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Darksiders 2 preview: Death pays a visit


So you have a pretty popular game, starring an interesting and original rendition of one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It sells well. In fact, it sells well enough that it gives a distraught publisher a much-needed influx of revenue and then, when the time comes to make the sequel, you decide to completely replace the protagonist everyone knows, and bring in a brand new character that wasn't ever seen in the first game.

That's what comic book artist-turned Vigil Games founder Joe Madureira did, and though Darksiders 2 definitely looks like it's turning out well, even he says he had doubts. "I still wonder if it's a smart thing," he told me at Comic-Con this week, "because usually when you're building a franchise around a character, you really try and keep the same character." Well, yeah.

"But it was a momentary apprehension. As soon as we concepted him and we had him running in the game, it was a cooler character." He says that THQ didn't have a problem with the change either: "They were like, yeah, this is a cool idea."

Gallery: Darksiders 2 (7/19/11) | 10 Photos

Of course, given all of the other updates to the game, maybe it's easy to see why the creator and publisher didn't worry quite so much about the main character. In a quick hands-off demo, Madureira showed off combat and utility gameplay that looked pretty similar to the first game (if not a little tighter and cleaner, of course), but it's what happens out of combat that's most interesting. Darksiders 2 will feature a full loot and quest system, adding a whole shar-pei of new wrinkles to the way the game works.

All of the armor and gear you pick up and equip on Death will show up on the character, and there's a whole lot of it out there, from another pistol weapon to another grappling hook and even some "throwing crystals" for some weak ranged attacks. Just like War, Death's weapons are varied and can be used with the flick of a button -- Madureira showed off both Death's dual scythes as well as a large hammer that could swing through crowds of enemies. Death's got abilities and a skill tree to play with as well, though both spells and skills are still a work in progress at this point.

One of the biggest complaints about the first Darksiders game is how much it aped more familiar titles like The Legend of Zelda, in that War explored just a few dungeons, won tools to complete puzzles, and opened up areas of the game in a preset order. But Madureira says while the team heard those complaints, he didn't end up paying them much heed.

"It kind of rolled off our back," he says, "Zelda for grown-ups, as I've heard it called, is not really a bad thing to us. I think that's totally cool." Madureira thinks the new gameplay features will answer those concerns a bit as well. "I think with the addition of loot drops and skill trees, it really does have a unique feel to it." Not that Zelda games are ever bad, he admits. "There should be more games like that, honestly. If like three Zelda games came out every year, I'd be really excited."

Finally, the game features a full World of Warcraft-style questing system, where Death is given tasks in town and open areas, and then must complete certain requirements. War's mission in the first game "wasn't very personal," says Madureira, and the plan in Darksiders 2 is to take story out of the cutscenes, "which most people skip anyway," and put it in questing. Death's own story will revolve around an attempt to save "his own kind," whatever that means -- they've all died, apparently, and Madureira cryptically said that those souls are trapped in an amulet that's been fused to Death's chest.

We'll take his word on that one for now -- there will be lots more revealed about the story and the game itself as we move towards release "next year."

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