The original Darksiders was one of those games that came along without much in the way of fanfare or celebration. It was developed, released and sold without a huge deal of marketing and did nicely on the critical side. Darksiders 2, however, looks to better everything the original attempted in both promotion and the actual game. We were invited along to give the first sections of the title a play to see how the game is shaping up.
Upon leaping into Darksiders 2, the first thing that becomes apparent is how much more RPG focused the sequel is when compared to its predecessor. Darksiders was oft-compared to Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series thanks to the mixture of overworld exploration and dungeon crawling, but now we’re leaning more into Diablo territory with a full levelling up system, stats, unlocks and loot to collect. The first game definitely had hints of RPG in it as the main protagonist, War, gained new skills and weapon attacks, but Darksiders 2 is undoubtedly going for the more core RPG fan base as leading (horse)man Death becomes something a lot more personal.
In Darksiders 2, when you best an enemy in combat, you’ll find they often drop equippable items and money along with your standard experience points. What this makes for is a much more customisable and unique experience as your Death takes on the way you play. Sure, most of the customisation is just you looking at your items’ stats and seeing which numbers are highest, but I’m sure there’ll come times when you’re overladen with all sorts of armour, boots and other items and you’ll have to carefully pick your gear for specific battles.
Aside, from the RPG elements of Darksiders 2 being greatly expanded on, you’ll find the core of the game the same as its predecessor. Like mentioned, you’ll alternate between overworld exploration and dungeon crawling for your quest objectives. Overworld areas are a lot more varied than in the original Darksiders in terms of both things to do and their visual style. Whereas the majority of the first game was set in a post-apocalyptic city, only stopping to visit places like a vast desert on occasion, there appears to be a much greater variation in Darksiders 2. Even in the short section we played, we ventured through a lush, green grassy area and up a volcanic mountain where the game’s first dungeon is set.
Darksiders 2 also offers far more in the way of character interaction. The world in the first game wasn’t exactly devoid of people to talk to, but there are certainly plenty more to find in the sequel. The lack of a companion, akin to Mark Hamill’s The Watcher in the original game, is a bit of a letdown though as War’s unwilling sidekick made for some great scenes. Maybe Death will pick someone up on his travels; we’ll have to wait and see.
One of the most surprisingly standout parts of the game is the impressive audio. Everything from the incredible soundtrack to the ambient noises that float around areas as you explore them makes for an immersive setting. Although I only had the joy of bumping into a few non-playable characters in my short jaunt, the voice acting is also fantastic.
Interestingly, Darksiders 2 also offers up an online component that sees you able to trade loot with your online chums. Littered around the game’s world are statues that when activated let you peer at things your buddies might have left you. Obviously this means you’ll need some friends playing the game so it might not be much use to you if you’ve either got no friends or your friends are just too busy playing other things. Like other loot-based RPGs though, items can only be equipped at certain levels so even if a friend drops you a piece of loot from late in the game, you won’t be able to equip it right away.
Unsurprisingly, Darksiders 2 is a lot like the first Darksiders but the amount of care that has clearly gone into sprucing up old features and adding new mechanics makes it something to be getting excited about. Darksiders II is out on the 21st August for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. If you haven’t yet got around to playing the original, then we certainly recommend that you do before taking on the mantle of Death.