The first game was pretty good imo and the second one looks even better..
The gameplay demo showcased by THQ at E3 2012 was from pretty early on in the game, but please be aware that I will be discussing elements of the story, control schemes and more in this hands-on preview so read with caution if you’ve already entered the Darksiders II media blackout zone.
Legend has it that long ago the Council, ancient keepers of the balance, forged a truce between Heaven and Hell, a pact that the final battle would be held at the End of Days when the Kingdom of Man would join to determine the final order of things. The Four Horsemen, who were sworn servants of the Council, were fated to ride in the last moments of Armageddon and bring the world into a new age.
The truce was challenged over the eons, both by Angels and Demons, but it was never broken…not until the Horseman War triggered the Apocalypse early, or so the Council claimed, and set into motion a chain of events told in the original Darksiders game. Darksiders II takes place parallel to the events of the first game and sees Death, the most feared of the Four Horsemen, setting out on a mission, against the Council’s orders, to clear his brother’s name. He believes that War, who is the most honourable of the Horsemen, is innocent and is the victim of a conspiracy.
Darksiders was an incredible experience, and remains one of my favourite games today. One of my only gripes from the game was travelling through such large environments without War’s horse Ruin – we got the horse too late in the game. You’ll be happy to know that Vigil Games has listened to our feedback and you’ll be able to use Death’s horse Despair from very near the beginning of the game…and what a mighty steed Despair is! To summon Despair simply tap R1 and L1 together and he’ll appear beneath you, you’ll also be able to use R2 to give Despair a boost of speed and travel faster in overworld areas.
Not only will Death have Despair by his side, he’ll also have his bird Dust, who you’ll be able to use to help navigate through the dungeons and overworlds of the game. Dust is handy should you need a little assistance getting to your next objective (which is displayed clearly on the top right hand side of the screen), and summoning him is easy too, you’ll just need to press the left analogue stick in and he’ll fly ahead to help show you the way.
Death is suitably armed, with dual scythes as his primary weapon (activated by X), which are fast, flexible and effective against most enemy types. You can also look forward to finding different scythes of varying power level and ability as Death travels through the world, learning more combos and attacks with them as you go. He also has a number of secondary weapons (activated by Y) which can be used in combos with scythe attacks, and include both light and heavy weapons. Light weapons are fast and have low damage levels, best used for capitalizing on a limited window of opportunity, while heavy weapons are slower and feature a slow wind-up time but deal a lot of damage with each hit. As one would expect Death is skilled in battle, but the dodge button will definitely come in handy (press R1) to avoid enemies and quickly counter, as will the ability to lock on to enemies.
During the course of the game Death will also gain more abilities and gear that will make him even stronger in battle. Enemies will drop loot as they are defeated, but you’ll also be able to collect it from chests, as a reward for completing quests and trade it with non-playable characters. Through this loot you’ll be able to collect new weapons, amour and more and then decide what to sell and what to keep. This decision will be made tougher by the fact that each item has unique abilities and is randomly generated, but may ultimately be dictated by your preferred play style and immediate needs, as well as the loot tiers within the game. The game also features a skill tree system, and with each kill Death earns experience points which means he advances in level and with each level he earns skill points. There are two skill trees in Darksiders II, the Harbringer tree and the Necromancer tree, the former is a warrior track and the latter a spellcaster track, both of which are used to increase Death’s abilities.
Traversal is a big part of Darksiders II, and you can expect to take Death shimmying across ledges, scurrying up pillars and running across walls as you move forward in the game. Once you’ve learned and followed the on-screen prompts and tested the various controls out for yourself, the system works seamlessly and you’ll be able to move from one area to the next with a combination of button presses that will soon become second nature. Jump up to higher ground, hop to a pillar, lean back to move to the next pillar and finish with a wall run – Death completes the tasks you ask him to both effortlessly and with a grace that befits one of the Four Horsemen.
Not only is the control system easy to pick up, it’s intuitive too. Hitting A will make Death jump, while pressing it when you’re near a wall will make him do a wall run and holding it down will chain wall runs together. You’ll use this to move Death to ledges above you, pillars behind you (press L1 to lean back towards the next pillar) and even to perform vertical wall runs to areas far above.
Along the way you’ll find plenty of enemies, but Death will make short-work of these icy foes. It’s here that you can really test the strength of his scythe and hammer, and see just how easy it is to switch between the two, even in combat. Before long you’ll encounter the Ice Giant, a larger enemy to test Death’s might against. He’s pretty strong, but ultimately no match for the fighting skills you’ve already learned.
As you move on a cut-scene with the Crowfather will be triggered, which helps to detail a little more of the story and give you an indication of the kind of polish we can expect to see in this game. Without wanting to give too much away, you’ll see Death asking the Crowfather to let him pass into another world, the Crowfather refusing, and Death fighting an epic battle with this keeper of secrets. It’s a much more challenging fight, and will require you to use all of the combat skills you’ve learned so far to triumph, but above all it’s a taste of the epic story to come and will definitely leave you wanting more.
Darksiders II is out on August 14th in the US and August 17th in Europe and the UK, across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, while a Wii U version of the game is planned for the launch of Nintendo’s next console.
If you pre-order you’ll receive a free upgrade to the game’s Limited Edition, which will include a copy of the game as well as a unique code for the first downloadable content pack when it becomes available. The Collector’s Edition is also available for pre-order and includes the Limited Edition of the game, a life sized Replica Death Mask, unique in-game ‘Shadow of Death’ armour and weapon set, digital soundtrack and art book.
Can't wait to crack some more skills in this second venture...