Darksiders II Interview

29 Jul 2011  by   Paul Younger
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We sit down with Vigil’s Jay Fitzloff to talk changes, loot and magic in Darksiders 2. In case you missed it, we’ve also got a preview of the action-RPG-er here.
IncGamers: What do you think needed improving about the first Darksiders?
Jay Fitzloff: Well, there’s small stuff like there was too backtracking in the first game. But, basically, in Darksiders 2 you’re seeing what we wished Darksiders 1 had been. When you’re building the first game of a series you always run out of time because you’re building the engine and you’re still figuring out what the game really is. With Darksider 2 we’ve already got that stuff figured out.
The RPG elements and the loot system are things we wanted to do in the first game but we just ran out of time. It’s almost like Darksiders 2 is the editor’s cut of Darksiders 1. We’ve now got the time to do what we always wanted to do.

IG: It’s a while yet before the game comes out. Is there still a lot of work that needs to be done?
JF: Yeah, there’s still a lot more to do and a lot more that we’ll be revealing. This game is about four times the size of the first game so there’s a lot of content that needs to be added still. But we’re really trying not to just add content for the sake of it; we only want to add ‘cool’ content. There’s no point in just throwing in a dungeon just to have another dungeon.
IG: If the world is four times as large, does that mean the game is four times as long?
JF: It depends on the player and if you want to get involved in the side quests. But, yeah, theoretically it could be four times as long.
There’s much more replay value as well. When you’d finished Darksiders 1 you would have gotten every ability and fully levelled up. In Darksiders 2 there will always be items you couldn’t get the first time round, you can’t get all of the abilities because you have to make decisions as to what path you take your character through on the skill tree. So it’s a larger game also in the fact that you can start over and have a different experience. Even an hour in, two people aren’t to have the same experience.
IG: Just how much variation is there in the equipment and the levelling up paths?
JF: Well, there are certain things that you have to have. The Ghost Hook, for example, is something you have to have to get around the world so we give that to you, you don’t have to unlock it.
The variety in the abilities and the loot comes down to what you to do. So, if you like to use the giant hammer then you’re going to want to go after loot that increases your strength so that you can do more damage with every swing and you’re going to want to gain the ability to keep enemies still/frozen in place so they can’t dodge. Once you start swinging with that thing, that’s it, you can’t interrupt it and you might get tagged from behind or something.
Someone else might want to go down the magic route so they will need to improve their skills in line with allowing them to use magic more often, for example.
IG: Are enemies balanced in such a way that makes them easier or more difficult to defeat depending on how you’ve levelled up and which abilities you’ve unlocked?
JF: Totally. And they’ll have different resistance, too. So – and we’re still working the finer details out – some guys might be fire resistant but the only attack spell you have is fire. There will certainly be times when you’ll be, perhaps not screwed, but it will be more difficult for you than it might be for players with different skills. There’s no perfect path for you to choose, whatever you do there’s going to be times where it’s going to be difficult for you.

IG: And just how does the combat work? Is it primarily based on timing, combos…
JF: Right now (and this could change), on the 360 controller ‘A’ is jump, ‘X’ is your Scythe, ‘Y’ is your secondary weapon and ‘B’ is Reaper Form and the bumpers are used to dodging. It’s primarily about timing and maximising your combos by linking into different attacks and different weapons. There’s a lot you can and it’s really a matter of learning how to combine the individual attacks into a fluid style.
IG: Are new attacks learned as you level up your abilities?
JF: Yeah, the Ghost Hook is an example of that. If you level up a certain way you can use it as a weapon in combat rather than just as a means of getting around. There are new attacks that can only be learned by unlocking certain points on the skill tree as well.  
IG: What kind of character do you like to play as?
JF: That’s a good question actually, because I’ve been trying to play in as many different ways as possible. Death at his base seems kind of rogue-ish to me so I guess I prefer to play as a quick, agile character that can juggle guys and perform fancy moves. 
When you work on a game you get these weird ‘itches’ so I’m always trying to get the highest combo going by getting a guy into the air and juggling him for as many hits as possible. I guess my lofty goal is get up to a one hundred hit combo.
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IG: From your presentation there were a lot of times when enemies would drop gold or chest would contain gold. What can you spend this on?
JF: There are various hub cities where you buy equipment, items and that could of thing. It’s pretty much a basic exchange system. To be honest we don’t even know if it’s going to be gold that we’ll be using as currency yet. When we did it we were like “why do monsters always have gold?” It’s our own world we do can what we want.
IG: Loot, dungeons, hub worlds, skill trees… it all sounds very RPG. Is this primarily that sort of game?
JF: At its core it’s an action game. That’s where we live as a developer; we want our games to have action. Then there’s the other elements – traversing (read: platforming), puzzles, the RPG stuff – but if it’s not a good action game then it’s not staying true to the Darksiders franchise. We add the RPG elements because we like them and we like they’re cool but you still want to have fun – good forbid this becomes a turn-based game or something like that.

IG: So, there are four horsemen of the apocalypse. Does this mean there’s going to be four games?
JF: We’re still figuring that out. When we started Darksiders 1 the goal was to have all four guys, four horsemen, four players right from the get-go. But, you quickly realise what a lofty task that is. We also want to make sure that we do thing right and that each horsemen is unique – they shouldn’t be copying moves, copying equipment and they should feel very different to play.
Y’know, we’d love to do all four horsemen but we’ll have to wait and see but, that’s the ring we’re reaching for. Hopefully we’ll get there.
IG: This game takes place in the same time period as the first game. Are we going to see any events from Darksiders 1 but from a different perspective?
JF: Possibly, I can’t say yes or no to that [Laughs].
The structure is that’s there’s two timelines running in parallel to each other but every so often there will be times where the two characters (War from the first game and Death from this one) or events will cross over. I can’t comment on specifics though.
If we didn’t do some kind of call-back to the original people would call us out on it…

IG: Where exactly do you guys draw the mythology from? Are you using a specific telling of the four horsemen to base these games on?
JF: It’s mostly just from us, stuff that we make up. Traditionally the four horsemen are War, Death, Famine and Pestilence but if you read the biblical telling of them you find out that they don’t even have names, they’re just associated with those things. So we renamed the other two horsemen Fury and Strife because it’s probably not going to be very exciting to play as Famine, “oh, look at that, I’ve just made you hungry,” you know what I mean? So we had to mix that up. We just let our imaginations go wild.
IG: The third-person action game is a very crowded genre. What do you need to do to stand out?
JF: I think what we’re doing is combining a lot of elements that are difficult to combine, but we’re combing them very well. If you look at what we’ve got there’s combat, there’s traversal, there’s puzzle solving, there’s RPG elements. When you think about it there are not a lot of games that do all that.
If we’re talking just straight third-person action game then yeah, like you say, it’s a very crowded genre but when you look at what Darksiders has it’s kind of its own beast.
Read our Darksiders 2 preview here.

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