At the THQ Darksiders event this week we were lucky to get our hands on a demo of the game. But some of us there were lucky enough to harass and / or blackmail the staff at THQ and Vigil Games into giving us an interview. To that end we chatted with Simon Watts, Global Communications Manager at THQ, and Ryan Stefanelli, Producer on Darksiders II. Our questions ranged all over the place but we found some rather interesting pieces of information that we would be remiss not to share.
One of the first and most obvious points for discussion was that of Death himself. Ryan Stefanelli presented the issue in an interesting way. "I like to use the Ninja Turtles analogy. War is Leonardo and Death is Raphael." War is direct and up front, by the books and honorable while Death is much more... creative. He's arrogant, something of a jerk and yet also much more conversational than his sibling. But he's not all cold heart and snarky words Death is out to prove his brothers innocence, clearing his name of the crime he was accused of in the first game.
The trick here is that DS2 takes place concurrently with the first title. While War battles across the ruined Earth, Death is trapped in the underworld and trying to prove his brothers innocence or undo the crime. However he has to do it he will clear his brother's name. He's even going so far as to completely bypass the Charred Council, the ruling body that governs the balance between Heaven and Hell. When asked how Death interacts with them, Ryan seemed quite amused to inform us "He'd be likely to flip them the bird." Clearly upsetting them isn't something he's concerned with.
Obviously questions were asked about how the game differs from the first and the first thing that came up was the overworld. The overworld is much larger than that in the first, consisting of larger spread out areas giving a greater feeling of exploring the world. To this end gamers will receive Despair, Death's horse, much earlier in the game than War received Ruin. By and large we will spend much more time using Despair than we did Ruin however he will still be primarily a way of getting around. There will be some bosses that call for using your horse but by and large the horseman will be doing a whole lot more riding this time around.
But the biggest of changes that was of interest to me personally was the loot system. According to Ryan Stefanelli this was actually intended to be in the first Darksiders but it got left by the wayside due to a lot of time being spent on building the game world itself. He further elaborated that he felt that things like loot really added to the experience of having a grand adventure. Searching for chests off the beaten path carries a greater reward now than just getting some extra experience for your troubles.
Should the gold and random loot pick-ups not actually net you anything of note there are still options. There are a variety of vendors in the hub zones, possibly even Vulgrim, that you can sell your goods to as well as purchasing items from, potentially of even the magical variety. If you don't feel like dragging all that loot back to town or the inventory is just getting too cluttered then you can feed it to any Possessed Weapons that you have been lucky enough to snag.
Possessed Weapons are something you'll definitely want to get your hands on as soon as possible. These can be powered up by feeding them other weapons and armor, leveling them up into more powerful unique looking weapons. Not only are they unique but they actually have four abilities that you can pick from whenever you level up the weapon, allowing you to customize it to your playing style. So if you're using claws to fight then it's possible to focus on increasing your critical hit chance or bonus elemental damage whereas an axe user might want to focus on increased damage or strength bonuses.
Not only was the loot system supposed to be in the first game but there was supposed to be a skill tree which would allow the player much greater character customization. The producer made the point that the skills in this game naturally evolved from Death's look clearly he's going to be a badass as one of the Four Horsemen but just taking one look at him gives you the "Necromancer" vibe. So one skill tree focuses on his physical abilities and the other is a more mystical path that features ravenous ghouls to fight alongside you, ravens that peck the crap out of your foes or turn into a whirling storm of bones. Since each skill has upgrades that can be taken as you level up, adding things like flames to your ghoulish minions or healing to your scythe attacks, there is an incredible amount of customization here.
A point that both Simon Watts and Ryan Stefanelli iterated was that of synergy. The loot and the skills work together to inform your playing style, allowing you to shape your own version of Death. If you want to make a bruiser type warrior then focus on heavy sub-weapons, the Slayer armor type (that focuses on physical bonuses) and take Harbinger skills that also focus on his physical superiority. If you like the idea of playing a spellcaster then focus on the Necromancer armor and skills. You'll still have to fight physically but you won't be doing it without a bunch of support. There is also a set of armor called Wanderer armor that is kind of like rogue armor, focusing on bonuses to your critical hit chance and damage. With three different armor types and two skills that can be mixed up as you please the variety is huge compared to the first game.
Another point we chose to ask about was side quests as this was mentioned several times. Side content is apparently going to be a huge focus in this title. But that's not to say that we're looking at a game like Skyrim here. Whereas Skyrim is a good 10% main story and 90% side content the balance here is much more focused towards the main storyline. Ryan Stefanelli gave a rough estimate in that the main storyline has about 20 25 hours of content as it consists of about 70% of the game with side content taking up about 30% of the game.
However what side content exists is giving a huge amount of attention. There are entire dungeons of side content to distract you from the main storyline. Some of these will be areas you can simply stumble upon while others are pointed out to you as part of side quests that come up in the hubs. There are two whole dungeons of side content in the first of four areas alone meaning that the first area has six dungeons total that we know of four via storyline and the optional ones. But really, entire dungeons of just bonus content? Possibly bonus boss fights? This carries a whole lot of potential.
A lot of that potential will be expanded via DLC according to Simon Watts. The first piece of DLC that is free with the Limited Edition is known as Arguls Tomb. Just the name itself gives you a pretty good tip off as to what you'll be getting with it. But it won't be available on day one nor is it cut content, it's something the developers are working on once they are done tinkering with the difficulty level of the game itself due to feedback they received watching us gamers struggling with some of the tougher sections we played through.
Since it's been made pretty clear you won't be able to hit maximum skill levels or even fully gather entire sets of armor you'll be playing through the game multiple times. There are apparently going to be some sort of new game + type features to help encourage gamers to play through multiple times. Lastly with some sort of online features being implemented (that they're not saying much about obviously) exactly how much replay value the game will possibly have is unknown right now but it sure sounds like an impressive amount.
Honestly it's not a lot of hyperbole to say that it sounds like Darksiders II is shaping up to be Darksiders 1 but with more involved content. Everything is bigger in scale, being given a loving tinkering and just generally being worked on to make the best possible product. Some will draw comparisons with Prince of Persia, Ninja Gaiden or even possibly Shadows of the Colossus thanks to that huge boss but Ryan Stefanelli said it best before we ended the interview: "We're only going to complain about being compared to great games so much." Well said good sir.