Death. A character in culture that is both iconic and at the same time trivialized. Death is always with us, always watching. In Darksiders II, he will be always be kicking butt.
Last week, THQ hosted a preview event in San Francisco at the Regency Center – where game journalists and other industry people were brought together to see a first look at gameplay for Darksiders II. At first glance, the venue could have been mistaken for an overly stylish area to hold a video game event – but the gothic feel of the Regency ballroom certainly does add much to the atmosphere of the game.
As a reminder, the original Darksiders put players in the role of War, one of the Four Horseman, who accidentally starts the whole apocalypse thing on Earth. Death, knowing his brother was framed, gets really upset and decides to bring the pain and prove War’s innocence. If the thought of having War hunt you down was scary, how bad is it that Death is really upset? To that point, don’t forget to check out the VGA 2011 teaser trailer.
The event began with a presentation of Death and his identity throughout different cultures and ages. A sample of what was available is now viewable in the latest developer diary, which focuses on the character of Death. Though, host Dane Munro’s live presentation was much more comical.
After the presentation – THQ presented roughly 30 minutes of Darksiders II.
The demo begins with a 360 pan of the character of Death – the only playable character in Darksiders II. Vigil Games has equipped the Pale Rider with none other than scythes as his weapons. Two of them in fact. Death’s scythes are implemented as either dual wielding or attached to make a crazy super-scythe – something akin to the Vigoorian Flails from Ninja Gaiden fame.
Vigil Games wants to ensure that players will be able to customize their experiences differently. To accomplish this, different item sets are available throughout the game that focus on particular aspects of Death’s playstyle: Slayer, Necromancer, and Wanderer. These item sets compliment the two skill trees of Harbinger and Necromancer. The trees offer different options that alter how the game is played. During the demonstration, the Necromancer’s “Exhume” skill was shown off, where Death was able to summon zombies to fight for him, which served to be a very handy skill. The zombies fight aggressively until they die, serving as a great element to divert aggro off Death. On the opposite side, to compliment players who enjoy throwing themselves into battle, there are abilities that cover Death in an aura that harms any who enter it.
When loot drops occur (and there are a lot of loot drops), the stat block of the item hovers above it for the player to immediately make a decision to equip the item through a quick prompt. A small touch like this is huge. Nobody likes picking up items and stopping to read through a menu to find out if something is worth keeping or wearing.
The two key elements that were shown off during the demonstration focused more on the traversal capabilities and improved combat. As Death is a very different entity than War, Darksiders II will be relating that with the new approach to controls. The footage we were shown was taken from an early level in the game, but by the end of it, there was some pretty epic stuff teased.
Perhaps one of the unintentionally funny things about Death is that he is awesome at parkour. Yes, Death focuses much more on agile traversal through a free-running type of movement. Wall/beam running, wall jumping, and climbing with ease. The movement/platforming is very evocative of Prince of Persia – in a good way. Death also gets access to a Ghost Hand upgrade later that serves as sort of a spectral zip-line, a bizarre mix of Bionic Commando‘s arm and the Spectral Hand spell of Dungeons & Dragons. The Ghost hand is used by Death to launch himself onto different attachment points in the environment and it can even be used during combat as well.
Darksiders drew comparisons to other games out on the market and Darksiders II will no doubt face similar comparisons as well. Seeing the title played, it looks like a mix of God of War, Prince of Persia, Zelda, and Torchwood. Yes, that’s a rather diverse group of games, but they all possess some solid elements that influence Darksiders II.
Combat is fast and hectic, with a high emphasis on style mixed with brutality. This is where the God of War look really comes in. Unlike his more stalwart brother-in-arm, War, Death’s agility will be carrying him through battle in both defense and offense.
Death will have a special mode he can enter, called Reaper Form, which is broken up into two different abilities. Reaper Form can be utilized in combos, by holding attack buttons to quickly integrate the form into a combo, or, should skill points be invested, Reaper Transformation will be made available. Allowing Death to transform into his Reaper form and lay waste to everything for as long as the Reaper Meter is filled.
As mentioned before, Death uses scythes as his primary weapons. Depending on the combo being performed, the scythes will change their shape and form to accompany the most awesome looking kind of attack. They can combine into Death’s iconic scythe or can be thrown and act as boomerangs. In addition to his scythes, Death has access to some secondary weapons, such as a giant sledgehammer. Should the player master combat well enough, weapons can be switched between seamlessly during a combo to make some pretty crazy things happen.
The aforementioned Ghost Hand also has a place in combat. When used against small characters, the Ghost Hand can pull the enemy closer and knocks them prone. Against larger enemies, the Ghost Hand will instead bring Death to the creature. Combined with evading, Death will be using dodge attacks (rather than blocking), the Ghost Hand can become very powerful in combat and isn’t something to be overlooked. Not to mention, it has a cool sound effect that goes along with its usage.
Combat and traversal weren’t the only things that were being shown off in the presentation. A few mini-boss fights were presented to show what Death can do – the larger enemies were more intimidating, one pit Death against a big bad guy and a bevy of minions that served him. It was a pretty familiar scenario but, again, this was early in the game – so it wouldn’t make sense to throw the mega-boss fights at the player yet.
One of the later mini-boss fights that was shown off was a bit more involved – players couldn’t just bash on the boss until it died. There were environmental items that Death could use to help weaken the boss until, in traditional game fashion, a big weak spot emerged to hit until the boss took enough damage.
At this point, Darksiders II is shaping up to be a competent franchise follow-up. The new combat and traversal elements were entertaining, the series’ staple art, character design, and graphics still look great, and the sounds were fantastic. Vigil Games and THQ who, despite rumors is still alive and kicking, are working hard to make sure that the sequel for Darksiders is going to be even better and Game Rant is definitely looking forward to it.
Darksiders II is releasing in 2012 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC .
Follow me on Twitter @TrungleFever