Darksiders II – E3 Preview
Darksiders 2 is the sequel to the successful, if a little clunky, Darksiders. At E3 this year we were lucky enough to be invited along by THQ to have a look at how the game is progressing and, having not seen much beforehand, I was impressed. I personally didn’t enjoy the original, and while the storyline and world were interesting, the combat was a little sluggish and not all that fun. You may say, “War was a big guy and in combat he was always going to be slow and ponderous” which I guess is fair enough, but in Darksiders 2 we play as Death and death can claim you in a heartbeat.
In the previous game, the horseman War was accused of starting the apocalypse on Earth. Death, determined to prove his brother’s innocence, travels between the many realms to discover the truth and undo Armageddon. During Death’s journey though, he discovers that there are greater things at work than just Heaven and Hell and that there are far more terrible powers at play, that make the apocalypse on Earth seem like a picnic.
During the hands on demo, Death’s increased speed in movement and combat is what struck me first. He sprints between areas and is able to traverse walls and pillars in a very fluid motion; you really got the sense that this guy could move. In combat Death is stealth, speed and cunning to War’s brute force and brute force. With twin scythes as his primary weapon, capable of being reformed into a polearm or thrown as need be, Death can dart between opponents, delivering his namesake incredibly quickly. In a similar vein to the previous game there will be secondary weapons ranging from light claws and tonfas t0 heavy maces, axes and hammers, allowing you to augment your arsenal with even quicker weapons or the heavy finishers.
The combat is very slick, moving from enemy to enemy racking up the combos and keeping the opponents off balance. One thing I did notice is that there isn’t a block button like there was in the previous game; instead the dodge mechanic has been updated and improved, meaning that a skilled player can avoid taking a hit most of the time. Executes are back and are bloodier than ever; weaken a few just enough and hit the execute button and watch the show.
Once an enemy is defeated they may drop some loot, which is a new mechanic to Darksiders and allows the player to upgrade their gear as they progress. Weapons, gloves, boots and other gear can be picked. All of the loot is randomly generated and comes with unique abilities or stats, meaning that players will have to decide which pieces to keep or lose depending on their game style. Un-required loot can be ‘eaten’ by special rare weapons, which then increase in power the more they are fed. The loot feature is a great new addition and also lets the player, who may be that way inclined, to customise the look of Death in the game, going for more melee combat or magic type gear.
Abilities also have a key part in the gameplay that can be picked up from one of the two skill trees, Necromancer and Harbinger. Necromancer, the spell casting tree, focuses on abilities that allow Death to raise ghouls and flocks of crows that support him in combat. There are also a number of abilities in this tree which increase the defensive abilities of Death, allowing him to stay in the fight that little bit longer, while the Harbinger tree supports the close combat fighter, increasing critical strike chances and the damage dealt in melee. Every kill grants Death some experience points and these can be used to buy upgrades from the two trees.
Death also has a number of other abilities gained from items the player will pick up throughout the game. The soul splitter effectively allows Death to split himself in two, into both life and death, allowing him to be in two places at once. We didn’t get to test this out in the demo but it should allow for some interesting puzzles. The voidwalker creates portals, through which Death can then travel, and also allows the player to set traps for enemies, such as dropping them onto spikes or other dangerous terrain. I quite like the idea of being able to drop a particularly difficult enemy into lava or off a cliff.
The power form also returns, allowing the player to transform Death into his classic reaper look. This gives Death the ability to quickly transform during combos and, eventually, transform completely into the vision of Death and deal massive amounts of damage, similar to War’s ability in the original.
At its core Darksiders 2 is a hack and slash action game similar in pace to God of War with a unique take on the Christian concept of Armageddon. During the demo we played a mission that ended in a boss fight against the Crowfather, an ancient keeper of secrets. Death ends up facing off against a copy of War from the original game and you really do get a sense of the change in combat styles. War attacks with his heavy cumbersome chops while Death flits around, dodging out of the way and delivering devastating attacks. That fight (spoiler alert…ish) does end with the Crowfather impaled through the chest on a scythe. The developers do not shy away from the brutal combat and I think this is a good thing. They are telling the story of the end of days; it turns out the end of days is going to be bloody.
You can become Death on the 14th August 2012.
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