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Darksiders 2: New hands-on with the ambitious sequel

The Grim Reaper takes up free running in THQ's open world follow-up...

Darksiders II doesn't hold your hand; it chops it off and waves it in your face. Dungeons are vast, dangerous, and filled with tough puzzles that you have to really work to solve - reminiscent of earlier Zelda games.

You play as Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. As the name suggests, he's pretty good at killing things - but he's also incredibly athletic, leaping around levels like the Prince of Persia. The game is a mix of combo-based combat, light-footed platforming, and thinky bits.

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Much of the game takes place in a vast 'overworld'. This open landscape can be freely explored astride Death's horse, Despair, and serves as a hub for key story locations, and those all-important dungeons. Half the time you're galloping around, exploring and talking to NPCs, and the other half you're delving into temples, caverns, and castles.

And as if that wasn't enough, Darksiders also features a compelling loot system inspired by MMOs like World of Warcraft. When you open a chest or kill an enemy, they'll drop gear of varying levels; from common loot (basic armour and weapons), to epic loot, which is often enchanted with magical, stat-boosting properties.

This, combined with a vast skill tree with two distinct paths - Harbinger and Necromancer - makes Death a highly customisable character, both in terms of his stats and powers, and his appearance. As a Harbinger you're able to use skills like Unstoppable to dramatically increase your strength, or Frenzy to slow down enemies. A Necromancer can use Exhume to conjure up zombies to fight alongside them, or Murder to call upon a swarm of angry crows.

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DUNGEON CRAWL

In our hands-on, we played an entire dungeon from start to finish called The Foundry. Here, Death is joined by an NPC companion called Karn, a hulking warrior with a dreadful Scottish accent. Occasionally he'll throw you over a gap, or hold a heavy metal door open for you. "I've thrown stones bigger than you!" he'll say, repeatedly, in the style of a Hollywood voice actor trying desperately to sound like they're from the Highlands.

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