dark­siders II

OXM took a trip to Texas to get hands-on with the apoc­a­lyp­tic ac­tion three­quel

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - Chris Burke

Pub­lisheR THQ Nordic De­vel­oper Gun­fire Games For­mat Xbox One ETA novem­ber 27 2018 Hell hath no fury, as the say­ing be­gins… but the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic hell-on-earth that forms the back­drop to Dark­siders III does ‘hath’ Fury, and she’s go­ing to kick ass in high heels.

De­spite sport­ing surely the most im­prac­ti­cal footwear since Bay­o­netta’s gun-heels, the Horse­woman of the Apoc­a­lypse is more than equipped to take on the Seven Deadly Sins, which, since her brother War sup­pos­edly brought on the apoc­a­lypse in the first game, have now been un­leashed on the world. It’s the third in­stal­ment of a se­ries be­gun by Vigil Games back in 2010, and af­ter Dark­siders and

Dark­siders II (featuring Death as its pro­tag­o­nist), the now-de­funct Vigil mor­phed into Austin, Texas-based Gun­fire Games, which is where OXM had its first hands-on time with the hack’n’slash ac­tion-ad­ven­ture se­quel.

Our time as Fury be­gins on a justabout-rec­og­niz­able Earth, or what’s left of it, in a sub­way sta­tion. There’s icky stuff all over the walls, and bugs run­ning around the place, some of which, as we get into the lit­eral swing of things with our whip, we find to be more nui­sance than nasty. Fury’s whip is a mag­i­cal one that, rather than trail­ing around be­hind her or hav­ing to be looped up In­di­ana Jones-style ev­ery time she sets off run­ning, ap­pears and dis­ap­pears from its more cor­po­real han­dle with a flick of the wrist. It comes in handy not just in the melee com­bat, but for swing­ing across chasms, pits, and from plat­form to plat­form.

Mak­ing our way through the dank sub­way as it in­ter­sects with caves and sew­ers, we en­counter some fast-mov­ing, pounc­ing crea­tures that re­quire skilled tim­ing to dodge. Fury has no means to parry at­tacks, but a quick shoul­der-but­ton hit will have her roll deftly in the re­quired di­rec­tion. But, as we find to our cost, en­e­mies are quick on the fol­low-up, and there’s no guar­an­tee your dodge will get you out of trou­ble. It re­quires pin-point tim­ing. Ditto the op­por­tu­nity to counter. It’s tricky, re­quir­ing prac­tice

The se­ries has so far fo­cused on three of the Four Horse­men, War, Death and Fury. The fourth is Strife

“The bee­tles bloat and glow firey red… be­com­ing ‘bomb bugs’”

and fast re­ac­tions to pull off the best moves with­out get­ting hit, but it’s sat­is­fy­ing when you get it right.

We soon find our way blocked by some sort of sticky web­bing, pre­sum­ably put there by the in­sect crea­tures, though they are ac­tu­ally more beetle than spi­der. One such tiny fly­ing beetle emerges from a sticky nest. In­stinct says ‘kill’. And the next one that emerges tastes the whip be­fore it can flap its tiny wings and beetle up to Fury. And an­other. And an­other, be­fore we re­al­ize these lit­tle fel­las aren’t at­tack­ing Fury, she’s stand­ing in the way of their din­ner—a co­ag­u­lat­ing blob of glow­ing red mat­ter that’s drip­ping hor­ri­bly from a gloopy ap­pendage hang­ing from the ceil­ing. Upon con­sum­ing this gunk, the bee­tles bloat and glow firey red… be­com­ing ‘bomb bugs’. We can pick these bugs up, and quickly hurl them as weapons or in­cen­di­ary de­vices to burn away the web­bing—al­low­ing progress through pre­vi­ously hid­den tun­nels. It’s a fire-mak­ing de­vice that crops up a lot dur­ing our playthrough, and re­quires mak­ing friends with more than one of these ac­tu­ally cute lit­tle crit­ters, be­fore we make them ex­plode.

Flame on

We meet our first ma­jor boss and Deadly Sin, Wrath. He’s a huge, al­most mechanoid ar­mored be­he­moth, as

“Fury’s whip, styl­ized look and hair are a trio of key de­sign con­cepts”

an­gry as his sin would sug­gest. It’s a tough bat­tle re­quir­ing deft tim­ing with dodge moves and some heal­ing and for­ti­fi­ca­tion pick-ups, but it’s fol­low­ing this that we get our first big sur­prise re­veal. Fury re­ceives her first ‘hol­low’, which hap­pens to give her flame power, and while she has this magic equipped, her flow­ing hair changes from its usual vi­brant and grav­i­ty­de­fy­ing pur­ple locks to ac­tual flames.

Fury’s hair is un­doubt­edly one of the most strik­ing as­pects of Fury’s de­sign, which was helped in the con­cept stages by Dark­siders cre­ator Joe Madureira, aka comic artist Joe Mad. This, along with her whip and styl­ized look, is part of a trio of key de­sign con­cepts.

“We joked early on that it was like we’ve got three main char­ac­ters,” ex­plains John Pearl, de­sign di­rec­tor at Gun­fire Games. “We have Fury, we have her hair, and we have the whip, and those all have to look cool when they are put to­gether.” It’s a strong look cer­tainly, one that has the po­ten­tial to be­come truly iconic in time. Other hol­lows that Fury will ob­tain will specif­i­cally al­ter the na­ture of her magic and na­ture of her at­tacks, and, pre­sum­ably, hair.

The next part of our playthrough takes Fury into the cat­a­combs. This time, Fury’s world is a more con­tin­u­ous jour­ney in a map that links up in a more co­her­ent fash­ion – gone is the hub area me­chanic of the pre­vi­ous games, from which the player ac­cessed dis­tinct ‘dun­geons’, to pro­vide a more seam­less jour­ney through the world.

This place is crawl­ing with skele­tons—al­most cute in de­sign, and of­ten in­dif­fer­ent to Fury’s pres­ence. Here we find an­other ma­jor dif­fer­ence from the es­tab­lished me­chanic of pre­vi­ous games and other hack’n’slash clas­sics whose lin­eage is a part of the se­ries’ DNA. There are no gated fights, in­stead, the en­e­mies are pre­sented more or­gan­i­cally.

The skele­tons, rather than rush­ing to at­tack, are busy do­ing things like kow­tow­ing to the glow­ing swords held by stat­ues around door­ways, which form the games’ levers, and which you strike to ac­ti­vate. Oth­ers are lit­er­ally just sit­ting around mind­ing their own busi­ness. Dark life Of course, our first in­stinct is to lay into ev­ery en­emy we see, but in Dark­siders III, that’s not en­tirely nec­es­sary. This lack of gated fights of­fers up a more Dark Souls- es­que ex­pe­ri­ence, com­plete with a cer­tain amount of com­bat dif­fi­culty. While some skele­tons will eas­ily break apart with Fury’s whip, or al­ter­na­tive flam­ing nunchuk at­tack, oth­ers will parry, and at­tack two at a time, cre­at­ing some quite dif­fi­cult, smaller-scale fights. But, we’re still go­ing to want to whip the hell out of any and all en­e­mies though, aren’t we?

But hack­ing away is re­ally not work­ing for us, and we die a lot in our playthrough. The big­ger demi-bosses we en­counter hit hard, of­ten knock­ing Fury into a health-sap­ping ‘fall’— luck­ily she tele­ports back to the ledge, but it makes such bruis­ing bosses all the more tricky. When Fury ‘dies’, it’s back to the last check­point, which of­ten means a long trawl back to where you shuf­fled off your im­mor­tal coil—a rea­son­able if some­times in­fu­ri­at­ing pun­ish­ment for fail­ure.

For fans of hack’n’slash dun­geon crawlers and Metroid­va­nia style games, Dark­siders III will be fun to play, feel­ing like a much more sat­is­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence than the ear­lier en­tries in the se­ries, with a more dy­namic feel thanks to its one-big-dun­geon world. De­spite the dark, sub­ter­ranean set­tings of the ar­eas we played,

Dark­siders’ vis­ual flair is ev­i­dent, im­prov­ing on but stay­ing faith­ful to the aes­thetic of the pre­vi­ous games. There’s fan­tas­ti­cal re­al­ism here in spades, real-world physics, and a gritty sense of the post-apoc­a­lypse com­bined with bom­bas­tic heav­e­nand-hell mythol­ogy and those Joe Mad-in­spired char­ac­ter de­signs.

When we fi­nally end our playthrough, reach­ing an up­wardlead­ing lad­der that sug­gests we’ll be above ground when we track down our next deadly sin, we’re su­per-ex­cited to take Fury on more ad­ven­tures. And maybe, just maybe, find out where she left her horse.

Be­low Fury’s hair re­flects the power she’s cur­rently wielding, in this case fire.

Be­low Fury’s whip at­tack is pow­er­ful, but she’d bet­ter watch out for those claws.

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