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Darksiders 2: More Prince of Persia, less God of War

Why THQ's bruiser might finally get the attention it deserves...

Of all the games out there being buried by big name franchises, the lack of attention Darksiders got last year disappointed us most.

Seeing Vigil Games' expertly crafted action-adventure dismissed as just another hack-and-slash Devil May Cry clone was truly a shame. It was so much more than that.

With a structure inspired by Nintendo's masterpiece The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, as well as influences from God of War, Portal, Panzer Dragoon, Castlevania and many more, it was a love letter to gaming that brought together a multitude of themes and ideas, creating a kind of greatest hits of modern day game design.

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That's all water under the bridge to developer Vigil, which has walked away with glass half-full attitude and draws optimism from having established a name for itself as a developer and Darksiders as a franchise - even if it is in the minds of a select few.

With Darksiders 2 it's aiming high, working to evolve the series into one that's much more than just the sum of its influences and from what we saw at a recent preview event the sequel might just catch the attention of a few more eyes.

DON'T FEAR THE REAPER
For those who missed the first game (grrr!) here's what you need to know: War, one of the four horseman of the apocalypse, is summoned to Earth during a battle between the forces of heaven and hell to restore order. Upon arriving he finds the other three horsemen haven't arrived and he is accused of prematurely kick-starting the apocalypse, wiping out mankind in the process and is imprisoned for his crimes.

Darksiders 2 takes place concurrently to the events of the first. Players take control of Death, who makes it his mission to exonerate his brother by restoring mankind. How's that for a bit of irony?

Our demo opens with a visual introduction to Death. While War lugged around in a hulking suit of armour and was a sluggish mover because of it, Death's simple, armour-free frame reflects his nature as a lighter, more agile character.

Surprisingly, Vigil has opted not to adopt the 'ghostly apparition' image of death that he's usually depicted as in pop culture as his main form, swapping out the hooded robes dangling on a skeletal frame in favour of a muscular body, long flowing black hair and a mask that looks like it's been pinched from Casey Jones. However, the boney specter of death does make the occasional appearance from time to time.

Death's first order of business is to dig up information on how, where and what he needs to do restore mankind. To get clued up he must speak to 'The Lord of Bones', a gatekeeper which Vigil describes as "the air traffic controller for souls".

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Given the eight odd billion human souls that have clogged up his runway, we're guessing the Lord of Bones probably isn't going to be happy to see us, but off we go anyway. The Lord of Bones resides on an airship patrolling the skies over the Abyssal Plains, to summon him we must ring the bell atop Serpents Peak.

To travel there Death summons his loyal steed Despair, a dark, ominous horse that he raises from the ground beneath him and leaps upon. Since the world of Darksiders 2 is much larger than the previous game players will be given access to the Despair early to cut down the monotony of traveling long distances on foot, a problem which the first game faced in the early stages.

Shortly after ringing a bell a huge airship arrives pulled by two giant snakes - that explains the Serpents Peak name then - and we're treated to a short movie of Death leaping onto the flying fortress and riding along its surface on Despair.

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