After War comes Death, as Vigil Games returns with the next chapter in the Darksiders saga.
The first thing that strikes me about the sequel is that it seems more colourful. Far from anything you would call cartoony, the colours somehow stand out more. Not that the original Darksiders was particularly washed out, but it seems the developers have taken the comic book look one step further this time around.
The new main character is Death, brother of War we played as in the first game. War was a rather large fellow, quiet and cool. I find it hard to like Death and his horse sidekick Despair as much as his adventure is played out in parallel to the events of the first game. Visually he comes with very distinct hip-hop influences, and wears a skeleton mask, and his favourite colour appears to be eggplant. My reluctance towards him is just a matter of personal tastes, and I'm sure some will prefer him to the more serious War.
His weapon of choice is the scythe, and he packs two of them. The weapons are fairly flexible, and the combat does not grow stale. The two scythes can be combined into one, or even used as boomerangs. You can use other weapons such as a gun can be used in familiar chains of combos to increase the multiplier. Death also has some additional tricks up his sleeve, such as Ghost Hand, a move that allows him to quickly brush away lesser enemies. Reversely with larger opponents it pulls Death up close to the vulnerable head.
It must be said that Death is a very different from War, who was a large and powerful character. Our new hero packs a bit of muscle, but he's not your large Schwarzenegger-esque character. He is agile and moves swiftly out of the way of attacks. Death dodges and moves very stylish, he is an efficient killer, and he even has the time to add a bit of dry wit to the formula. War was more of a straight forward brawler, dishing out damage and blocking attacks. He seemed humourless, despite all his coolness. It's a change of direction that should appeal to those who want to make use of more clever moves and tactics with the controller. Right away in the first dungeon you can clearly see passages that reminds us of Assassin's Creed, Uncharted, and Prince of Persia. There is an increased emphasis on adventure, and it seems to work very well.
The inspirations are there for everyone to see. Death runs along walls, jumping back and forth between them. And while he doesn't shimmy across ropes, he is so agile that he can run across them. He can also make optimal use of ledges, and thanks to Ghost Hand, he can manipulate remote objects. All these techniques combine with abilities we've seen in other games where climbing walls is part of the experience. However, from what we saw of the preview code the climbing did not seem as well integrated as in the aforementioned titles. But it should be noted that we were only given brief glimpses of it, and it was hard to gage just how the climbing component will appear in the final game.
The problem we found did not lie in the mechanics themselves, but rather the somewhat tedious level design. The lava level came with plenty of acrobatic passages, but it came across as a bit disjointed with strange looking section where we rolled around on a ball to avoid the lava. And while the first game was a collection of concepts we'd seen before, they were for the most part join together in a way that made for an enjoyable whole. Perhaps, they were poorly chosen sections, but what we saw during the demo was not completely convincing.
As far as combat goes, however, the game looks just as good as the first part. The fundamentals are still there from Darksiders, but the change of character has brought some minor changes. Death cannot block for instance, and must therefore dodge out of the way of attacks. In you choose to use up your wrath to conjure up Death's Chaos form you're treated to a much stronger hero for a short period of time.
The unlockable powers have been significantly revised since the last game. The skill tree is split up in two, Necromancer and Harbinger, and you can now choose to focus more on magic with your character. Raising the dead is a simple task for the necromancer, and the choice of path is left up to the player. Regardless of your choice of skills for Death can be so powerful that they transcend his other fighting abilities. In this way you're far more flexible this time around, and this flexibility will not only be apparent when it comes to skills, but also visual stylings.
The presentation is still wonderfully sublime, and feels ripped right off the pages of a graphic novel. The characters come from the pen of Joe Madueira and look great, while the enemies manage to come across as something different and new. The Mind Golem looks a cross between a tree and a degenerate and mutated Goron from Nintendo, and it is easy to fall in love with the uniqueness found in the world of Darksiders.
It seems the design has been inspired by animal and plant life - as we've already seen the giant cricket from the last preview build, and in this demo a new monster that resembles a turtle made out of bone makes an appearance. It sends smaller enemies our way, and keeps us in line with a stomping attack. In the end it is this ability combined with temporal bombs that proves his undoing.
A large beast without a doubt, but still only an intermediate size enemy compared to others found in the game. The ambition has been to create bosses that offer up unique gameplay, and that aren't susceptible to the usual attacks or tactics. At the end of the demo we were given a brief teaser of something immensely powerful, but we're going to have to wait to find out what it was. Needless to say, we're very excited about Darksiders II.
What we were treated to during the demo for the most part was an optional dungeon, to the side of the main story. The full game will feature a more open world, with more opportunities to explore off the beaten path, while the main story is estimated to take around twenty hours to complete. Compared to the previous game with its open and expansive dungeons this takes things one step further, and hopefully it will be a worthy successor to the surprise hit. Hopefully, the somewhat rough looking level design of the dungeon, was due to it not being part of the main story line, because apart from that Darksiders II impressed us.
- System:PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360
- Developer:Vigil Games
- Offline players:1
- Age limit:From 16 years
- Release date:21 August 2012
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