by John Parie
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are a pretty well know bunch of guys and have been together for quite some time; so it should come as little surprise that when Death finds out that his brother War is in a bit of trouble with the Charred Council following the events of the first Darksiders game, that he is eager to set right what was once put wrong.
The game begins with seeking out the help of an elder that can help Death locate the Tree of Life, the one thing that can restore humanity and set his brother free. Unfortunately, the Horsemen have a bit of history with the gentleman and he is less than willing to help, which leads to Death getting saddled with a burden that will follow him through the game, but he does eventually makes his way to the land of the Tree of Life.
This first NPC interaction sets the tone for the rest of the game, highlighting that while Death and War are brothers, they are two different personalities all together. While War was content to try and appease the people he encountered, Death is snarky, egotistical and you get the distinct feeling he is willing to break a few eggs or double-cross a few people to accomplish his goal.
The differences don’t end there – gone are the lumbering movements of War. Death moves about the world with parkour style moves and the speed of an Olympic athlete. This change really invigorates the game and makes traveling through the world and traversing puzzles throughout dungeons feel very fresh.
Another new aspect this go around is the loot and character building systems that have been added. Much like a traditional dungeon crawler, enemies now drop weapons, armor and potions that can be used to spec out your character to match your particle fighting style. All of the loot is randomly generated sans a few named unique items. There is one particle weapon type of note and that is possessed weapons. These weapons can be upgraded by “sacrificing” other magical weapons that you find to the possessed weapon. Once enough weapons have been sacrificed the weapon will level up and you can choose from a list of upgrades. Possessed weapons can be upgraded to level 10, allowing you to create weapons that are tailored to you.
To take the customization up one more notch the team added a skill tree system to the mix. The skill tree has two primary trees, Necromancer and Harbinger. The Necromancer side focuses on raising enemies from the death to fight alongside you as well as steeling life from your opponents. The Harbinger side is designed to maximize the damage done by your weapons and make you a standalone killing machine.
The combat has a martial arts feel to it because of its fast pacing and the fact that Death darts around the screen from enemy to enemy. War’s shield has been replaced with Death’s ability to dodge. These dodges allow you to chain together attack strings so long that when preformed correctly, Death can clear a room without ever stopping. The combination of swords, scythes, hammers, polearms, pistols and evasion allow each combat situation feel fresh and unique as opposed to a formulaic mashing of button is a particular order. To top it all off, the finishing moves have been improved and for the most part shortened. This faster finishing moves allow you to perform satisfying final blows without completely taking you out of the combat for what previously felt like an eternity.
The world itself has a feeling of grandeur in Darksiders 2. The gloomy, dark burning city has been replaced by a world with a wide range of environments and dungeons. Even the dungeons have a grander feel, with high ceilings and large mechanical devices you must use to complete your tasks. The score matches the world very well, offering subtle changes as you pass from one area to another and a hint of crescendo as a warning for players to get ready for an impending battle or event.
One last nice touch is the addition of a recapping system that plays a “previously on” video for player when they launch the game and continue previously saved game. This small touch helps players stay up-to-date with the story and in turn move involved with its progression through the game.
Overall, the team at Vigil has taken previously good game and improved it. The addition of the RPG and loot elements are a welcome touch that should add an extra layer of depth and replayablity to the Darksiders 2.
Darksiders 2 is scheduled to launch on Xbox 360, PS3 and Steam on Aug. 14.