Concept artist and Vigil founder Joe Madureira and lead designer Hadyn Dalton sat down with us for two hours, taking us through the game and showing us levels that haven't been released to the public just yet. We got to take control of protagonist War and do battle with enemies, solve puzzles, and even take his massive warhorse Ruin for a spin. Check out the full writeup after the break, and be sure to check out the gallery, full of exclusive images from the game, just below. If you've been itching for a Joe Madureira Battle Chasers fix, this might be about as close as you can get.
"Think of The Watcher as a more evil version of the Genie in Aladdin. It's kind of like if he was a dirtbag."
Naturally, you're stripped of most of your powers, but you're joined by a mischievous demon called "The Watcher," who's hidden inside a massive gauntlet (Battle Chasers fans know how much Joe Mad loves huge gloves) shackled to your wrist. This guy swallows the souls of the creatures you kill and, quite conveniently offers helpful advice. "Think of The Watcher as a more evil version of the Genie in Aladdin. It's kind of like if he was a dirtbag," explained Madureira.
Though War's final look is still being nailed down, we're particularly interested in his choice of weaponry. Take, for instance, the massive Chaos Eater sword that builds up Chaos as you strike enemies, doing more damage as the meter fills up. If you don't use it enough, the sword starts to "starve" and will do less and less damage. According to Dalton, "It's a bit like an in-game combo meter as well." War's power gauntlets provide his secondary attack, which is in addition to the ability to build up Wrath and release it as a powerful shockwave. It's a good thing to use when you're getting swarmed. Need more killing utensils? Try picking up some of the parking meters, cars, gates or rubble scattered throughout the environment -- they work for ranged attacks too.
"You'll see that there are quite a lot of puzzles in it. I think that part surprised a lot of people. It's a lot more like Metroid or Zelda in that aspect."
A lot of those puzzles involve the different weapons that War wields. For instance, he acquires an item called the "Crossblade" that works like the Glaive in Krull ... if you're old enough to remember that movie (if not, think Dark Sector). It's a huge whirling blade that War can control somewhat, and it always boomerangs back to him. He can also charge it up (by holding down the right trigger) and hurl it buzzsaw-style into an enemy -- or several if you select multiple targets. This comes particularly in handy when you need to hit several switches within seconds of each other to trigger a door. For more violent purposes, you can also hurl it through a torch, providing an incendiary boost when it strikes different enemies / puzzle objects next.
Some of the other weapons you'll encounter throughout the game include different guns, like the Gatling gun we later wielded against massive worm creatures, Death's Scythe, and an "uber-sword." All of the weapons can be slotted and upgraded after you encounter "The Smith" and his massive anvil. You'll want to enlist his help in banging out new items and carving out weapon slots to do damage with. According to Madureira, there will also be roughly six or seven guns in the game, including three BFGs, the weapons wielded by the angels. Wait, angels with blazing guns? We didn't cover this in Sunday School.
Helping War in his task is Ruin, a warhorse with blazing hooves. He'll get you across the landscape a lot faster and even has his own sets of attacks. He can even be summoned when you jump off a building -- land on him, gunfighter style! Clearly, he's a bit tougher that your faithful puppy dog in Fable 2, and you'll find yourself looking for excuses to summon him and trample multiple enemies. Plus, there's something satisfying about firing a Gatling gun at distant enemies while riding on the back of a horse whose feet are on fire. Maybe it's just us.
"We're thinking it will take about 15+ hours for players to get through the game, we feel like that's a very good target."
By now you might be thinking that it's impossible to take a look at Darksiders without comparing it to God of War II, and you'd be right ... not that it's such a bad thing, especially for you poor, PS2-less folks. On face value, they're very similar games, sharing approaches to puzzle-solving (how do I get to that chest way up in that corner?) and a combat system that includes multiple weapons and combos. Kratos finds the Wings of Icarus, and War finds a similar ability called a "Tempest Cloak" that gives him dark, demonic wings and allow him to glide. War has a chain-based weapon that allows him to yank enemies closer ... the list goes on.
Comparisons to other games aside, and there are plenty to make, the developers at Vigil are hoping that Darksiders is more than the sum of its parts. You've been through a Zelda dungeon before, sure ... but have you ever done it with a combat system like God of War's? With an early 2009 launch, Vigil and THQ may avoid being overwhelmed by this year's top titles, and get a chance to have the spotlight all on Darksiders.