Monday, August 8, 2011

Comic-Con 2011: Darksiders 2 Preview

Darksiders was easily my underrated game of 2010. Bayonetta and Mass Effect 2 released the same month, leaving it in their dust. Despite this, Darksiders found its place among gamers with its mixture of God of War inspired combat and Zelda-like puzzles. At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I had a chance to see what’s being added to the sequel, Darksiders 2, and how it’s becoming ever so close to an RPG.

THQ and Vigil Games are taking a few risks with Darksiders 2. Instead of playing as War, the horseman of the apocalypse you played in the first game, you’ll take control of his brother Death.

Vigil Games’ Creative Director Joe Madureira explained their apprehension about changing characters, “I still wonder if it's a smart thing, because usually when you're building a franchise around a character, you really try and keep the same character.” Where as War played like a warrior diving head-first into battle, Death is more lean and agile using precise strikes to defeat enemies, similar to a rogue. He can use a ghost hook to grapple ledges and run on walls, all while using dual lethal scythes. But like War, his arsenal isn’t limited to his main weapons. He can brandish claws, axes, throwing shards, and a giant hammer.

Along with the weapon upgrade system from the first game, Darksiders 2 will include weapons and item drops from enemies. When equipped, these items will visibly appear on Death and boost his stats. Also being introduced is a full-scale quest system and skill tree to add or improve Death’s abilities. Take any of the systems alone and they would feel natural in an RPG, but in Darksiders 2 they work to create a game that steps beyond its shadow.

Not only is the scope of Darksiders 2 bigger in terms of its gameplay systems, but also its environments. The game takes place underground the Earth where the first Darksiders took place, allowing Vigil Games to expand the landscape. The world size is being built with horse travel in mind, creating better opportunities for Death to summon his mount Despair. Madureira said this was an area underutilized in the last game, and that it was something they wanted to focus on.

He also pointed out that Darksiders 2 will feature a lot more puzzles, including in the story. Rather than simple cutscenes, quests will reveal more about Death, his attempt to save his own kind, and his secret guilt. Madureira wanted to change the image of Death as a cowled skeleton to someone who had an impact on the events leading up to the apocalypse.

The demo shown had Death trying to see a king who sits on the Eternal Throne, but Death must first perform a task for the king’s minion. He challenges Death to defeat a champion at the Gilded Arena. Once Death presents the champion’s head, he will be granted an audience with the king. Death accepts the quest and battles his way past dozens of skeletons until coming face to face with the Scarab Hulk, who looks like a giant menacing Hercules beetle. But this isn’t the champion. Madureira noted the game will have several mid-level bosses similar to the Scarab Hulk.

As if to put an exclamation point on the concept of scope in Darksiders 2, Madureira pointed out that the entire demo took place in an area being pulled by enormous snake.

The game takes place during the same time as the first game, meaning we might see a cameo by War, or possibly the other two horsemen, Strife and Fury. Darksiders 2 is due for a 2012 release for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U, and PC.

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