Darksiders 2 Preview: Matt traveled to San Francisco to check out what THQ and Vigil Games have in store for Darksiders II and its all-new character, Death.
"Death is a real party pooper," summed up historian and University of Malta professor Dane Munro. This death expert with a passion for "the celebration of life, especially the part where you die" lectured an audience full of game journalists in San Francisco about the star of Darksiders II and his presence throughout history, from art to graves to rock t-shirts. Munro painted a grim picture of the character who "exists at the end of all things" and "is the last face you see." Luckily, Death's on your side in Darksiders II, making him the second of the four horsemen you can play as in THQ and Vigil Games' action-adventure series.
This sequel doesn't do much to shy away from the "mature Zelda meets God of War" label that reviewers overused to pithily describe the gameplay of the first Darksiders. In fact, this demo proves that the new character leans even more toward that Kratos connection with his agile move set and main weapon, a pair of scythes. Flailing around the game's underworld setting in an effort to waste enemies left and right, Darksiders II sticks with the combat that it knows best, only now everything is happening on a faster and much bigger scale.
That "bigger scale" begins to take shape when you equip Death's secondary weapons, upgrade his three sets of armor and advance his RPG-like skill tree - something Deus Ex: Human Revolution
fans should feel right at home with. In addition to demoing a more customizable protagonist compared to War, the playable horseman from the first game, Vigil Games included more challenging platforming gameplay. Wide gaps and tall ledges simply work in this sequel thanks to Death's ability to perform wall running, wall jumping, beam running and pillar climbing. Further proving that he won't have any trouble getting around levels, Death uses a handy Ghost Hand (no pun intended) to grapple himself to distant objects. The most convenient thing about always leaving this purple, hook-like item equipped is that it doubles as a way to latch onto small enemies to knock them down, or pull Death closer to the game's more daunting mini-bosses.
The funny thing about all of the mini-bosses was that none of them seemed too "mini." The first boss we got a glimpse of was four times the size of Death and the second one towered over him at twelve times his height. Luckily, the Vigil Games developer driving this demo had all of the right magic-based moves in addition to combat skills. The demo's standout unlockable spell was the cleverly named "Murder," which summoned an aggressive flock of crows that seemingly just flew in from the set of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. They were quite literally a distraction sent from above and allowed him to recover, then go on the offensive despite his
Death and Goliath odds against the massive mini-boss. Murder is one example of Darksiders II's creative spell set that bears no resemblance to the ether-based potions of elven adventures, and for that reason, I'm in the rare mood to see what's in store outside of the combat realm.
Death was on his feet for the entire Darksiders II demo, but the final game will include segments on horseback in which he rides his mount, Despair. There are three advantages to traversing the underworld on a horse: moving faster, still being able to cut enemies down to size with your scythes and knocking anyone in your way to the ground . Of course, the Ghost Hand that I previously lauded, as well as Death's evade moves, isn't accessible when riding Despair.
Wearing an executioner's mask and dual-wielding his twin scythes, Death embodies a grim appearance, something we've known since announced last summer. However, we're still fitting together his role in the Darksiders universe. The story of Darksiders II is supposed to take place in parallel with the first game, meaning we know two things: you're on a mission to clear the name of your brother, War, and this sequel isn't going to tie up the loose ends of the first game right from the get-go. To find out everything, you're probably going to have to work your way through all 20 hours of gameplay. That hefty number includes all-new side quests, a feature that wasn't part of the more straightforward original. With that much alone time in this single-player game, here's to hoping that Death's promised dry and sarcastic wit keeps those many hours of gameplay fresh to death.