Darksiders II preview – Death warmed up

Darksiders II preview – Death warmed up

THQ may not be completely out of dire straits, but that hasn’t stopped the company from putting its weight behind a range of upcoming titles from different developers, for various platforms and with a certain degree of risk. In fact, that last point is why I want THQ to survive well into the future: it’s a AAA publisher that—love ‘em or lump ‘em—isn’t afraid to take risks with its IPs; and that’s something we need more of in this day and age.

The not-so-little publisher that could was recently in Sydney peddling its upcoming wares in the form of the incredible-looking Company of Heroes 2, WWE 13 (that I didn’t get any time with), South Park: The Stick of Truth and, the main game of the event, Darksiders II.

We’ve covered Darksiders II a couple of times before its delay and, although news of a two-month delay was disappointing for fans such as myself, it was also a welcome relief.

Back in March, I took a preview build for a spin that was incredibly buggy. The core Darksiders experience was there, but the all-important spit and polish was not. Although disappointing, the delay wasn’t terribly surprising; but it’s more important for a polished final product than to hit a release date. At least, as far as I’m concerned.

I only spent around half an hour with the new build of Darksiders II. My time wasn’t limited because of THQ, mind you, it was for two core reasons. First, when I confirmed just how far the build had come in the last few months—and it played extremely well—I found myself skipping through cutscenes because I didn’t want to have the storyline ruined. This is a credit to the level of anticipation I have for Darksiders II to engross me in much the same way that its predecessor did. Second, and more surprisingly, I was engaged in the various ‘become Death’ stunt activities that the super-professional Magnum PR team had organised for us. As it turns out, throwing fire, learning how to perform proper action rolls and choreographing a three-way (giggidy) fight with professional stunt peeps is a lot of fun. Here are some behind-the-scenes shots from the day.

But back to the game. We played on Xbox 360 code, and the polish was evident from foundational things such as controls right through to combat fluidity and everything in between. The world of Darksiders II looks incredibly beautiful and the section on offer wasn’t on Earth, so you could see that the art design team had gone to town on creating a visual space that looked and felt different to what was seen in the original game.

Death may be sprightlier than his brother War and, thus, more suited to platforming and exploration, but he’s certainly no patsy in a fight. If anything, his increased agility (and inability to block) offers a different take on combat, while still maintaining the awesome fluidity of the original game. Put simply, fighting off groups of enemies is a ball, and will take some time to master the various combos and timings in order to increase your combat multiplier.

I was also allowed to take Despair—Death’s faithful steed—for a joy ride and, while there were no enemies present in the area he was useable, the potential for horseback combat was immediately evident. Despair can use a charge ability that chews up stamina, while Death is also able to swing his deadly scythes on either side of his horse.

Last but not least, during some fortuitous exploration, I stumbled across The Watcher who, as fans of the first game will recall, was the Mark Hamill-voiced entity that was charged with keeping War on task. Either Hamill is back and voicing him, or they found someone who has his voice down to a tee. Either way, that’s a nice addition for fans, and Hamill has a tendency to inject a lot of personality into his voice acting (see The Joker from the Arkham series).

The best news of all, though, is that Darksiders II is slated for a full multiplatform release, meaning that PC gamers won’t have to wait six months longer than consolers to sink their teeth into the sequel. Darksiders II is out on the 16th of August for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final version of the game.

Darksiders II
Game Preview: Things are looking much more polished than our last hands-on with the game.

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