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Death comes for all in Darksiders II

11:00 AM on 07.19.2011 // Hamza CTZ Aziz

Death isn't happy. His fellow horseman of the Apocalypse, War, was wrongly accused and imprisoned for bringing about the fall of mankind before it was foretold. Death knows that War is a by the books kind of guy and that there's some kind of conspiracy at play.

He's not going to just sit around letting his fellow warrior rot in prison so Death takes it upon himself to save his brother in Darksiders II, the sidesequel to Darksiders. Saving War also means that Death has to restore mankind in the process. A bit ironic seeing Death as the salvation of mankind.

Darksiders II (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC)
Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: THQ
To be released: TBA 2012

THQ's presentation began with the menu. Okay, not really interesting to start off with the menu but bear with me here. Once you start up Darksiders II, you'll see main menu and Death standing in the background. Soon as you select to jump into the game, the menu disappears and the camera pans out putting you immediately into the game. Darksiders II will automatically load the last area so there's no wasted time getting into the experience. 

In this case, we were about 25% into Darksiders II where I got to see the second major area, the Abyssal Plains. Unlike the first game, Darksiders II takes place in the Nether Realms and this allows the team to present more of a fantasy setting. This opens up the art direction and gives the artists more freedom when it comes to the fantastic and stylish art direction as opposed to the Earth setting of the first game.

At this point into the game, Death needs to consult the Lord of Bones in order to progress on his quest. Getting to the Lord of Bones isn't a simple matter, as his throne room is located on a giant airship that is being pulled around by two giant flying serpents. Death summons the airship and what took place next was actually a pleasant surprise.

A cutscene kicks in as Death performs all sorts of acrobatics to ascend the airship flying by and during the entire thing, not a single Quick Time Button popped up. Personally I feel that QTE segments are getting abused in games so the fact that you'll be able to just sit back and actually enjoy the scene instead of worrying about messing up the button prompts was a genuine nice surprise.

Once on the airship, Vigil Games showed off Death's "Ghost Hook." It's sort of like the Bionic Commando arm as it helps you traverse platforms and fight against the bad guys. You'll just simply pull the right trigger and Death will extend a chain-like whip onto the nearest intractable object or pull a baddie in close.

As for other gameplay elements, know that Death does get his own horse named is Despair (get it?) You'll be getting your demon horse monster a lot sooner this time around as Darksiders II is twice as large in terms of size. Despair will be useful in combat too.

Like War, Death can also transform into a super creature, in his case it's called Reaper Form. Basically, Death goes all Super Saiyan as he transforms into a new form and his attacks double in strength. Death is a bit of a showoff so you'll see him in Reaper form a lot more like in cutscenes.

Unlike War though, Death can't block at all and instead has a dodge ability. Whereas War doesn't mind taking the punches, Death would rather break away from a fight by dodging and look for an opening to attack instead.

Death's main weapons are two scythes that can combine into one giant scythe. The scythes are great for quick attacks and can be combined in conjunction with the secondary weapons you can gain, like a gaint hammer. You'll have magical abilities as well and in my demo, I got to see the Feast of Crows attack which summons crows to attack and distract enemies.

One of the biggest changes with Darksiders II is the introduction of RPG elements. Gaining experience points and loot for killing enemies and the other RPG mechanics was actually planned for the first game, but cut due to development constraints. Death has four core stats to upgrade -- defense, strength, agility and arcane -- and this opens you up to design Death into the type of warrior you want him to be. You can equip Death with different items such as boots, gloves, body armor and so forth and that all goes into making Death customizable as well.

There's going to be a wide assortment of weapons, all of which will be based on different tiers and rarity. The strongest weapon level you can get is called "Possessed" and you can actually feed these demonic weapons other weapons you have to make them stronger. Eventually you will run out of room in your inventory, and like most role-playing games, gold becomes a non-issue. So instead of selling your stuff, you can just feed it to the "Possessed" weapon and get a stronger weapon that way.

On that note, yes you can actually sell your items now. Before getting to the Lord of Bones, you'll make your way through a town. While this wasn't shown in my demo, the idea is that the town will be filled with NPCs that you can sell your weapons and items to, learn new skills and even get sidequests.

Once at the Lord of Bones throne room, you come to discover he's a bit busy. See, the Lord of Bones is, as Vigil Games put it, the air traffic controller for souls. With billions now dead, the Lord of Bones is unable to speak to anyone. His overseer, the Chamberlain, explains that the only way to speak with the Lord is to bring back the head of a champion that grants beings a second chance at life.

Death has no choice but to agree and the airship drops off Death at the arena that is home to the champion. Getting to the champion isn't a simple task either as you first have to summon him by collecting three horn pieces to place on a statue. For the purposes of our demo, two of the pieces were already in place and we only had to collect one piece.

During our hunt for the puzzle piece, Vigil explained that each area of the game will have new puzzle mechanics specific for each zone in order to make the experience fresh. In this particular area, Death has to reposition statues with lanterns beaming a ray light in order to progress through the environment.

Once you got the third puzzle piece, it's time to fight probably one of the coolest mini-bosses I've seen in a game. The creature first starts off as a giant skull with a long spine that moves around the environment like a snake. It'll burrow into the ground and try to attack you from below. The trick with this boss is that you have to use your ghost hook in order to stun it before attacking.

After getting hurt a few times, the monster assembles all the bones from previous victims in the arena into a body to house itself. It's a really cool effect seeing the monster create this form and even better, the boss will grab it's own spine and head and swing it around like a flail against you. The demo ended once Death defeats the boss and collects the skull for the Lord of Bones.

What I saw was really early so Vigil wasn't really ready to talk about too much. They did point out that they want to give a lot of community support for players, although they didn't elaborate on what that meant exactly. You won't be able to upgrade all of Deaths stats in just one playthrough, but I wouldn't be surprised if a new game plus option is given (THQ wouldn't confirm it when asked.) 

While the subject of downloadable content wasn't discussed, it should be noted that THQ stated that there will be a "max level [cap] at ship." THQ knows that DLC is easy money so it's not out of the question that there will be some content post release containing extra quests, a level cap increase and more (like what Fallout has been doing.)

So far, what I've seen of Darksiders II was pretty awesome. I've always been fascinated with the character of Death as he appears in all sorts of fiction so getting to play as a super badass version of him has me excited.

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