Darksiders 2 Hands-on Impressions -- When Death Met CrowfatherBy Jake Gaskill - Posted May 25, 2012
At this point, it feels like we have seen almost everything that Vigil Games’s upcoming macabre sequel Darksiders 2 has in its hand. Whether it’s boss battles, skills and possessed weapons, or combos and traversal, Vigil has not skimped on showcasing what D2 brings to the table. So it actually made me quite happy that THQ decided to give attendees of its pre-E3 judge’s day the chance to just play a 30 minute chunk of the opening level of the game and get a sense of what players will experience when they first jump into Darksiders 2 this summer.
And what sense did I get? That Darksiders 2 is exactly what Darksiders 2 should be. A bigger, more beautiful, faster paced version of the original, with more weapon, character, and environmental variety and enough loot to keep players scouring for countless hours in search of that all mighty mace or buckler. And that’s not even taking into account the two fully stocked skill tree paths (Necromancer, or spellcaster, and Harbinger, or warrior) or the numerous new characters Death will encounter on his journey.
What immediately struck me when the game loaded up was the vibrancy and scale of the opening, glacial setting. Towering mountains of ice stretched in all directions and wind and snow whipped through the air around me as I trotted along atop Despair, Death’s trusty stead, who you’ll have access to a lot earlier than you did with Ruin in Darksiders. Aside from the inherent awesomeness of being able to enjoy Despair’s supernatural skills on the battlefield, having him at your disposal just makes sense since Darksiders 2 features much larger and more traversable open spaces than its predecessor.
After trotting my way onward, I finally had to ditch Despair and make my way through a series of frozen corridors complete with swarms of ice-housed enemies. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Death is a much sprier fighter than his brother War. In action, Darksiders 2 combat has a very Ninja Gaiden-esque quality to it, especially since Death has a dodge ability in place of a block. As such, the game plays even more like God of War now, as Death gets in a few good whacks before rolling out of the fray to plan his next assault.
Death’s dual scythes are his primary mode of attack, and they slice and dice with ease. Since it was the beginning of the game, I didn’t get to see any of the upgraded or alternate versions, so I can only imagine the damage the later types will do. To mix things up, I pounded a few fools with a massive hammer capable of knocking back swarms of enemies or making one dude’s day a living hell. Between the various combo and weapon options, it looks like players will have plenty of ways to experiment and customize their play styles.
Like the first game, Darksiders 2 features a healthy amount of platforming and world traversal. During my playthrough, during which time Prince of Persia came to mind at least a dozen times, I pulled off wall runs, hopped gracefully from ledge to ledge, and bounced between walls to reach higher areas. Pillars are also a popular mode of travel for Death.
Of course, while it’s always thrilling to watch a character fly from pillar to pillar hundreds of feet in the air with sprawling caves or mountains stretching into the horizon, actually pulling it off can be a bit tricky, in the same way it was in the POP games, because you have to push the thumbstick into the direction you want to jump but oftentimes the camera angle makes this somewhat contradictory. Fortunately, when you fall, you just respawn to your pre-jump position, so you don’t lose any real time, which is a good.
Loot lovers will have a field day with Darksiders 2 vomitous amount of collectibles and items. I was sort of dreading having to spend tons of time navigating menus and having to compare weapons before deciding whether to swap a new weapon for an old one, but thankfully the game features a super clean system that lets you compare and equip items on the fly without having to navigate a single menu. It not only makes loot management a breeze, but it maintains the flow of the game, so you don’t feel like you’re constantly starting and stopping.
At the end of the opening section, Death encounters the Crowfather, a fittingly bird-like yet all knowing figure who Death confronts to find out what really happened to his brother, War, and how Death can undo what his brother has done. Naturally, when the Crowfather refuses to help, Death has no choice but to give him a taste of his scythes. But the Crowfather is no spring chicken, and so he transforms into War himself for the showdown. So not fair.
Squaring off against War proved quite the challenge, but actually served as a great way to compare the different combat styles of both characters. War made up for his slightly heavier movement with big, powerful strikes while I, as Death, danced around the arena, moving in for quick strikes and then bounding away. My first attempt was embarrassingly unsuccessful, but I had my revenge the second go around. Having fallen, War morphed back into the Crowfather before turning the tables on Death and setting Death’s story into motion.
Even though Darksiders 2 seems to be even more of a tapestry of game influences than its predecessor, the combination looks and feels right. And the game’s slight delay will only mean an even higher level of polish than what was on display during my playthrough.
We’ll find out if the all the pieces come together when Darksiders 2 releases on August 14.