The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were once part of a larger race called the Nephilim before taking on their roles as Horsemen. The Nephilim were not created by the gods of the Darksiders fiction. After discovering that the four horsemen were responsible for the genocide of their own race in Darksiders II’s opening cut-scene, we join Death as he begins his mission to clear his brother War’s guilty name by seeking the Crowfather’s help.
The game begins with Death on top of his mount riding towards an imposing temple on a snowy path as the wind whips snow and ice through the air. Death dismounts and begins his climb. The original Darksiders was often compared to God of War and Zelda, and Darksiders II invites another comparison. Moving around the environment feels like the 2008 Prince of Persia, and shares a similar death mechanic. Death cannot really die, so when you fall into a pit, he immediately flies into the air, resetting back to his last point of solid ground. He latches onto and runs along walls just by jumping toward them, and grabs handholds to propel himself up and across walls.
I meet my first enemies after scaling a few walls, and numbers fly from their bodies with each consecutive hit. The numbers dictate how much damage I’m dealing, and the ice monsters flash yellow to show that they are receiving damage. Both the numbers and the flashes of yellow can be turned off if you want an experience free of statistical reminders that you are playing a video game.
As I climb higher and higher, I meet a gigantic ice monster larger than any I had previously encountered. He doesn’t provide much of a challenge for Death, but the fight takes considerably longer than the smaller ice monsters. These creatures are referred to internally at Vigil as “nosses,” which is short for “not bosses.” They’re big, impressive, and dangerous, but not quite a miniboss or a boss.
Continuing my climb, I fight more ice monsters and collect assorted weapons and armor. By the time I finally make it to the top, I’m sporting stronger gloves and boots and a stronger secondary weapon, which I have changed out twice. The loot you collect in Darksiders II can be equipped or sold to a merchant as you would expect, but you can also feed it to possessed weapons. Possessed weapons start out weak, but gain in power and reflect the attributes of the items they are fed.
The Crowfather is an old man, shackled to a glowing green amulet at the top of the structure. Death seeks the old man to help him save War, but the he refuses to help Death because of the torment he has put him through. Death and his Horsemen brethren killed the Nephilim, but Death forced the Crowfather to carry their souls by refusing to destroy them, and the mythic figure now contains the Nephilim souls in the glowing green amulet. The Crowfather has been driven insane by their endless crying. He seeks vengeance for the fate given to him by Death, and changes his appearance to look like War before attacking him. Death makes short work of the disguised sorcerer, but the amulet of souls breaks during the tussle and Death accidentally absorbs the spirits, leaving a garish scar on his shoulder.
Death is “a bit of a d---,” says Simon Watts, THQ’s global communications manager. He is not concerned with honor like War was, and is willing to lie, threaten, and trick in order to get his way. In his exchange with the Crowfather, he even laughed, making a small joke about his predicament. He is more casual with his approach to his mission. For Death, the ends justify the means, which is why he seeks to reset humanity, rendering his brother’s crime null and void, rather than prove his innocence.
Darksiders II received a disappointing delay recently, but it was an elected delay on the part of the team at Vigil. Darksiders II is content-complete, meaning everything is in place and ready to go. Vigil just wants more time to polish its sequel and make it as close to perfect as it can. My hands-on time ended right after defeating the Crowfather, but I made every effort to grab the controller back and continue playing. I didn’t want to put it down.