OXCGN’s Darksiders II extensive hands-on preview
This ain’t your ordinary Grim Reaper
©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos
I copped quite an barrage of negativity from gamers back in 2009 for my play on the words with my Darksiders Hands-On article, stating that it was the real “God Of War”.
Some got it and some didn’t and that’s fine, it still generated interest in the title and people moved on.
Now we find ourselves in 2012 and THQ Australia have once again invited OXCGN to get their hands stained with blood in Darksiders II.
Having to travel all the way to Darling Point, Sydney, I arrived late at my destination and found myself standing outside what looked like a castle, which was a fitting setting for Darksiders II.
Since I arrived a little tardily, my console needed to be set up so I thought it would be a good time to chat with the producer from Vigil Games, Jay Fitzloff.
We had a chat about the game’s direction, gameplay style, and the difficulty of platforming in the sequel, giving me a better understanding of what to expect over the next 2 hours.
With the Darksider’s hands-on in 2009, media started the game from scratch and we had 4 hours to get as far as we possibly could, but this time around we were thrown a good portion into the game where the skill tree, weapons drops, and most of the abilities were available to the player.
It gave us a good feel of the scope of Darksiders II and what crazy moments we could expect come it’s release in the month of June of the 360, PS3 and PC.
Riddle me this
Automatically I thought “if they’re giving me a strategy guide, Vigil have listened to feedback and made the game more challenging for the gamer”.
My thoughts rung true when I found myself continually flicking through the guide when playing the section’s opening moments and struggling to figure out where to go to next.
The sheer size of the section we were exploring was impressive and the dungeons that branched off in every room made me even more impressed with how much Vigil have been able to pack into this game.
You’re looking at a game which is almost double in play time as Darksiders, or triple if you really want to kick your OCD into overdrive.
Now whilst the strategy guide was useful to guide me with how to solve certain puzzles, I found the lack of dialogue and guidance a factor in why I needed to turn to it in the first place.
Some puzzles were genuinely challenging and required platforming as well as using your brain to figure them out; but others which were as clear as day and so simple to solve escaped my mind because I was over thinking.
One was as simple as diving those extra few meters underwater to reveal another path to reach where I had to go.
It frustrated me because it was there all along but as I was so challenged in the previous areas it didn’t cross my mind to stop and think logically.
Let Dust be your guide…
There is however a crow that goes by the name of Dust that is neither alive or dead which acts as a spiritual guide when you wonder back and forth scratching your head and cursing at the TV as you try to figure out what to do next,.
Only problem is I found it took Dust way too long to appear and he flew extremely slow, never really going to where I needed.
Many when playing this game will experience this time and time again and trust me it will frustrate you too.
What also frustrated me during my playthrough is the screen-tearing.
Now whether this remains to be fixed in the finished retail version I’ll have to wait and see, but much like its predecessor back in 2010 it was the exact same issue striking the TV screen in the same fashion.
Gameplay didn’t seem to be affected by the screen tear at all but it does get annoying, especially when the action gets frantic and the last thing you want to have bothering you is this constant line ripping through the middle of the screen.
Sight to behold
The crisp visuals that graced our screens in 2010 with its impressive colour palette have been vastly improved, and whilst it may not be a Crysis, these visuals are attractive and extremely distinct.
There’s no 10 different shades of grey or brown, but rather various colours like lush green vegetation, bright yellows, maroon blood spurting from enemies and yourself, and so much more.
Everything has a unique visual appearance and the aesthetic experience is also strongly aided by the audio in the game, from the grunting of Death swinging his dual scythes, to enemies screaming as they rush you to attack.
Since Vigil already had the engine in place they have been allowed to craft the sequel the way they see fit and so far it’ s looking extremely good in the audio/visual department, but where does that leave gameplay?
Darksiders managed to stay enjoyable with its not too complicated combat system, however Vigil have most likely thought that come second time around players would not want to be stuck exercising the same manoeuvres as Death’s brother, War, so gameplay has been revamped.
This time around we’ve got the loot mechanic, with loot ranging from:
- Health Potions
- Weapons etc…
Taking a page from Diablo‘s book, battling enemies may conjure up a new piece of armour/weapon that you can equip or pick up for later use.
Each individual item has its own pros/cons and upon completing an armour set you may receive bonus attributes much like the ones seen in EA’s Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.
If you’ve played Darksiders you know that everyone at the end finishes with the same style character, but due to Darksider II’s random loot mechanic there’s no knowing what you may acquire in the next battle and end up looking like.
With a game of this calibre that promotes exploring, you would be wise to search around. Finding chests, speaking to the world NPC’s or dealing with those pesky enemies all give you the chance to find something new, from a low level weapon to a Possessed Weapon which are the rarest and most powerful weapons in the game.
Learn new skills…like REAPER
The fun doesn’t stop there however, as we’ve also now got a Skill Tree mechanic. Yes we’re dipping our feet into RPG territory now and I love it.
With the character Death comes the ability to invest in 2 different trees, Harbinger and Necormancer.
The first is a warrior type tree and the latter is a spellcaster tree.
Upon levelling up and receiving skill points to use as you please you can upgrade either one of the trees or both, combining multiple abilities to create a unique character of your choosing.
Each skill has 3 levels you can upgrade which increase damage, decreases the cool down time and for fluid solid combat, can be accessed via the radial map much like Mass Effect or mapped to any of the specified buttons on the controller.
Upon upgrading your skills, which in the end increase your Reaper meter, you’ll gain the ability to unleash Death’s true power upon his many victims using Reaper Mode.
You become the true incarnation of Death, a towering demon capable of dishing out more damage, moving faster than his lesser counterpart and able to sustain a heavy amount of damage from enemies.
It doesn’t end there though with Death’s new set of toys such as the:
- Death Grip (A zip-line of sorts which allows you to grapple onto hook or enemies and lunge them in the air)
- Life/Death Splitter (The ability to split into two entities being in two places at once)
- Void Walker (Reminiscent of Portal, creating two portals that allow you to reach unreachable areas by conventional means and during battle)
You will be extremely spoilt for choice when fighting multiple enemies at once, and that was why I loved Reckoning. After playing Darksiders II, I know that I’ll love it as well.
Keep It Simple Stupid!
With a few more months until its release, I hope Vigil take the time to read through the previews and polish certain parts of the game which will attract the most negative comment like the screen-tearing.
Then they’ll definitely have something special on their hands.
©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos
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