|System: Wii U, PC, Xbox 360, PS3|
|Release: August 14, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Shelby Reiches
When last I left Darksiders 2, I was less than enthused with what I had seen. The game was a choppy, slow-paced, unresponsive shell of what had made the first game so much fun to play. Leave it to Vigil to turn that around in a matter of months. In the THQ conference room (in lieu of a booth this year), after seeing Metro: Last Light and Company of Heroes 2, the company allowed me to sit down with a new build of Darksiders 2, this time ripped from the beginning of the game and showing far more polish than its predecessor.
Things kicked off with an introductory sequence, explaining the history of the Horsemen, how they had turned their backs on their own kind in service to a higher ideal. War's "betrayal" is recounted, and Death heads off in an effort to end his punishment by uncovering a means by which he hopes to bring back humanity. It lends some context to the Darksiders mythos that, in the first game, was notably absent, and allowed me to better sympathize with Death and his journey. The fact that there's a sense of filial responsibility, that Death's excursion is for his brother, provides the emotional impact that Darksiders' tale of vengeance was lacking.
Upon gaining control, the first thing I noticed was the frame rate, which seemed surprisingly stable. As Death trudged up the snowy slope atop his steed, approaching the icy fortress at its end, the frame rate never dropped. This held even once inside, combating crystalline enemies and golems with Death's twin scythes and a massive hammer he found a few rooms in. Smoother, in fact, would describe the entire experience, which was better for having its platforming simplified down. Death now automatically propels himself along when he comes across the little stubs in the wall that had previously demanded a second input. Further, he seems to more naturally grip the edges of climbing surfaces than before, making for fewer frustrating and unintentional falls.
Partway through the demo, I left for another appointment, but came across the same demo of the PC version of the game at the Alienware booth later in the day. This ran extremely well, the more powerful hardware removing even the last elements of hitching that had been present in the Xbox 360 demo. As it proceeded, Death worked his way through the small dungeon and to what appears to be the game's first boss, an old crow of a man with a lantern that bore the trapped spirits of the Horsemen's kindred. He is appropriately titled the Crowfather and serves as a keeper of secrets, burdened with them and the manse of souls via an apparent deal between him and Death. The Horseman demands knowledge of how to restore humanity, at which the Crowfather balks, demanding to be freed of his burden in turn.
The disagreement results in the Crowfather attacking Death, assuming the form of his brother, War, and begetting the first truly challenging fight in the demo. The minions faced up until this point had gone down easily, with obvious patterns and sizable blind spots that could be readily exploited by a player with even a smidgen of awareness. The War simulacrum, on the other hand, is an altogether different beast, his attacks coming quickly, breaking through Death's combos and hitting with wide areas of effect. His hand forced, Death slays the Crowfather in the form of his brother and the manse breaks, impaling Death's chest with a crystalline projectile, which leaves a pulsating, glowing patch on his skin, knocking him to the ground apparently unconscious.