A left-field surprise for THQ in 2010, the Legend of Zelda-inspired Darksiders: Wrath of War put players in the role of a wronged horseman. Not just any horseman though; this was War, the fabled Horseman of the Apocalypse riding upon his red horse, Ruin. Entrenching itself deep within an internal mythology drawing upon biblical references, the game stood out in its field thanks to the engaging narrative and superlative gameplay. At its conclusion, many gamers were left wanting more, and THQ, not being typically known for their high quality properties, were all too happy to cash in on this success and appease their fans, confirming it had gone into production at E3 2010.
By the time it releases, we’ll have been waiting two and a half years since the first, but it will almost certainly have been worth it with many of the core elements of the game having been retooled in that period. For one, the maps are now much larger and built around a hub mentality with each core area splintering off into different dungeons to explore. It has even been said that just one city area features as many dungeons as was found in entirety of the initial game, and that the total size of the game is more than double what came before. If this is true, then the scope of this game is truly ambitious, particularly when one considers the assertion that there is not a single playable area that has been recycled from the initial game.
In addition to this, exploration will be encouraged by the presence of NPCs in the city areas that will grant side quests, should you choose to take them on. This adds more to the RPG-light feeling of Wrath of War and this seems to be a direction that the folks at Vigil want to drive the franchise in. In the vein of more traditional dungeon crawlers, Darksiders II has seen the implementation of a loot system that sees armor items dropped from defeated enemies as well as being located around the environment and, perhaps, as rewards for partaking of, and completing, the aforementioned side quests. As one would expect, this loot makes more than just cosmetic changes, but it will not alter the way the game plays in any major way. Instead, it will affect different elements of the player character, from damage dealt and received to enhancing some of his Wrath powers (the franchise’s version of magical abilities) and granting him different types of attacks. Also new to the series is a skill tree system, another regular of RPG games, and this will, again, allow you to flesh out the character and adapt him to your play style. This incredible fleshing out of the nitty-gritty of the game is enough to make any fan of micromanagement quite giddy, though we shouldn’t get our hopes up for it being excessively intricate.
When it comes to the core gameplay, it will adopt the same blend of combat, puzzles and exploratory sequences that made the original such a joy to play through to completion. It was, after all, often compared to both The Legend of Zelda and God of War for good reason. The main difference here appears to be a stronger focus on platforming segments, the reasons for which I will explain below. Further to this, the enemies will continue to drop health, magic and experience as they are defeated, along with the loot, so it isn’t straying far from a familiar formula. Last but not least, the iconic, dark fantasy visual style will return in full force, but used to even greater effect thanks to the new settings that promise to take full advantage of what the design ethics offer.
“For all that is old, there is something new.” This, honestly, seems to be the mantra for Darksiders II. I’ve already alluded to a slight modification of the tried and true, and this is because the game employs a new playable character. Rather than playing as the heavy, lumbering War, you control his lithe brother, Death with his pale horse, Despair. The way that the team have circumvented this potential issue of the introduction of an entirely new character is by turning Darksiders II into a parallel, rather than a direct sequel. This is the old. The narrative thread runs in tandem with its predecessor and details Death’s attempts to clear his fellow horseman’s name in relation to the early starting of Armageddon. More complex details than this synopsis are difficult to come across, but it appears the way that he does this is traversing the Underworld, with its fantastic designs, calling upon long-owed favours from NPCs. The path will be long and winding, and it should prove to be an engaging journey, if anything can be assumed from the original.
As a bonus, the other two Horsemen, Strife and Fury (peculiarly altered from the biblical representations of Conquest and Famine, or the more popular replacement of Conquest with Pestilence) are promised to appear in some capacity. Whatever this is, it will not be in the form of co-operative play, as the team were more interested in really fleshing out Death as a character in his own right than in trying to implement them also. It points to a game focused firmly on the single player experience and as such is one of intense interest here at OnlySP.
Darksiders: Wrath of War may not have been innovative, or especially creative, but it was a very good game and a solid foundation for a franchise. The developers are leveraging this, adding in enough freshness to bolster the reputation further, while staying true to what made it a relatively successful release. If all goes well, and it certainly seems to be on the right path, Darksiders II will be a genuine delight for a great many gamers when it releases in the last week of June across the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms. Further to this, a version of the game is also in development to coincide with the launch of Nintendo’s Wii-U later in the year.