Previews

Darksiders 2: More Prince of Persia, less God of War

Why THQ's bruiser might finally get the attention it deserves...

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The hallways leading to the arena are very narrow, gothically stylised with dark walls and ledges adorned with flickering candles. Approaching the doors Death's reaper form momentarily appears, his large boney hands pushing up against the metal doors and forcing them open. Death's reaper form functions in the same way as War's Havoc form, but instead of being limited to combat Death is able to momentarily channel its energy during normal combat and in some cases traversal and puzzle-solving.

Our first puzzle is a simple one; a large statue in the middle of the room holds a lantern, its light is projected onto a generator above the door we entered through and on the other side our exit lacks the power to function. Death gets a grip on the statue and rotates it, shining the lantern's beam onto the generator pad, granting us access to the next room. A quick wall run later and we find ourselves in the coliseum. Time for some hacking and slashing.

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BEAST WARS
Before we throw ourselves into combat the camera focuses in on the central element of the dungeon, an altar that is missing a horn. Obviously we'll have to recover it and replace it to summon the champion, but before that we've got a few waves of enemy grunts to cut through.

Death's weapons of choice might not be as intimidating as War's oversized blades but they're equally as deadly. He dual-wields two small scythes which deliver a flurry of damaging but lightning-fast combos. He can also combine the two together into one larger weapon and deliver heavy blows. The Ghost Hook adds an additional layer to the combat by letting Death pull in smaller targets and quickly close the gap against heavier enemies, giving combat a smooth flow.

Darksiders 2's shift towards role-playing driven mechanics over pure action is most evident in its combat. Each attack results in a corresponding number showing us how much damage we're inflicting and, as is par for the course, enemies drop tiered loot in the form of secondary weapons, chests, shoulder and body armour, gloves boots and talismans, which can be used to buff stats.

Along with the loot system Darksiders 2 also includes a full skill-tree mechanic where players spend points earned from combat learning new abilities. Vigil makes it clear that it isn't possible to purchase everything in a single play through, even if you grind and reach max level. This means strategy and planning is required to progress through the skill tree.

In order to be effective in combat it's important to creating a synergy between weapons, armour and abilities, all of which support the usual archetypes of magic, damage and ranged.

In our demo Death's secondary weapon is a comically large hammer, although it dishes out serious damage it's slow start-up animation leaves him vulnerable to enemy attacks. However, using an ability called 'Feast of Crows' we're able to unleash a number of pesky birds that, while won't do much damage, will keep the enemy tied up long enough for us to swing the hammer.

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We make our way across the coliseum and to the other end of the dungeon battling our way through pockets of enemies and locating the missing horn. Death momentarily channels his reaper form, which grabs hold of the horn and drags it back to whatever dimension he's holed up in when not doing Death's bidding.

Back-tracking to the main area of the dungeon we replace the horn and the champion, a snake type creature that burrows underneath the surface, shows itself.

It quickly moves around the arena, flanking Death and attacking before retreating underground. Death's combat style is much more offensive than War's and relies on speed. As a result Death doesn't have a block move and instead possesses a wide range of tools that let him quickly dodge and exploit the enemies weakness.

In this mini-boss battle we take the patient approach, waiting for the snake to taunt Death and striking before he's able to retreat. Eventually the beast transforms into a golem, with a body formed out of the bones of fallen warriors. His movement may be slower in his form but he is able to pull off his head and spine to use the snake form as a flail for long-range damage.

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