By Steve Wright
GAME NAME: Darksiders II
DEVELOPER(S): Vigil Games
PLATFORM(S): Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, PC
RELEASE DATE(S): August 2012
I'll admit it: I'm a bit of a Darksiders noob. But, after just one hour with the upcoming Darksiders II at THQ's hands-on preview event, I went out and bought the original game and cursed myself for letting it pass me by in the first place.
I think my aversion to the first Darksiders was because I constantly heard it described as The Legend of Zelda meets God of War. Neither franchise has a ton of appeal to me. In that descriptive meld, I simply assumed I'd be backtracking through the game with new tools, unlocking areas I couldn't reach before, all the while hacking at baddies using one button on my controller.
For all I know, the original Darksiders might be exactly as I've just imagined, but it's definitely not so with Darksiders II.
Playing as Death, you control a fast, acrobatic character with a penchant for destruction. I was able to compare his play style to that of War, the main character of the original title, very early on in the game; you're pitted against a facsimile of your Horseman brother to compare your speed to his brutishness.
I know that item drops, looting and Darksiders II's new XP system are new additions to the franchise, but you'd never know it unless told; each system is handled expertly and fits very well within the game. With looting especially, the on-screen UI is very clear in what you're about to pick up, and where it stands in the hierarchy of your existing inventory. You'd easily think it was a system from the first game that was just polished up a bit.
Combat was fairly standard, with a light and a heavy attack combined with two-button special attacks; but, combined with Death's speed and agility, I had a great time flipping around the environment. The lock button keeps your opponent in view at all times while you can mash the dodge button and zip about. I did that for a while just to take in the sights.
I know that wall runs and jumps are common in titles like God of War, but the same in Darksiders II made me feel more like The Prince of Persia than Kratos. Perhaps it was only because handhelds throughout the environment looked like those from Ubisoft's series, but I really enjoyed those sequences. In God of War, they seemed to serve as filler.
Graphically, the game is gorgeous, but I found I was getting ripped out of the game when riding through large environments with Death's horse, Despair. In less than five minutes, my ride was paused four times with a loading screen, as the Xbox 360 I was playing on drew in the world around me.
Additionally, once Death arrived at the game's first hub, I felt like the Viking-esque characters and buildings around me had a very different style than anything I'd seen previously; it just didn't mesh for me. It was like in Kingdom Hearts when the designs of Square Enix first collide with the cartoony Disney stuff...but where one of those situations was on purpose, I don't think it was meant to be in Darksiders II.
Regardless, it wasn't out of a sense of duty or obligation that I went out and bought Darksiders yesterday, it was because Darksiders II fully captured my attention. I've got a bit of time to fully immerse myself in its world; Darksiders II launches on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC this August.