Preview: Darksiders II
It seems that Vigil Games isn’t content on putting gamers through one apocalypse but rather putting us through Armageddon again, at least one more time. Introducing Darksiders II, the sequel to 2010′s Darksiders, a game that was ultimately good but not really spectacular. Vigil has gone through the feedback and put all the necessary changes into this sequel in order to make it stand out from the rest of the pack, so prepare for Death to take you for one hell of a ride.
Name: Darksiders II
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Developers: Vigil Games
Release Date: 21 August 2012
Price: R345.00 (PC), R499.95 (PS3, 360)
Darksiders II’s story doesn’t exactly pick up where we left off with War, the first games protagonist and one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, but rather runs parallel to the first title. After being framed for bringing about the apocalypse early, War is forced to watch the world go to ruin over a hundred years and eventually sent back to try and prove his innocence. That’s where the first game began, but that’s also where Darksiders II kicks in. After War travels back to earth, the other three horsemen, Death, Strife and Fury, are summoned by the Charred Council and informed of their brother’s doings. Death refuses to believe the allegations directed at War, believing him to be one of the most honorable and incorruptible horseman. Death defies the orders of the Charred Council not to interfere with the matter and instead travels to the NetherRealms, a region between heaven and hell, in an attempt to find evidence of a conspiracy linked to War.
This is where Darksiders II will be set. A bit of a change from the apocalypse struck Earth, the NetherRealm is home to all sorts of new and interesting things just waiting for you to carve them up. Death apparently travels here to call in favours from some very powerful beings, so expect to see many big and nasty creatures during your journey. While the story may sound like Darksiders with a few tweaks, it really has the potential to be a little more personal this time around. While War was simply looking for redemption and took absolutely no shit from anyone in the first title, this story is about brotherhood and how far Death will go to prove his brother’s innocence, despite the fact that he doesn’t even know whether or not the allegations are true. Despite the name, Death could end up being a protagonist that players could care about this time around, but sadly there is no mention of a character similar to The Watcher, which was one of the most intriguing characters of the first game.
Darksiders II is also aiming to be a lot larger than its predecessor in terms of city size. While the first game was not small by any measure, it did feel a little bit convoluted at times and, despite being completely open, the world essentially felt like it came down to four paths leading to four bosses that would ultimately progress the story. Vigil has noted this and in turn has made some considerable changes to make the NetherRealm feel like a massive world that begs for exploration. First off, the map is completely different, so don’t expect to see any familiar landmarks while roaming as Death. The map itself is also said to be nearly twice as large as the map in the first Darksiders, giving Vigil space to put in some really awesome new areas. Instead of making one area a central hub, Darksiders III will feature several city hubs that players can visit. Within these hubs are various NPC’s that are able to give out side-quests. These side-quests will usually take you to various Dungeons that have been added to the map, and which apparently add up to the entire map of the original Darksiders. From this you should be able to gather that there are new mechanics at work in this sequel, making it a Action-RPG hybrid. You’d be absolutely right.
Instead of just making a sequel which features a new character and new combos, Vigil has refined the Darksiders experience as a whole. While the first title felt a lot like a God of War clone of some sorts, Darksiders II is adding its own ingredients to the mix. First up, loot drops. Yes, Darksiders II will feature loot. These loot drops come in the form of new armor and weapons that Death is able to equip and use in combat. Not only does this offer some visual variation to Death, allowing you to personalize him in any way you want, it may also make Darksiders II more of a role-play mixed with action. While Vigil is keeping some details close to the chest it’s not a wild guess to think that these new weapons and armors will help increase Death’s stats, which would actually complement some of the other changes Vigil has made. In line with a more role-playing experience, enemies will now have levels based on their difficulty, as well as health bars to signify how much life they have left. This probably means that some areas might be completely inaccessible purely because the enemies that reside there are too strong, which may force you to take on side missions and seek out better loot. All of this goes a long way in making Darksiders II feel like a real improvement, but it doesn’t stop there either.
In terms of combat, Death is very different to his brother War. While controlling War always felt a bit rigid and bulky, Death will feel light and fast. The first title’s combat focused on stringing combos together and using blocks to absorb incoming attacks. While the combat wasn’t boring, it did feel a bit stagnant and at some points too slow. Death likes to deal with enemies in a completely different way. Instead of block, Death will use various dodges that will allow him to move around the battlefield with ease. Attack with his twin scythes will be fast and fluent, meaning that combat as a whole could feel heavily improved. Additionally, players will get the chance to upgrade Death’s killing prowess in two very different ways. Darksiders II will feature two skill tress that will help improve Death’s arsenal, namely Harbinger and Necromancer. Spending points in the Harbinger tree will improve Death’s agility, movement, melee attacks and more, while burning points in the Necromancer tree will unlock new and powerful magic abilities that Death can use to control the battlefield. Some of these abilities include summoning tombstones that spit out zombies, allowing you to keep control of the field, and an ability that covers Death in shadows, dealing damage to anyone nearby. Naturally, player’s will probably not be able to fully upgrade both trees, so a decision has to be made on whether you prefer more direct attacks of some fancy magic ones. This should also tie in quite nicely with the other additions that Vigil has decided on, so expect to see some gear that is more suited to certain skill tress.
By now you’re probably wondering if puzzles still managed to squeeze their way into this sequel, considering how well executed they were in the original, right? Well Vigil hasn’t forgotten about that either, saying that the puzzles in Darksiders II will be more prominent and more challenging. The first title featured puzzles that looked as if they took cues from Zelda, prompting a lot of people to call this IP a mix between God of War and Zelda. Death will be able to solve puzzles with all the gear that is available to him, much like War, but it is good to hear that a bit more emphasis has been put on time constraints when it comes to puzzles. Vigil has said that part of the challenge is having to figure out how to solve particular puzzles while under pressure. An example they give is being locked in a room with rising lava, giving you a short time to think about your next move. The complexity of the puzzles and whether or not they fit into the pacing is yet to be seen, but fans of the fantastic puzzles in the first game can probably rest assured that the same will follow.
Without a multiplayer component (which I don’t really think is needed at all), that’s basically it for Darksiders II. Well, that’s it until everyone can finally get their hands on it in August and see if Vigil has delivered on their promise to make a deeper, more compelling sequel. If everything they’re adding works together as it should (and it really does sound like it will) Darksiders II could be a massive step for the IP as a whole. Just like Assassins Creed II redefined the Assassin’s Creed series as a whole, Darksiders II could have enough going for it to establish itself as a lot more than a God of War clone. Consider me extremely excited for Death’s arrival next month.