It’s just one week until Darksiders II arrives in the UK. To help alleviate my excitement somewhat and stop me from literally bouncing up and down in anticipation I decided to sit down and write out my top five reasons as to why I firmly believe that Darksiders II will fulfill all the potential the first game had and kick ass as only Death can.
Now, quite clearly these are my own personal reasons as to why I’m excited for the game and as such they may not match your own, so don’t feel bad if something you’re looking forward to hasn’t made this short list.
IT’S BIG. LIKE, REALLY BIG.
Vigil have embraced the traditional sequel concept of bigger is most definitely better, both in terms of sheer content and in terms of scale. According to Vigil the first of four hub areas in the game is almost the size of the entire gameworld of Darksiders on its own, which is impressive to say the least. Given this fact Death will have access to his loyal right from the start, a fact likely to annoy War since he had to wait almost half the game to finally get a pretty horsey to ride around the place. And if a horse isn’t quick enough then the game will also employ a quick-travel system so you can get around with ease, especially encouraging you to travel back to merchants to sell of gear before heading back out into the world. Within these hub worlds you’ll be able to pick up some side-quests, trade with the aforementioned merchants, learn new moves and generally just get your breath.
Unlike his brother War, Death’s journey will take him through the Abyss, a place which the developers have described as somewhere worlds come to die. As you can well imagine this fantastical setting has allowed the art team at Vigil a lot more creative freedom than they had with the original Darksiders which was constrained by being set almost entirely on Earth. Freed of these shackles the art team have literally gone utterly bonkers, crafting some outstanding locations to explore. Based on the videos we’ve seen of the game so far it’s clear that Darksiders II isn’t pushing the technical boundaries of what graphics can do, but in terms of pure art-style this is a truly amazing game to look at, featuring an epic scale we rarely get to see in adventures such as this.
And when it comes to epic scale Death is well-suited to the task of navigating it, able to clamber around environments in ways that’d make a certain Persian prince stop in his tracks and burst into tears. Death can leap, climb, wall run, swing and more to get around the huge dungeons that you’ll encounter. These dungeons are massive navigational challenges, forcing you to use Death’s parkour skills to the fullest. And if that wasn’t enough then they’re also filled with puzzles to make you stop and think for a while before you get back to the clambering and the fighting.
All said and done Darksider II’s world is a huge place to explore. In turn that raises the big question of whether Vigil will be able to pack enough stuff into these huge lands for players to do, or will it simply be a visual treat that’s largely hollow? Regardless, what’s certain is that Vigil have crafted a huge gameworld for Death to inhabit that looks outstanding.
DEATH COMES IN MANY FORMS.
Combat of course plays an integral role in the world of Darksiders, because every problem in the universe can be solved by punching things in the face, as I’m sure you are already perfectly aware. And since you’re playing as Death, it was always going to be pretty likely that you’d be doing a lot of scrapping. When it came to a fight, War, the lead character of the first game and one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, was all about brute power, naturally favoring the direct approach to pretty much any combat situation. Of course as the player you could change that to a small degree, but ultimately there was nothing subtle about him: he waded into combat, blocking incoming strikes and swinging his huge sword hard. His brother Death, the second Horsemen, however, is a different creature all together, favoring feral-like agility and speed over brute force.
It’s this which is at the core of Vigil’s revamping of the combat system to make it faster, more fluid and a hell of a lot more fun. A key change is that Death doesn’t do blocking. At all. Unlike his Brother War, Death far prefers to dodge attacks instead. Perhaps Death simply never learnt to block attacks or maybe he just believes that doing so is just for pussies, but the fact is that it alters combat massively. Rather than simply running headfirst into a fight and simply taking the punishment as you mete out the damage, Death’s speed and ground-covering dodge encourages a more hit-and-run style of combat, utilising Death’s feral qualities to launch lightning quick attacks and then back out before the enemy has a chance to fight back. That’s not to say that Death isn’t capable of sheer brute strength, though: throughout the game you’ll find a wide variety of heavy secondary weapons that Death can wield should you feel like simply battering some enemies, such as a freaking huge hammer.
Speaking of which Death is pretty handy with his weapons, naturally preferring, as per his commonly perceived image, scythes as his primary weapon. Never fear, though, scythes come in plenty of different varieties. Aside from the scythes, though, Death can also equip a secondary weapon which can be used in combat with the scythes to give you more options and impressive combos, of which new ones can be purchased with gold you’ve collected. Death can get his gritty hands on a variety of secondary gear, from slow and heavy hammer and maces that are great at dealing with crowds to fast and deadly claws and gauntlets that are best used to tackle opponents one at a time. If all else fails, you could just whip out a gun and go to town. Using all of this you can create your own playstyle during the game. further helping to define your Death from everyone elses. Wait, that doesn’t sound right….further define your own Death? Uh, I mean further define your virtual avatar who just so happens to be an actual person called Death, not your death personally. That’d be weird.
Death isn’t just handy with weapons, though, he’s got some other skills that come in to play as well, all thanks to the deeper RPG elements being introduced. As you slay enemies and do your Deathly thing, you’ll level up Death and be able to put points into two different skill trees: Harbinger and Necromancer. As the name implies the Harbinger skill tree is all about melee combat, allowing you to unlock new skills and abilities with which to slay some enemies. But the real interest comes in the Necromancer tree which lets you play around with the summoning of spirits and such to aid you in combat, nicely playing off of the whole Grim Reaper thing.
And if that wasn’t enough once Death hits level 10 he’ll gain access to his Reaper form, allowing him, once the bar is sufficiently charged, to turn into a kickarse looking version of himself and go nuts, dealing out destruction like there’s no tomorrow, which there’s won’t be for anybody getting in the way.
Suffice to say, then, that Death is every bit as badass as his brother War in a fight.
LOOT. NUFF’ SAID
The original Darksiders always felt like a game that was missing some vital components to make it great. One such component was loot and lots of it, something which I feel can improve pretty much any game. Seriously, put loot in pretty much anything and it’ll be instantly better, I promise you. From start to finish Darksiders felt like a game designed for a deep loot system. But while you could pick up a few new items for War along the way, ultimately you were limited to just a few pieces of equipment that you acquired throughout the game. That’s all about to change in Darksiders II, though, as Vigil are bringing in a random loot generation system, akin to what you see in Diablo III, Torchlight and Borderlands. According to Vigil, there are thousands of pieces of loot in the game to be found on the corpses of slain enemies, in chests and other places. Not all the loot will look different because there’s a finite amount of aesthetic variations, but they’ll vary in stats and will have the traditional color-coded rarity. On top of that are, of course, the far harder to unique items that have been hand crafted by the developement team, which are usually awarded after quests or found in hard-to-reach locations.
For anyone that’s played a game with a massive amount of equipment to collect before, you know how addictive the hunt for new gear can be. In fact, it can easily become the driving force of the game, acting like the ultimate form of player progression and reward, continuously encouraging you to keep playing in the hopes that around the next corner is an awesome new piece of armor or some incredibly rare mace for you to play with. It also brings a considerable amount of customisation to the game. From the various pieces of armor you can equip to the weapons you carry, by time the games end comes around your Death shouldn’t be looking anything like your friend’s Death.
According to Vigil the best loot in the game won’t be available until your second playthrough using the New Game+ option, which lets you restart the game with all your skills and items intact. Speaking of which, on the very top of the loot pile is what Vigil are calling Possessed Weapons. These legendary death-dealers are rare, yet start out surprisingly weak with few abilities and only middling stats. Don’t be deceived, though, as these Possessed weapons can actually be fed your unwanted loot, making them considerably more powerful in the process. Yeah, you read that right: cannibal weapons. How freakin’ cool is that!? As you feed your Possessed weapon whatever bits and pieces of loot from your inventory that you have lying around, they not only grow in terms of their base stats giving them more damage and such, but also gain new abilities and even transform physically, taking on more ornate appearances. Once you’ve fed your weapon enough for it to level up, you’ll be given the opportunity to select new abilities for it to take on, allowing you to essentially shape it so suit your own playstyle. The abilities you select will in turn alter how the weapons appearance evolves. The whole concept is essentially Fable III’s evolving weapons on steroids and has got me hugely excited.
Another source of loot in the game is the Crucible, a mode unlocked during Death’s journey where you get to fight against waves of enemies to earn loot. Each time you defeat five waves of enemies, which are made up of enemies, sub-bosses and bosses that you’ve encountered so far, you’ll be given a choice: take the loot or commit to another five waves of enemies. The more waves you defeat, the better the loot you’ll gain, but the harder it will be to do so. By the end of the game Death will be able to take on up to 100-waves of enemies, with Vigil promising plenty of loot exclusive to the Crucible to try to claim.
Of everything that’s being changed and added to Darksiders II, the inclusion of loot and lots of it is, without a shadow of a doubt, the thing that has got me the most excited. I’m an absolute sucker when it comes to hunting down new equipment to play, as are many other games based on the success of other such games based around the concept.
IT’S GOING TO BE A NIGHTMARE TO PLAY!
One of the biggest complaints about the current generation of games from hardcore gamers it the lack of difficulty. Developers continuously create games that anyone can play and complete, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, it leaves those, like myself, that want a true challenge feeling a little unsatisfied. Sure, many games have unlockable modes that are harder, but they’re still often lacking. The success of games like Dark Souls has proved that there’s definitely an audience for games that like to push your skills to the limit. In response to this the crew over at Vigil have revealed that Darksiders II is going to feature a mode titled Nightmare. Sounds ominous, right?
Should you die during combat in Nightmare mode, a level of difficulty only be unlocked upon completion of the game’s campaign so that unknowing gamers don’t venture into it, all your save game files associated with that specific character and playthrough will be erased from existence, never to be seen again. In essence, your character truly dies instead of simply respawning, ready to fight again. Succumb to the black abyss of death in Nightmare mode at the hands of an enemy and you’ll have to start the game all over again. For many players out there this may seem a bit daunting, and the prospect of losing all your loot and skills is pretty terrifying, but for many others this should hopefully provide a true test of your combat skills.
However, to ensure that you’re not having to restart the entire game every time you fall of an inconveniently located cliff or something, Vigil have wisely made it so that the permanent death rule only applies to death in combat, so if you fall off a cliff or get burned alive by lava you’ll simply respawn and continue on your merry way. It’s nice to know that they’ve made this provision, though it could mean that those dastardly gamers who are intent on not losing their character may simply leap off the nearest cliff should things not be going their way in a fight. Perhaps Vigil have already considering this and implemented something with which to stop this. Guess we’ll have to wait for the game to release to find out.
DEATH IS VERY SOCIABLE.
One of the great disappointments of mine in many games that feature vast amounts of loot to collect and salivate over is that I could never share mega-awesome-super-sick items I’d found with my friends. For example while playing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning I’d often find incredibly powerful items that my character build at the time simply couldn’t use, but that my friends character most certainly could. What use is a beautiful sword with ludicrous amounts of damage to a pure mage, after all? But since I had no way of giving my friends the weapon or piece or armor that I’d discovered, though, I could only ever tell them how awesome it was before stowing it away in my stash where it would never been seen again.
Apparently Vigil didn’t like this, either, because in Darksiders II their introducing Tomes, points around the world where you can stop and send your friends what is essentially an in-game email with up to four pieces of loot attached to it. Pretty neat, huh? Once you’ve written out your message, attached the loot and hit the send button it’ll appear in your friends game where they’ll be able to collect it from the next Tome they encounter and head off into the next area wielding or wearing the loot you discovered in your game-world. Obviously once you send the loot it’ll disappear from your own inventory, so be careful on what you give out!
This all brings a nice social aspect to the game, something we don’t often see in this sort of title. Best of all is that if the fans really fully embrace this, a dedicated trading community could evolve from it. Obviously the big disadvantage is that you can only sent loot to your friends, but that shouldn’t stop gamers from heading onto forums and arranging swaps with gamers around the world for sweet items.