Darksiders II (Preview)

The first game was a surprise hit from the Vigil Games team. Despite being an original creation, the world felt so lived in and like it had a deep past with plenty of scope for further stories, making for a world we’re eager to dive back into.

For the sequel, you play as a different Horseman of the apocalypse, Death. Rather than joining your bother War, immediately after the events of the first game, which would have been a great starting point given the tantalising conclusion, your adventure will run alongside that of your brother’s. This parallel story may throw up the odd familiar face, but we’re told to expect plenty of new locations, which is definitely better than going through all the old ones with everyone telling you that you’ve just missed your brother.

The gameplay demo we witnessed showed off the combat, which even at this early stage looks like a huge improvement over the first game. War favoured a very powerful approach, whereas Death seems to have a much more fluid and agile style that makes his brother seem even more cumbersome. Death’s main weapon is his signature scythe, but he can split it into two blades to change styles on the fly mid-combo. Attacks are slick and fast, more in the style of God of War’sKratos than War. He also has a hammer for powerful attacks and we’re told there will be a lot more weapons to come, many more than you’d find in the original Darksiders.

Vigil say there will be many more combat options this time. Upgrades will play a bigger part for your weapons too, along with upgrades to your Wrath spells if you prefer to build upon your magic attacks. The new inclusion of a skill tree means that you will be able to play through the game multiple times as very different character types. Picking up Loot from enemies will allow you to gear your character towards certain disciplines too. For example if you want to use weapons that are powerful, but not great for defence then you’ll have to make sure you equip some armour to balance things out.

The boss fights were an important and impressive aspect to the first Darksiders, although we’d appreciate not seeing the Spider Queen or Tiamat again. Death’s fight against a giant armoured shape-shifting skeleton is a visual treat as the creature’s bones fly apart at multiple stages to turn into different shaped foes like a four-legged animal or a standing giant. The monstrosity even uses its own spine as a weapon against you as it smashes it around the arena. When Death defeats it, he is rewarded with a new item, the Ghost Hook. But more on that later.

Another new enemy type is the giant scarab beetle sub-boss creature. The most impressive aspect to it is the nasty buzzing noise it makes. Play the game with surround sound and prepare to be creeped out.

Like his brother, Death will have a companion hovering close by throughout. Instead of a psychotic watcher you’ll have a crow. We’ll miss Mark ‘The Joker’ Hamill’s maniacal cackling, but seeing as the crow can fetch items and scout ahead for danger we think we’ll manage. A crow will be awesome, but no Horseman is complete without his steed. Death will have regular access to Despair, his semi-decayed ride who will be available much earlier in the game than last time.

We didn’t see any puzzles on show today, but they’re bound to return. After the late Portal-style ones in D1 we can’t wait to see what cerebral punishment awaits. A few brain-teasers will help alleviate from combat fatigue that sometimes creeps in when playing games like Bayonetta or God of War.

The game will include many dungeons to explore with the main difference this time being their smaller size to make backtracking less of a chore. Despite the smaller dungeons, we’re told the overall game will be much bigger. Serpent holes can be used for fast-travelling around the map which will be useful when you gain new equipment and abilities like the Ghost Hook which allows you to climb high up to previously unreachable areas.

The numbers of NPCs, side-missions, hubs and towns have all been increased to make a more complete feeling environment than before. Extra missions mean that we can expect the game to be considerably longer.

It’s no surprise that there is going to be plenty of new material seeing as development for the game began straight away after the original Darksiders. A shame then that we still only have a vague 2012 release date.

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