favourite games of last year, Darksiders II puts you in control of another of the Horseman of the Apocalypse, this time… Death. To bring anybody up to speed who hadn’t played the first game, you played as War, one of the Four Horseman who was summoned to earth to stop a battle that had broken out between the angels and the demons. The game’s mythology treats the Horsemen as enforcers of a treaty between Heaven and Hell who were to be summoned when the seventh seal was broken. Somebody is playing games though, and War is somehow summoned to Earth during a battle between Heaven and Hell, without the aid of his brothers and without the seventh seal ever being broken. War is basically fitted up for starting the fight and sentenced to death, but is given one last chance to find the one responsible for summoning him and restore the balance.
Darksiders II further builds on that story and the mythology of the first game by telling parts of the same story from a completely different perspective. It takes place in parallel to the story of the first game, as Death is trying to find out what has happened to his brother War and why he was wrongly accused of instigating the apocalypse. Death plays very differently to how War did in the first title; War was very much the warrior while Death is kind of the rogue of the group; he’s much faster, more agile and will dodge incoming enemies attacks rather than blocking them. Death also has far greater customisability, allowing you to focus how you want to upgrade your skills and traits so that you can play the game your way and increase your skills with, say, heavy weapons if you want to. While it’s not full-on hardcore RPG type stuff, it does add that extra little layer of depth that I’m sure most will love. This new customisability extends itself further and you’ll be able to purchase new armour from vendors in towns, or equip pieces you may find on your travels, so while War in the first game was very much War all the way through, Darksiders developers say that its possible for you to have a completely different Death from any of your friends after just an hour of play.
So, don’t think of Darksiders II as a straight up sequel; it’s more like another piece of the puzzle, with some changes made to the gameplay that give the game its own voice, but which still help retain the Darksiders tone we all loved. The action no longer takes place on earth and is instead set in the underworld which, size wise, is much larger than it was in Darksiders. It’s this new size of the overall game and its environments that lead to the decision to give players access to Death’s horse, Despair, right from the start rather than needing to earn him about a third into the game (like War did with Ruin). This larger world is now much more populated and is alive with small villages and plenty of NPCs who’ll be there to talk to if you want to learn more about the world or pick up a few side quests. Darksiders II is shaping up to be everything fans want, and after my preview I snuck back in and had a quick chat with Jay Fitzloff from Vigil Games to find out a little bit more about the game, his thoughts on the way the first title seemed to have come out of nowhere and that gorgeous Darksiders art style.
Now, I’m a big fan of the first game but it was one of those releases that just seemed to have come out of nowhere and I’ll be honest… while I had heard of it and had seen the trailers, that was about it. As a rule I’ll normally just buy any new game on a Friday and that week it happened to be Darksiders. I loved it almost instantly and told two of my mates about it; they went out and picked up copies and the three of us sat in party chat playing it all weekend; is that word of mouth effect where its success lay?
I’m surprised how many people have told me something like that this week; I think it’s because nobody expected it, it just seemed to take everybody by surprise. I think one of the problems was that it was kinda hard to translate what it was; kinda like here today a lot of what you seen is the combat, but the game is so much more than that and that’s not what the game is all about. I’m glad that we have a fan base of people that understand that.
Earlier on in the demo (and I’m pretty sure you catch a glimpse of it in the trailer) Death came to some large stone doors and a kind of big pair of shadowy, ghostly hands would appear and break the doors open – is shadow Darksiders II’s equivalent of The Watcher?
Not quite… well there’s not a character that torments you like that guy did anyway, but on Death’s shoulder you’ll see Dust who is Death’s Raven, and we’ve treated that as kind of your guide for the game. He’s quite organic and say if you’re walking past an area where there is maybe an item or another way to go Dust will fly off cawing and start circling over head of an item, trying to draw your attention to it, so he kind of acts as your guide through the game like The Watcher.
Even though the story for this is separate, if anybody had to take a guess they’d say the grand plan would be to eventually hit Darksiders IV and have those separate stories of the Horsemen tie together. Is that the overall plan? Will we eventually get that crossover into one bigger, bad story?
You know, that’s a good question but, ultimately, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. There must be like a million ideas we all have at the studio and whatever floats to the top we’ll have to see, but right now we are focused on finishing Darksiders II and we’ll just see where it takes us.
Are any of the cast returning, like Mark Hamill or the shop guy, Vulgrim?
Yeah some… maybe… I’m not too sure on Vulgrim but any of the major returning characters we’ll be keeping a secret. Actually, speaking about the shopping, in the demo you would of seen little piles of gold dropping out of some of the enemies and there is loot like armour in the game which some of the larger enemies will drop. Then we have small towns dotted around the game where you’ll find vendors to sell your loot to or buy new armour and skills from, so we’re adding a lot more customisability, and I guarantee that if you play the game for three hours and I play it for three hours we’ll have completely different characters and they’ll be worlds apart in both their looks and their skills.
So is there going to be a lot more customisability with the skills? I know there was a fair bit in the first one but by the time you got to the end of the game you pretty much had everything anyway. Is there more of a path time around or are you going to end up with everything, regardless?
No it’s quite different from the first game this time around and when you finish the game there will be stuff that you just don’t have. You could be the highest level but there will be skills and items and things that you don’t have because you chose to go down some other path.
The comic book artist who’s responsible for the look and feel of the first Darksiders, is he still involved with the game?
Yeah, Joe Mad, he’s involved probably even more so with this time around as it’s a much bigger game.
That’s good to hear, I’ll be honest I was worried that it was the kind of thing that you’d have a guy do for you and then just kind of take what they created and run with it yourselves.
No it’s not like that at all! Joe is very much involved and he actually has the office next to mine, and the reason is because I need to bother him all of the time and he started trying to hide from me around the office. I’m not saying he draws everything but he does do a lot of the concept art and things like the poster you’ll see, but every piece of artwork that is done for the game goes through him and he’ll make changes to this or ask if we can make something do that, and I’m always in his office asking about something. Just before I came out here somebody asked what this was and if it was actually in the game [points to a picture of Death holding a double tipped scythe], so I’m like “hey Joe… wassup up dude?” and he’s all like: “urghhhh”
From what I got to see today Darksiders II truly is shaping up to be everything the fans could want and if you’ve not had a chance to play the first one yet I highly recommend it. The series has a beautiful art style and a graphic novel style story that brilliantly plays with the mythology of heaven and hell, angels and demons and the four Horsemen themselves. Darksiders II keeps the soul of the first game but changes things just enough to make it its own beast. It’s like being inside the cover for an old metal album as giant stone serpents pull a floating, half-destroyed castle through the skies and monsters made from bones block your path, and one I can’t wait to explore when the game is released next year.
Last five articles by Lee
- Skullgirls - Preview
- Darksiders II - Preview
- Resistance 3 Interview with Jon Pacquette
- Ridge Racer Unbounded Hands-on Preview
- Forza Motorsport 4 Preview: Better with Kinect?