Darren G. ventures forth to THQ to sample Darksiders II
Darksiders was a ‘sleeper hit’ for me. I remember hearing about it on various podcasts in the wintery months of early 2010 and was sceptical when people kept saying that it was a successful mix of/tribute to God of War and The Legend of Zelda – but they were right. So, on the 23rd of July 2012 I travelled under blistering sun to Woking to visit Toy Headquarters – THQ to you and I – the publisher of such titles as Saints Row the Third and Red Faction: Guerilla.
The first Darksiders offered a mix of exploring a quasi open world and dungeon-solving which rewarded the player with a brand new item/ability to continue exploring the aforementioned land. Since the announcement of Darksiders II however details of heavier RPG elements such as loot and damage numbers had lead me to scepticism once again.
After a brief comic book style introduction to refresh your memory on the first game, Darksiders II opens with Death (no longer War), on some tundra from where he immediately summons his steed and puts me control. After a few brief live tutorials I am now ready to fight my first enemies. The winds are whipping the snow all around me as I dodge round the pesky buggers. It’s when I attack that I start to see what this game offers over its predecessor. My quick attack annihilates an enemy into ice cubes and an item drops from his remains. I make quick work of his friend and am rewarded with another drop. Loot has indeed invaded Darksiders II and I am concerned. Concerned that this game could dominate my life come August.
As Death walks over the bits on the floor, information pops up in green letting me know this item is statistically beneficial to me. Rarity of item is represented by of green, blue or purple, and this made me feel right at home having prior experience of RPG’s handle their iconography. Why change something which isn’t broken? Equipping found gear couldn’t be simpler thanks to an intelligent option of holding down the ‘Back’ or ‘Select’ button to equip it in real-time. The more traditional method of entering your inventory screen to see your new-found spoils is new is also available.
Platforming my way to death I found myself struggling with the wall-run mechanic as much as the guy next to me at this hands-on event. Fortunately the game is forgiving and falling off a ledge is treated in much the same way Prince of Persia 2008 did, re-spawning you on the ledge from which you made your fatal leap. I tried again and this time succeeded but another, trickier wall run ahead of me saw me fall down, but this time into water for some inadvertent exploration and a shiny trinket to use later on.
Approaching the end of the icy opening I was confronted by a large boss who was, true to form, made of ice and here is where the game killed Death. Due to my inferior dodging skills I was left with little health. “Press left on the d-pad to use health potion” the game instructed me and as I frantically fumbled my way to the d-pad I realised that I had no potions. Fear not, Death’s death was cushioned by a well placed checkpoint. My victorious rematch with the frosty behemoth failed to ellicit any sort of loot as a reward. A disappointment. Anyway Death soon had other things on his mind; more platforms. The art is wonderful in this opening area and provides the player with a startling environment to fight, jump and die in before heading to another boss arena which sees Death fighting a familiar foe. I won’t spoil that for you though.
After this a new, rustic environment and I see that Darksiders II has preserved its open world nature as I was allowed to wander fairly freely. Local merchants will sell you gear and train you in fighting paid for by the currency dropped by downed enemies. After spending several minutes comparing stats on my newly purchased loot I stumbled across some sort of trading post for Xbox Live/PSN friends. My ‘Serpent Tome’ was crammed full of items which lead to some rather frustrated mashing of the A button as about ten slow pop-up notices appeared on screen, temporarily getting in the way of the action.
I managed to level-up elected to spend a skill point on the ability to summon zombies. I also practised my air-juggling combos on a nearby training dummy. Darksiders II then left me to fend for myself with a mini-map showing and glowing a dot in which direction I was to head. I talked to the guy who is waiting for me by the area exit to discover that this game features a dialogue wheel for those who want more exposition and character interaction in their Darksiders; to be honest I didn’t.
Riding into a beautiful green field I sighed with pleasure at the wonderfully fitting score as I was reminded why I enjoyed the original Darksiders so much. The game has that Metroidvania structure to it which I adore as I enjoy seeing a chest as yet out of reach on a ledge or a new object on a ceiling which I can’t yet interactive with. It’s digital teasing and I love it.
Darksiders II looks to be as much as a sequel to the first game as you’d want it to be but with some embellishments as regards to making the game more of a fully-featured role-playing game. Health meters above enemies’ heads help the player enjoy the game more whilst relishing in the fact that it’s a videogame. I can now confidently say that I want to see and hear more of Darksiders II.