When it first released in 2010, the original Darksiders nearly fell under my radar. I don’t recall it being marketed all that heavily and the most I could find out from other people who had played it is “It’s a ripoff of (insert game title here).” What many failed to realize is that Darksiders‘ sources of inspiration were its greatest strength. Here’s a title that took some of the best features from games like The Legend of Zelda, Prince of Persia, and Portal and whipped them all together into one game, and seamlessly to boot. So when Darksiders II was announced, I was on board right from the get go.
You play as Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, on a mission to prove the innocence of one of his brethren, War (who was the main character from the prior game). Not much else was revealed about the story during the short segment that I had a chance to play, though a THQ representative confirmed that much of the story runs parallel to the events of the original. There’s only one thing to be certain of, and it’s that there will be lots of Death involved.
The demo opens atop some snowy mountains, which will occasionally lead you through cavernous territory. The visuals look sharp, even if there wasn’t a whole lot of variety in the scenery in this particular build. Death himself looks quite menacing in his skull mask and carrying dual scythes. He’s voiced by Michael Wincott, who succeeds in making him sound as threatening as he looks.
As you ride up the mountain on your steed, Despair, you will be assaulted by skeletons, many frozen in ice that will break out upon your approach. Combat is fluid and every bit as enjoyable as the first game, as it leans more towards the action genre than your average Zelda title would. As you hack away with the dual scythes, you can pick up secondary weapons that can be utilized in combos, such as hammers and axes (though the final game will have far more). You also have the ability to wall run, traverse wall vines, and climb pillars. In other words, Death is not a one trick pony.
New in this game is the ability to pick up loot and gear dropped from enemies, much like the recently released Diablo III. This includes secondary weapons, armor, and items, plus the game will even tell you the relative strength of the item compared to what you have currently equipped. So if it’s weaker than what you have on, you can choose to leave it behind and move on. I think this is a significant addition to the franchise, as games with loot tables like this tend to draw in a very specific crowd and Darksiders II seems poised to reel in a new audience than it did before. With all of the genres it’s pulling from, I think we’ll officially have the perfect game by the time the third one rolls around.
When Death levels up, he’s able to pool points into one of two skill trees. One is more focused on melee combat, while the other is for those who’d prefer to focus on magic/ranged attacks. The game will be set up in such a way that you can’t master both, though a second playthrough will raise the level cap from 20 (though the exact number hasn’t been determined yet). There will also be a ton of sidequests to be done, but the specific nature of them wasn’t revealed to me. Only that a single playthrough might average around 25 hours or so and can be up to 40 or more if you do all of the sidequests. Darksiders II promises to be a much meatier game than the first, so gamers should get their money’s worth.
The demo ended with a confrontation against Crowfather, who upon refusal to open a portal to a place that might lead to War, ends up masquerading as War himself to defeat Death. It was a challenging duel, but one that ended with a dramatic cinematic of Crowfather’s last moments. If the final game is as exciting as this one segment, gamers are in for a treat. Darksiders II releases August 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and eventually the Wii U.