Early into the design process on Darksiders II, Madureira toyed with some very strange iterations of the Death concept. “Early on I had played with the idea of giving him six arms and a weapon in each hand [pictured above],” Madureira laughs. “It was really impractical stuff that we knew we really wouldn’t do…. Any time we started to mess around and experiment with Death’s design, we never liked it as much as what we already had, so we just kind of stopped.”

One element of Death’s design that did change was his weapon. Some of Madureira’s original sketches feature the character equipped with a more traditional large scythe, but that changed as Vigil began work on Darksiders II. “There was already a competing product that has a scythe-wielding character,” Madureira says, referencing EA’s 2010 release Dante’s Inferno, “so right off the bat, that wasn’t that appealing to us. And because it’s a really large weapon, it would be wielded more slowly. That didn’t fit in with Death’s more aggressive, feral nature. Splitting it into two smaller scythes and dual-wielding seemed ten times more bada**.”

Vigil also decided to shift Death’s personality. Originally intended to be “more of a haunting figure that never spoke,” Madureira explains that this would not have set the character apart from War well enough: “We didn’t push War as far as we could as a character. He didn’t talk a lot. So we felt like if Death didn’t speak at all, that would be harder, so we decided to change that up and make him more intelligent and chatty. He has a dry sense of humor.”

One of the challenges of making Death a more interesting personality was figuring out how to show emotion on a character without a visible face. Some early sketches featured Death without his mask (like the one above), but in the end, Vigil stuck with the iconic masked version and searched for other ways to make him expressive.

“We were worried we wouldn’t be able to convey expression, and the dialogue would fall flat,” says Madureira. “So I did a sheet of how his mask and eyes could convey most of the emotion [pictured below]. Obviously he has to act with his body a little bit more. We’ve done enough tests with the cutscenes that we feel comfortable that having a guy with no face is going to work.”

In the end, Madureira believes going with the masked version of Death was the right choice, as it has actually become a defining visual characteristic for the horseman. “If we put a helmet on Death or we changed his mask or we hid his hair, he would look like a different character. There are certain things about Death that we will not change,” Joe promises. “That’s why we don’t have helmets in the game. He’ll only ever be lightly armored. No matter what armor you equip, it’s still Death, but if we were to cover him up completely in chainmail in big shoulder pads, you’d wonder who it is.”

With what Madureira describes as “the iconic necromancer/zombie look” for Death, he’s hopeful that gamers will quickly become accustomed to the new character and never have to wonder who he is.

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