In 2010, THQ released a brand new game IP called Darksiders. It was revealed the year before that they were investing in the title from Vigil Games, a studio that had yet to produce a single title. Sure, Vigil was backed by comic book legend Joe Madureira, but there had been many other famous icons in various fields of entertainment and fashion who had started their own video game studio, and a majority of those failed. Having Madureira on board hardly meant guaranteed success for THQ.
For the last few years, publishers have been reluctant to green light a video game that doesn’t possess a proven track-record, never mind permitting a no-name studio to develop it. But THQ decided to take a gamble because they obviously believed in the game, and for good reason. Looking back, Darksiders should have failed not only financially, but also with the critics. The company created its own game engine and combined elements of other successful franchises including God of War, Devil May Cry and The Legend of Zelda. It’s a usually a recipe for disaster, especially when you consider how ambitious Darksiders was.
When the title was released on January 5, 2010 (a typically tricky time to launch any title) Vigil and THQ breathed a sigh of relief. While it wasn’t necessarily a blockbuster by gaming standards, it was well reviewed by the critics (including our Publisher, Chad Lakkis, who awarded the game a rare TEN). It also spawned a passionate hardcore fan base and enough demand to warrant the sequel. Last week, I had the the privilege of previewing Darksiders II. My major question going into THQ was if Vigil could develop a worthy successor, or if they would fall victim to the infamous sophomore slump. After playing just minutes of the sequel, I knew Vigil was on the verge of something special.
If you don’t know already, the universe of Darksiders is loosely based on the biblical accounts of Revelation. In the first game, players control War, one of the Four Horseman. As the story unfolds, players unravel a complex conspiracy punctuated by enormous boss battles and clever writing. In Darksiders II, players take control of the most feared horseman of them all, Death. This nephilim (the progeny of an unholy union between angel and demon) is on a personal mission to prove his brother War’s innocence of apocalyptic crimes; all while defying the Council’s orders.
From the moment you take control of Death, you’ll notice that he’s much quicker and more agile than the lumbering, tanklike War. From a platforming standpoint, I would compare War to Link from The Legend of Zelda, while Death plays and feels like the Prince from the Prince of Persia titles.
Like War, Death performs the basic video game maneuvers like climbing, jumping, grabbing ledges and swimming. However, the gaunt warrior has an unmistakable grace when he performs these moves. Traversal is a choreographed dance, rather than a clunky shuffle to get to the next area. Besides that basic movement, Death is also capable of much more advanced fancy footwork. For instance, he can run on walls, bounce between them, jump from pillar to pillar and more. While it’s not revolutionary by any means, it adds to the countless elements that Darksiders had already included into the first game. On top of that, I truly feel Death is much more of a threat than his slower, heavier brother.
For many Darksider fans, Death’s abilities alone would have been enough to satisfy their hunger for a sequel. But Vigil Games wanted more.