Before the release of Darksiders, Vigil Games took every opportunity to liken its unproven title to Nintendo's prestigious Legend of Zelda, and rightly so.
Based on a fresh IP and developed by a newly founded studio, Darksiders was ostensibly as risky as it gets - Kryptonite to suit clad execs and destined to float in the periphery. It made sense to leverage the title's similarities to Zelda and the involvement of Marvel comics legend Joe Madureira to offset apprehension.
A few years later and when posed with similar questions of Darksiders 2's influences and competition Vigil's mouthpieces dance around Ocarina of Time, God of War and the numerous other titles it so obviously bears semblance to.
Cynics will say it's the puppetry of public relations at work, but those that took a chance on the criminally underappreciated first game might see the evasion as a sign of the studio's new-found confidence in itself and its latest title.
In Darksiders Vigil managed to do what so many have tried and so few have achieved; it tweaked Nintendo's formula and gave it a 'mature' edge by draping it in an angels versus demons setting dreamt up by one of the comic book industry's finest.
From our latest look at Darksiders 2 Vigil looks to be taking a more confident stride forward with its second effort, stepping out of the shadow of Nintendo's behemoth by creating a game that's more ambitious in scope, design and mechanics. And by broaching territory Zelda's developers have shown a stubborn resistance to.
AND HIS NAME WAS DEATH
In the last game War, one of the four horsemen, is tricked into kick-starting the apocalypse. Along with the hellfire and brimstone the end of days also brought about the destruction of humankind. Death's goal is to exonerate his wrongly imprisoned brother and restore mankind. No doubt a nice change from the usual soul reaving.
In our demo the reaper ventures off the main path and into a cavern filled with spitting pools and rushing waterfalls of red hot lava to tackle an optional side-dungeon. Although we could painstakingly describe every detail in the environment, simply using the words 'Fire Temple' should paint the right picture.
War was a vengeful mountain of muscles, barely contained in stretched cloth and clanging oversized armour, but his brother Death is comparatively plain - at least initially. Darksiders 2 allows players to create their own version of death, the grafted on RPG tropes such as tiered loot and skill trees let players piece together a character that's unique in aesthetic and play style.
Death's armour, ability and weapon choices dictate the flow of combat. His primary weapon is the trusty scythe, which has been split into smaller dual-blades that deliver quick, relentless strikes and can be combined together for a heavy attack. Secondary weapons include short-range melee claws, slow but devastating hammers and of course there's the hack-and-slash stalwart: the gun.
Armour in Darksiders 2 comes in different shapes and sizes, each piece carrying different attributes. Individual pieces that have similar alignment or properties can be equipped to form sets. In our demo Death starts out in the 'Necromancer' set, which makes him more proficient at spell casting, the 'Slayer' set creates a character attuned to wading into combat and dishing out punishment, while the 'Wanderer' gives our grim hero quicker attacks and abilities much like a rogue class.
Skill trees are divided in a similar fashion; the Harbinger tree beefs up damage output and grants Death with new melee abilities, while the Necromancer tree does similar for his sorcery capabilities.
These systems look like they'll add interesting new wrinkles to the formula, although not exactly breaking new ground the inclusion of RPG conventions could provide some well needed nuance to the combat button orders and timing.