ago I received the opportunity to fly out to San Francisco, California courtesy of THQ to preview Darksiders II. The trip went well except for two things that really stood out: spending roughly ten to twelve hours on a plane within a thirty-six hour time frame, and the fact that we couldn’t actually play the game itself. Like I stated in my preview article back in January, the presentation itself went really well and we learned quite a bit about the game and about Death himself, but I was kind of disappointed that we couldn’t at least play the demo that they showed us at the event. Fast forward two months to March 19th, 2012 and I received another opportunity to fly back out to San Francisco (again, flight and hotel courtesy of THQ) for another Darksiders II presentation, but this time we actually got the chance to try out the game. Let’s see how it turned out this time.
To be honest, this time was entirely different. There wasn’t really a vocal presentation this time around, save for being told what the demonstration contained. The dungeon the demo took place in was in the Maker’s Realm, one of the games’ four major zones and said to be the size of the Darksiders 1 map. The dungeon itself is the final dungeon of the realm and is roughly six hours into the game. As such, Death began the demo at level ten, giving us nine skill points to play around with in either the Harbinger or Necromancer trees, but I’ll hit that shortly. In the demo, Death is on a quest to restore something known as The Guardian and is accompanied by a Maker called Karn, who I swear sounds like he’s related to Shrek. Kind of looks like him too.
To start things off, I went to the skill trees and allocated my skill points. Because I like to heavily favor spell casters, I decided to throw the points into the Necromancer tree, mainly focusing on raising skeletons. Basically, I put three points into Exhume, (allowing me to raise three skeletons at a time), three points into Undying (raising my skeletons health quite a bit), and from there I can’t quite recall. I know I put one point into Corpse Explosion (skeletons explode upon death or the effect ending), and I think the other two I put into Enervation (skeleton damage gives you wrath, or magic basically) or Fiery Souls (skeletons deal fire damage). Basically, every fight I decided to raise some skeletons which really helped in some fights, but had one minor setback: the screen got crowded quickly. Basically you have you, Karn, the monsters, and your skeletons fighting, and sometimes I couldn’t keep track of where I was or who I was attacking, if anything. I got used to it after a while though, so it wasn’t a major issue. After checking out the skills I took a look at the armor and weapons the demo started me with and equipped what I thought would be best for a Necromancer, mainly anything that helped with wrath regeneration without really sacrificing health or defense. Secondary weapon-wise I stuck with a hammer that added some frost damage and gave some wrath regeneration per kill.
Thanks to the game’s new loot system, I was periodically picking up new gear, and there was one feature here that I really enjoyed. In other games (Borderlands comes to mind) when you pick up a bunch of new loot, you have to check each item in your inventory if you can’t recall what you just picked up. Diablo II also drives me nuts with that sometimes, but at least your inventory space is limited, so it’s not nearly as bad. With Darksiders II, when you pick up a new piece of loot and go to your inventory, whatever category contains the new loot will have a star next to its icon, showing that you have a new weapon or piece of armor or what have you. It’s also easy to tell if the weapon you have is better or worse than what you’re using, as green text indicates an increase in a stat while red text indicates a decrease, and I believe this was also shown even before you picked up the loot, making it easy to see if it's even worth your while to pick up or leave behind. As stated above, gearing towards necromancy I tended to stick with gear that increased my wrath while not really sacrificing my health or defense a.
The game controls pretty smoothly and I was able to pick up on Death’s new abilities rather quickly, though there were a couple things that tripped me up. As Death can wall run, occasionally he’ll come across a small block sticking out of the wall that he’ll have to mantle over. This is done by hitting either A if you’re lined up properly, or using the Death Grip ability once you have it. However, if you use the Death Grip, DON’T hit A, as you’ll just leap above it and throw everything off, and that’s where I kept getting tripped up. I’d be running along a wall, use the Death Grip to mantle over a block, accidentally hit A, and leap straight up and lose all momentum, plunging myself into the fiery pit below. When you come upon the constructs that you can ride, they don’t control too badly either, but I find that they move rather slowly. Granted they are kind of big, so I wasn’t expecting any to move like Speedy Gonzales or anything, but even a small speedup would have helped, as when I had to move the construct from one area to the next, it just felt like it dragged a bit and I was itching for more action. Thankfully, the time on the constructs isn’t too long.
So I got my skill points allocated, worked my way through the dungeon, gathered three Heart Stones to revive some giant guardian, and now I have to fight this guardian. I won’t spoil things too much, but to say the least, it reminded me of Shadows of the Colossus…which I really suck at. Thankfully you don’t have to climb up the guardian for the most part, but it was still a challenge, and you’ll learn quickly how to summon and dismount your horse as well as how to use the L button to focus on an enemy. However, there was one thing that kind of got to me during the fight, something that I had no control over whatsoever. Right in the middle of the fight, the darn thing froze up. We reset it, tried the boss again thanks to auto-save…and it froze up again. Yeah I know, its early code and I have no intention of holding that against THQ, but I really wanted my revenge on the guardian after the first freeze.
Overall, my time with Darksiders II left me wanting more, and I have every intention on picking this up on launch day, something I rarely do anymore outside of the rare game I’ve been waiting on for years (such as Diablo 3). The controls are nice and smooth with few issues, the puzzles can be challenging (if Prima hadn’t provided mini-guides for the demo, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the boss at all), and the graphics are pretty nice for early code. Yeah there were a few issues, such as a sewer area where I followed the water to its’ exit and had a “world ends here” moment, as there was basically nothing but a vast area to look into. Basically, Darksiders II left me wanting more and June can’t get here fast enough.