Darksiders II: Death Lives Preview (PS3)

June 12, 2012Written by Nick Michetti

In a storyline set concurrently with that of the original Darksiders, the apocalyptic horseman known as Death embarks on a mission to clear the name of his brother, War. Death’s icy grip will spare no one in this sequel that contains elements from RPGs, as well as God of War and Prince of Persia. The result is a game that feels immediately familiar and easy to play for newcomers, yet packs more depth than the average action game and feels more well-rounded than many action games.

The Darksiders II demo begins with Death, who rides his horse Despair in the midst of an arctic area called “The Icy Vale.” Death is in pursuit of “The Keeper of Secrets,” also known as “The Crowfather,” who can help Death in his quest to prove that War did not trigger the Apocalypse before he was supposed to. Death roams a short way through the area before eventually dismounting from his horse. Anywhere that Despair cannot go will prompt the game to ask the player to banish Despair so that Death can continue onwards alone. However, Despair can easily be summoned via the right analog stick or a quick select-style menu, and Death will make a comment if Despair can’t be summoned in his current area.

Combat-wise, Death begins equipped with a pair of scythes. His combat is very God of War-esque, with fast-paced hacking and slashing making up a dominant part of the action. He can also lock onto enemies (think Legend of Zelda-style Z Trigger lock) and roll away from enemies (think Kratos’ roll in God of War). Nothing here felt particularly new, but did feel responsive and rewarding. Something that stood out, though, was the lock-on’s tendency to cause the camera to move to obscure positions at times. Using the lock-on helped combat in some situations, at times not so much in others and strangely felt useful in the two boss battles in the demo — where there was only one enemy on-screen at a time and one of them was roughly the same size as Death himself.

Enemies defeated by Death will drop loot, which can affect Death’s stats. Loot is dropped randomly and can consist of new weapons, armor, amulets, and consumables. Loot is randomly generated and every item is said to contain unique abilities. Loot is also divided into tiers, with different levels of rarity attached to each. The basic, common loot will be less powerful than an epic version. Also, loot can also be found within chests, offered as a reward for completing quests, and can be traded with NPCs as well.

Death, despite being an intimidating presence with visceral combat skills, is actually quite nimble. Death can wall-run, slide up and down pillars, and more. He can cling to certain areas (not to mention climbing up and down while clinging) and can even vault over posts in his way while wall running. The horseman’s maneuverability immediately rang familiar to Prince of Persia, with smoothness of platforming gameplay to match. Darksiders II‘s platforming may be familiar, but extended platforming sequences to break up the combat feel integrated and help add more variety and depth to the game.

Darksiders II is a fun action/adventure game that will satisfy fans of the genre who maybe were looking for a bit more depth in their games than they’ve seen in the past. The game does feel similar to some previous games in the genre, but also has enough identity that it feels like its own game. Gamers who have never played the original and Darksiders fans alike should find much to like about the next installment of the series, which will arrive on consoles this August.