Today, in continuation of our Darksiders II coverage (see part one here), I will be going over what may be the most addicting and, to me, the most appealing portion of Darksiders II: the character customization.
Melding an action game with aspects of the RPG genre is not exactly a new idea. We’ve seen more and more of it over the last 5 years, to varying degrees of success, but there is still a wide gulf between a traditional role playing game and action games. Hearing that a game has “RPG elements” typically makes me gag; not because I don’t like the concept, but because every other game seems to use that buzz phrase to garner attention. I was less than excited to see what Vigil offered up when I heard this.
Darksiders II feels more like an RPG than even a game like Kingdoms of Amalur. I was consistently reminded of World of Warcraft, and stat junkies will delight in the amount of variables and possibilities. It was truly daunting, and I spent periods of 10-15 minutes just staring at stats and taking notes on weapons and armor to try and get the best outcome. And trust me, there is an inordinate amount to sort through.
Loot is a key component of Darksiders, and enemies will constantly be dropping new items. Bigger guys drop bigger loot, but run of the mill guys will be dropping pieces left and right. Comparisons to the loot mechanic in Diablo will certainly arise, and it is a fair point. There are basic armor and weapon options in the menu, allowing you to carry around 25 pieces for each area you’d equip; scythes (your main weapon), your secondary weapon, chest armor, gauntlets, boots, amulets and then other miscellaneous pieces. Most of the loot will be useless, and the weapons most people will equip will be found from bosses at the end of dungeons or levels, so you can quickly be bogged down. Yet don’t despair, there is a reason for it.
Darksiders II features not only a huge variety of weapons, but it contains things called Possessed Weapons. These start out as weak tea, but you can feed them the other items you pick up in order to level them up and give them the abilities you want. You want to get health for each kill? Feed it weapons with that stat. Health or Wrath on Critical Hits? Sure, you can do that too. Elemental damage? Easy. Overall, I ran into 18 variations on stats that you could decide to trick your weapon out with. Personally, I depended on high Crit and Health on Kills for both weapons. Yet you can go so many paths that it is highly unlikely there will be a consensus on the “best” option. If you can’t find a possessed weapon, you can always fast travel to a town and sell your items for better gear or new moves. No item drops are useless.
It is that level of detail that made me start to salivate during my trips into the menu. Not only are there dozens of different ways to set your weapons and armor up, but Death also has skill trees. You can pick one and go, or space your skill points out between both trees, either magic or melee. Vigil was also considerate enough to allow you to respec Death at any time for a set amount of money. You won’t be punished for trying out every combination you can come up with, which for obsessive stat hounds is vital. There are even training dummies in town so you can test your weapons and talents before you head out.
As with every game that features leveling, experience points are the main way to level up Death. Yet while most games become a grind-fest before the end, Vigil set up a metric for granting experience that will, hopefully, prevent that monotony later on. Enemies at or above your level grant 100% experience with a scale sliding down to 50%, 25% and then 10%, meaning not only will you have to keep moving forward to improve, but the game is set to level with you so you aren’t running through the same area for 10 hours, and you also can’t jump ahead to huge areas and exploit the system. It is a clever way to balance play so players spend an equal amount of time advancing the story as decking out their Death.
For any fan of action-RPG’s, Darksiders II seems to be the most comprehensive and impressive entry. Ever. No other game balances so many pieces while offering such vast possibilities for customization. If you like to fire up World of Warcraft and set up Excel spreadsheets to get mathematically optimal, you will find as much to do here as you will in WOW. Players that simply want to experience the action and story and rely simply on the higher attack numbers will also be able to play and get the full experience. This is the first time that a leveling system didn’t force those who aren’t adept or appreciative of the RPG genre to participate, while offering more than any other action game we’ve seen. Instead of being “derivative,” Darksiders II seems to be blazing new ground.
Tomorrow I’ll have coverage of the combat system and explain why fans of Devil May Cry and Street Fighter will be lining up for Darksiders II.