Remember the first half-hour of Darksiders? It largely involved hitting things. That's the kind of guy War was, after all: a hulking brute with massive hands and a gigantic sword. When the apocalypse was triggered a touch too early for his liking, he took to the streets - New York, I think - and started smacking around avenging angels, all of whom looked a bit like Transformers. He looked a bit like a Transformer too: squat, thick-limbed, and covered in complicated armour.
The first half hour of Darksiders 2 is a little different. It largely involves scampering over things, up things, around things and across things. Then hitting things. You're Death this time, right? Fellow horseman and friend/brother of War. When War takes the blame for the apocalypse being triggered a touch too early for his liking, you race off on your own journey to prove his innocence. A parallel timeline, but a slightly different adventure.
Death's a lot - well - thinner than War. He's ditched much of the horseman armour during the first few sequences of the game for starters, because Vigil's introducing a new loot system that sees you collecting boots, chest plates, gloves from the enemies you destroy. Kicking things off, then, he looks a bit like an extreme sports star, or Tarzan out of the Disney movie: lean and sinewy and quick.
Looks don't deceive. In the ice caves and frozen mountains that provide the game with its opening environments, Death's all about wall-runs, ledge grabs, and jumping from one shattered buttress to another. Most of the activity is done by holding down the A button and then prodding a thumbstick in the right direction - bridging gaps by spinning from one beam to the next, or vaulting over obstacles to chain two dash moves together. The animation's graceful, but the controls still feel the tiniest bit clumsy. Death may have a much wider move-set, but a little of War's blunt presence remains somewhere between your fingers and the pad.
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One last sermon before Death.
When combat finally starts to appear, Death remains a very different beast from War, attacking in quick slices as he wields his twin sickles or brings them together to form a giant scythe named Harvester. (I made fun of that last time, so I'll leave it be from now on.) War blocked, Death dodges, and it's a design tweak that makes more of an impact than you might expect. Darksiders' combat was basically a game of attrition as you got in close and just hammered away with your attacks. Darksiders 2 is about dancing in and out of range, switching weapons, finding openings.
Around the 30-minute mark, you get to see the difference for yourself as Death fights the game's first boss, a phantom version of War conjured by a tricksy enemy. War pounds the ground and lunges somewhat groggily. Death's all about precision.
When it's over, there's loot on the ground - all 3D modelled, one button to equip immediately, one button to store in the inventory - and the real adventure is about to start. Skill trees, levelling, armour sets? That's all to come - and I'm more excited about it now than I expected to be.