Darksiders II
E3 2012: Hands-on Preview
"All the pieces are in place for a fantastic action RPG experience..."

Tucked away in the OnLive booth is a playable demo of Darksiders II. While the original game wasn't quite within our coverage, the sequel contains a much heavier emphasis on the various RPG aspects in the game. I was able to spend a nice chunk of time playing and got a better idea of what to expect with the full release this August.

Taking place concurrently with the events of the original game, Darksiders II drops you into the shoes of Death himself. The demo I played took place in a dilapidated, snow-covered region that contained plenty of precarious precipices to scramble around on, and I was very impressed by the level of verticality and the smoothness of the platforming in the game. Death is very nimble, and the controls to get him around the environment work as smoothly as butter. Leaping from a jutting chunk of wood up to an icy handhold, then bouncing from wall to wall to come out at the top of a gaping chasm was incredibly easy and exceptionally satisfying.

Once combat began, it began with gusto. Much like his predecessor, War, Death is able to wield two weapons at once, of the light and heavy variety. Comboing between the two weapons and leading into aerial juggles was just as easily accomplished as the platforming, and crushing enemies was immensely satisfying. Death also has access to a jump and a dodge move, and these proved invaluable during a boss battle at the end of my playthrough.

The sequel's expanded character customization elements are extensive. Death now gains experience and levels up as he reaps the souls of his foes, and gains both gold as well. Death has access to two skill trees, and players are free to customize him and create their own builds. Weaponry has been expanded into a full-on loot system, complete with tons of weapons to collect and even the option to trade items and armor with your friends. I was assured that there will be various weapons that take advantage of particular skills in Death's arsenal, and that the developers were aiming to create a wide variety of unique builds for players to experiment with.

The visuals in the game were very attractive, even on the relatively blurry OnLive streaming setup I played on. The stylish art design from the original game is back in full force here, and even the simplest areas of the environment were distinctive and gorgeous. The framerate was perfectly smooth, and the various special effects during combat were flashy and gave everything an exceptionally satisfying and visceral look. Death himself animates fluidly and gracefully flows from one strike to the next. His dodges in particular looked great, with his various hops and leaps looking wild and animalistic.

While I was told that the game will feature a slightly reduced emphasis on using various tools, I was told the game will still feature plenty of puzzles to solve and environmental hazards to navigate. The expanded RPG elements give the game a real sense of depth, and I was reminded very much of the recently lost-to-the-ether Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning while I played.

My brief time with this game left me feeling very confident in its direction. All the pieces are in place for a fantastic action RPG experience, and with a much bigger world to explore and some fantastic art direction, Darksiders II should be a hit when it launches sometime this August!

© 2012 THQ, Vigil Games. All rights reserved.

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