It was only a week into the New Year when the original Darksiders kicked down gaming's door and launched what turned out to be a great year. The very first title from the then newly-formed Vigil Games focused on one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – War. After being accused of prematurely starting the Armageddon, War returns to Earth a century after humanity has been destroyed in order to prove his innocence and uncover the perpetrator that began the cataclysmic event. Darksiders was considered by many to be a mature Legend of Zelda game that incorporated elements from other well-known titles and then executed them within a variety of complex puzzles.
"When the initial idea for Darksiders was made it was basically Joe Mad[ureira] texting Dave Adams being like, 'well what about the Horsemen of the Apocalypse?', then everyone said, 'that’s perfect, that’s absolutely what we want to do'," Associate Producer Jay Fitzloff tells Gameplanet.
"Originally when we started creating Darksiders, Joe sketched out all of the four horsemen, and when we decided we were going to do Death for Darksiders 2 we then had Joe go do iterations on the art style," continues Fitzloff. "It’s funny, when you challenge yourself and try to rethink what you’re doing they say you should just go back to what you started with, and that’s exactly why Death looks like that."
Death takes centre stage in Darksiders II. The game unfolds parallel to the events of the original game. Unconvinced his brother War is responsible for the destruction of Earth, Death sets off to discover the truth behind this conspiracy. One of the challenges Vigil faces is trying to make the two characters feel different from each other. Establishing Death as a more agile protagonist allows the developers to work with a variety of puzzles to complement the change.
"Typically if you’re developing a sequel you focus on building out the main character again, you have all the systems already in place," says Fitzloff. "When you have a brand new lead character like Death you need to create new systems, which is what makes this franchise really unique. With Darksiders II we wanted to tell a new story of one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and with Death it really opened the door to put in a lot of great new systems like the traversal, the loot, the skill trees, everything that is in there is unique to Death this time."
"It really opens another chapter of the puzzle elements in the game because there is a lot more to do with traversal. Where War was floor, steep paths, and he would pretty much go in a straight track, Death is the exact opposite. From a design standpoint that’s actually a huge challenge, it’s a lot easier to build upon proven mechanics and bring them forward to a new iteration. But Death required a completely new style of game play so as challenging as it was it is just that much more rewarding. With puzzles there is lot more traversal involved; with combat it’s a lot more active – so Death is a hell of a lot more fun to play – plus he’s a really cool character."
When developing a sequel, one of the greatest hurdles can be expanding the audience, while also catering to existing fans. Sometimes, the continued story of a sequel can alienate newcomers. Jay Fitzloff highlights the importance of mythology and insists that while players of the original Darksiders will be able to continue a meta narrative, newer players won’t be left in the dark.
"We created Darksiders II to be a standalone experience so a new gamer could jump in and get enthralled with the story, the plot, and just immerse themselves in the fiction. With that said there is a lot of additional content and a lot of allusions to the original game, so someone that’s played Darksiders will get more out of it, they’ll know more about the history and fiction – especially when it comes to the main characters."
"Going forward on the fiction it’s more of a coffee table experience where it’s collaborative," believes Fitzloff. "Ultimately the mythology ends up making it into the game design, the script, and even the lore of Darksiders, because now it’s a universe that’s bigger than just video games."
With this latest title in the series about to be wrapped up, the final question is what will come of Fury and Strife, the two remaining Horsemen. Will they all merge in one final epic to create an Avengers style ‘all-star’ cast?
"The team would love to have all four Horsemen in an iteration of the game but it’s definitely going to take another game or two before we see that come into reality."
Darksiders II will be available for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in August.