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Darksiders 2: Bringing Death to the Wii U

Reinventing the sword for Nintendo's next console...

Darksiders is adventure on a biblical scale. After years playing games in which we prevent the end of the world, we're now cast as its harbingers: the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

How have Vigil found the heroic in the most anti of heroes? Darksiders II producer Ryan Stefanelli explains the basics: "In the first Darksiders, the horseman War was wrongly accused of causing the apocalypse and the extinction of mankind. This caused both the forces of Heaven and Hell to seek War's destruction, and War was more than willing to take all his attackers head on." Hey, we've all been there, right?

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Darksiders II shifts the focus to War's brother Death (their parents really had a gift for names). Stefanelli explains that the game, "happens during roughly the same time period as the first game. Knowing that his brother would never commit such an atrocity, Death works behind the scenes to clear War's name.

"Unlike his brother, Death is more than willing to work with some of the more shady characters of the Underworld. The story revolves around Death travelling through the Abyss, making deals and bargains, and ultimately having to make a very difficult personal decision."

This dark gothic world is realised in a familiar action RPG mould. Galloping through the first game's overworld atop a demon steed before solving dungeon puzzles with a playful kitbag brings a certain elfin hero to mind. The Zelda similarity is a comfortable 'in' for newcomers, so we run it past Stefanelli.

"With all its different elements - combat, traversal, puzzles, etc - a game like Darksiders can be hard to describe, so it's natural to compare it to another game for reference. Being likened to Zelda is about the highest compliment we could be paid!" he says.

ROLE PLAYING
Not that Vigil are resting on a tried-and-tested formula. "In Darksiders II, we're adding even more elements into the mix, such as role-playing elements and loot gathering," explains Stefanelli. While War's wardrobe unfolded as a relatively linear item-to-item jaunt, Death has a Marks & Spencer's worth of trinkets at his disposal. bangles, armour and shoulder pads boost defensive and magical capabilities, while bigger weapons make for bigger wounds.

Like the best loot-gatherers - your Diablos and World Of Warcrafts - the hint of something rarer, thus better, around each corner coaxes you forward.

Here, the Wii U's second screen proves a real boon. Until now, console thinking has been crippled by television acreage. Force too much junk - gallons of loot, for example - into one screen and interfaces creak and groan. Anyone who's tried to manage a Fallout 3 or Fable inventory bag will know that particular horror.

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But just because your television struggles with piles of rat meat and forks (Fallout 3 is a silly game), does it mean that games should forgo piles of rat meat and forks? Hell no, says Wii U. And Stefanelli concurs.

"Just to have something on the touch screen, we put the inventory and map systems on the controller - and even that small thing makes a big difference," he explains. "When you collect a new piece of loot, you just look down to see if you want it, and can equip it instantly. I can't say for sure if that'll be in the final cut, but it's really cool that the gameplay experience never has to be broken up by changing out equipment."

As Ocarina 3D proved, touch-screen inventories can be transformative in their ease of use. Instant equip single-handedly turned the Water temple from a soggy blanket to a wet-eyed wonder.

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