June 6, 2012 by Paul Curtin
After debuting Darksiders II last year at E3 and surprising everyone with a new lead character, THQ and Relic are getting close to the game’s official release in just a couple months on August 14. In case you missed the previous trailers, unlike the first game that centered around War, Darksiders II focuses on another member of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death. We finally got our hands on Death in a demo of the first thirty minutes of the game and were able to check out all of the amazing new features Darksiders II offers with the game’s producer, Jay Fitzloff.
The most obvious change comes in the form of a leaner and meaner character that players now control. Although at first Death may seem weaker than War due to the size difference, it rapidly becomes apparent that because of his difference in size, he can move, dodge, and strike a lot more quickly with his dual scythes, making for a general faster pace to the gameplay that now feels like the God of War series more than ever. Players can also still instantly switch between primary and secondary weapons to throw heavy weapons into Death’s combos when fighting stronger enemies.
Death’s increased agility allows not only combat to be at a faster pace but also lets players traverse areas of the game more easily and with more finesse. Where War in the first game could only move across areas like thin platforms using a slow hand-over-hand method, Death can leap across beams and chains in much more fluid actions and run up walls to reach higher places.
Although the E3 demo was linear to keep us on track, right from the start of the game I was able to summon Death’s loyal steed, Despair, unlike the original where players didn’t gain access to a mount until until far into the game. There’s also a new bird companion that stays by Death’s side and helps players navigate throughout dungeons and overworlds. Helping the player get around easier is a must since Darksiders II‘s open world is said to be twice as big as the original’s and, from what we saw, far more vertical.
Because of the demo’s limited time, Vigil also didn’t feature any sort of puzzles in their E3 demo like in the original, which helped many draw comparisons to the fan-favorite Zelda series. When asked about the amount of puzzles in Darksiders II, Jay assured us that it would be the same as the first game, balancing just enough time spent on puzzles to not frustrate gamers in between hacking and slashing up enemies.
Killing enemies throughout the demo revealed one of Darksider II‘s best new features — EPIC LOOTZ! Like other RPGs, enemies that are killed drop items like weapons and armor with stats that Death can then equip (if he matches the level requirements). What’s impressive about the system is how simple the system works by instantly showing players if an item is better or worse than what they already have equipped, so there’s never any time wasted pondering over an inventory full of items. But rest assured, loot hoarders; there’s still an inventory system, so you can hold onto items and complete sets for bonus stats later on into the game when gaining access to higher tiered items.
But killing enemies doesn’t just give Death better items, and again like other RPGs, Death can level up by gaining experience points and spending skill points in two different skill trees. The Harbinger tree allows for Death to be played like a warrior, while the Necromancer tree switches Death into a spellcaster. Players can focus on one tree or the other or mix and match by picking only the skills they want — but the trees do branch, so in order to get to some of the more powerful skills, players will have to make some sort of commitment.
Death’s journey runs parallel to the events of the apocalypse from the first game, so expect to run into Death’s brother War numerous times throughout the campaign. The final boss of the demo, known as Crowfather, even used a trick to transform himself into a evil fake version of War. So, those still upset with the leading Horseman switch can right from the start see the advantages of playing as Death, and the story can tease whether War did the right thing at the end of the first game and whether Death is doing the right thing by trying to save him from The Charred Council he betrayed and who serve as ancient keepers of balance between the struggle of Heaven and Hell.