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DoubleTake: Darksiders II



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Earlier this week, EGM editors Ray Carsillo and Brandon Justice traveled to the hellish halls of San Francisco’s Bently Reserve Conference Center to undertake their first journey as the universe’s most famous undertaker, Death, in the upcoming action-adventure title Darksiders II. Curses were issued, controllers were thrown, and fun was had—but after all was said and done, how did the dynamic duo feel about their first hands-on time with this hotly anticipated sequel?

Brandon Justice, Managing Editor: Coming in to this event, I’ll admit that I was pretty hyped up. I loved the original Darksiders and recently got a chance to see some of this content for a preview in the latest issue of EGM— on newsstands next week, people!—but with all the changes to core gameplay, I was definitely curious how the shift from the combat-heavy War to a more agile Death would play out.

Ray Carsillo, Associate Editor & Resident Supernerd: You weren’t the only one hyped up. The first game appealed to me on so many levels that I’ve been waiting for the sequel since about a week after the original was released. I had the pleasure of speaking with Joe “Mad” Madureira and David Adams from Vigil Games a few weeks prior, and all the changes they talked about implementing were mind-blowing. But I was less concerned with how Death would play than I was with how they were going to fit in a lot of the new mechanics they wanted to use, like an old-school RPG loot system.

Brandon: They’re definitely mixing it up. This game feels less like the Zelda-meets-God of War mash-up of the original and more like a spiritual successor to the Soul Reaver franchise, with a healthy dose of Prince of Persia thrown in for good measure.

Ray: Yeah, and there’s definitely some concern there about how that dynamic shift may appeal to the original’s fan base. I enjoyed the free-running aspect and agility of Death, even if—at least in this early build—there was very little margin for error. But I spent a lot more time in menus during our brief hands-on time than during my entire playthrough of the original Darksiders. There is a lot of loot to be had, and there are definite rewards for embracing the RPG-ness thrown in, but I’m concerned with the slower pace as you move from room to room and pick up more and more gear.

Brandon: Eh, I think the overall pace of the game will more than cover that side of things, but I definitely hear you on the lack of forgiveness. The game’s still early, but the controls felt very picky on the movement front. In a game like this, I tend to like it when the focus is on what you’re doing and how to do it, but I often felt like there was a big struggle with just getting Death (and the camera that follows him) to do what I wanted. A lot of that was probably a result of the demo dropping us in some 6 hours into the Darksiders II experience, but there’s definitely still room for improvement here. You may have spent most of your time in menus, but I enjoyed way too many dips into lava pits for my liking.

Ray: Yeah, at least dropping into those pits didn’t cost us health. Otherwise, I’d never have gotten past the first series of obstacles until I finally got used to the controls. It’s typically a great feeling when you figure out what you have to do to conquer a puzzle in a game like this, but when a new feeling of dread arrives when you realize how hard it is to sometimes pull off the necessary maneuvers to complete the puzzle, you’re definitely in need of some tweaking on the control front. But again, it’s an early build, and I even spoke to David Adams about it, and he said they were aware of the control bugs and the camera issues, so I still have hope.

Brandon: I’m definitely willing to give them the benefit of the doubt there, but they do have their work cut out for them. I don’t really mind when a game is difficult—in fact, I typically welcome it—but when I know exactly what to do and it’s not that tricky, I don’t expect to die 20 times because the controls don’t feel responsive enough. It’s one thing when there are moving platforms or enemies or traps to deal with, but these were just routine jumps. The team does seem to think they’ve got this in hand, though, so we’ll see how it shakes out, but I have to say I’m worried they may have bitten off a bit more than they can chew with all these changes.

Ray: Well, they pulled it off with the first one, so I’m still hopeful. And we did see a lot of good stuff, too.

Brandon: True enough. I’m not saying they won’t pull it off, necessarily, just that the shift here’s very ambitious. It’s almost an entirely different game, in many respects. That said, I was extremely impressed with the visual side of things. Compared to the original, Darksiders II looks amazing.

Ray: Yeah, everything visually really blew me away. From the scale and scope of the level we played in the Makers’ Realm to the fine details on all the characters you come across. I also loved how, by the end of the demo, my Death looked completely different from yours. That was one of the nice things about the massive amount of loot.

Brandon: Agreed. Darksiders II definitely raises the bar on that front, and that signature Joe “Mad” style is even more prevalent this go-round; the loot system was definitely an interesting twist, too. They’ve really done a great job with the inventory here, and it was nice to see the big, bold UI cues that showed how the loot you’ve found stacks up against what Death already has equipped. I also really enjoyed the various weapon types you’d employ, as each had a distinct feel to it that made each useful in its own right.

Ray: We used hammers, scythes, guns, and a hookshot-like grappling arm, and each one definitely had its uses in combat. And the game definitely supplied enough bad guys to try them all out on. But, again with the loot—because I picked up different scythes than you did—we were playing with two completely different characters by the end of the demo. You were more focused on speed, and I’d made my Death a little more War-like and stacked his strength and damage, which made some of my acrobatics a bit more difficult, but I also had less trouble with some mini-bosses that I remember had you particularly frustrated.

Brandon: But that was more of a matter of cameras and responsiveness than actual difficulty, in my opinion. Plus I’m not sure that equipment had anything to do with Death’s movement model. I don’t want to beat a dead horse there—even though we got to ride one in the demo—so I’ll leave well enough alone on that one. Speaking of riding things, I really like the rideable construct as a change of pace; those things are downright badass.

Ray: In just that one level—which we were told takes place about a quarter of the way through the game—we got a ton of gameplay variety. We rode a golem-like construct, rode a horse, climbed a giant golem called a Guardian, grappled our way through lava-filled chasms, swam through a giant lake, slashed up a dozen different baddies, and got thrown around by a drunk Maker with an Irish accent. I was definitely more impressed than disappointed with the demo, and I’m positive that if they fix the control and camera issues, this game will live up to its triple-A, hyped status.

Brandon: That’s the thing about Darksiders II—it has a lot going on. If they can tighten everything up and polish it to the level of the first one, it’s going to blow people away. Conceptually, I think it’s head and shoulders above the first, and the demo went a long way to whet my appetite. Now it’s up to Vigil to close it out.

To see the new cinematic trailer that ties into what we saw in San Francisco of Darksiders II, scroll down!