Ride, Horsemen Of The Apocalypse!
New hack and slash adventure games have been in short supply recently, with God of War and the Prince of Persia series taking up most of the market. In 2010 that changed when THQ and Vigil Games gave us Darksiders. If you're not familiar with it, Darksiders saw the player take on the role of War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. After centuries of war between Heaven and Hell someone sees fit to put a halt to the conflict and so decides to call upon the mega powers of the two realms to lend a hand. Unfortunately, that's not a reference to tag team of Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan or Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee, but instead the horsemen of the apocalypse, Death, War, Strife and Fury.
The original game's story revolves around War coming to Earth, which is now a battleground for armies of angels and demons, and having War run around bashing skulls together to, strangely enough, cause a truce between the two kingdoms. In Darksiders II, however, you play the part of Death, working to prove that his brother, War, is innocent when he is accused of causing an early apocalypse. Set to take place alongside the storyline of the original, Darksiders II will take you to the dungeon realms which Vigil Games states will give them a lot more freedom with level design compared to Earth which was rather limited. This proves true when looking at the demo footage, in which Death rides his fiery stallion across a giant serpent who's fighting an equally large identical serpent that's pulling an even bigger giant flying castle crewed by skeletons behind it through the clouds over a sea of lava. So yeah, slightly more freedom of design may be an understatement...
Don't Fear The Reaper
The gameplay is extremely similar to the first game, with various combo moves you can perform with Death as he wields his iconic giant scythe. The combat will include a variety of weapons, from Death's giant scythe to an extendible chain/grappling hook combo that you can fling at enemies. Along with the combat, you'll see the return of a myriad of environment-based puzzles that will require you to jump, swim and grapple hook your way to success.
In contrast to War's slow but highly damaging combat abilities, Death is a lot more nimble, being compared to a 'rogue' class by the developers. Instead of blocking Death must rely on his quick reflexes to avoid damage by dodging, which opens up a whole set of counter combos you can perform to make even the strongest enemy wish he'd never tried to cheat Death.
Make An Impression
At Gamescom, there were a few things that stood out to me. While the game was no doubt impressive to look at, there sometimes seemed to be a little too much going on. This was most evident in the boss battles, where the position of the camera, as well as the seeming inability to move it from its fixed position during the fight seemed to impair the gameplay. While this might have been just a choice of the play tester, it seemed rather annoying, making it hard to follow Death's movements.
Having said that, the game certainly looked impressive. The art style, while similar to the first game, seems to have opened up a lot now that the artists are not confined to work within the rules of Earth architecture. With giant beasts, grand castles and halls that would rival Moria it seems that there will be no lack of stunning visual set pieces to keep even the shortest attention spanned pre-teenage occupied.
A Death Defying Feat.
It's nice to see that action adventures are making a comeback this year at Gamescom, with the hopes of Darksiders II and the new Tomb Raider reboot to keep us occupied on the adventure side. Darksiders II is shaping up to be quite a nice addition to any would-be adventurers' game collection, promising not only interesting combat and puzzles but an original storyline that could prove to peak the interest of even the most cynical gamer. Look for Darksiders II when it is set to be released in June 2012.