Darksiders II's Death Carries A Heavy Weight On His Shoulders (And It's Not Just Dead Bodies)

Developer Vigil Games' next Darksiders title retains the hack and slash formula from its predecessor, but it ventures into a new territory with its storyline. And even after just barely catching a glimpse of it, I already want to know more.

My demo on the E3 showfloor starts at the beginning of the game. Death, the new horseman protagonist players get to ride as, is on a mission to free his brother from unjust accusations of starting the apocalypse. But the first obstacle in Death's course to the Tree of Life has him meet face to face with the keeper of secrets, also known as the Crowfather.

Throughout Death's riding, jumping, and scaling of walls and cliffs, an ominous voice resonates through icy blue canyons and caverns, whispering of troubling secrets. An occasional appearance of a figure in a crowfeathered frock indicates that the panicked whispers are coming from him.

Before Death will face off against the crazed Crowfather, he platforms across the frozen level, using wall runs, mantles, bounces, and climbing to navigate. He'll slash skull-like enemies with his scythe, and hammer down on them with a heavier secondary weapon. Since this was early on in the game, I wasn't able to tinker with some of his more impressive abilities—like transforming into a reaper, though some in-battle cutscenes will tease this ability—but it's exciting to read about what he can eventually level towards. Having a personal horde of exploding zombies and being able to split into two entities are just a few of the interesting abilities.

Since my demonstration only lasted about 20-30 minutes, I didn't get a chance to meet NPCs and explore the world—which is supposed to be over double the size of the first Darksiders—but I didn't need it to get excited about investing more time in the game. My tiny peek at Death's role in this game, as well as his responsibilities that the storyline seems to tell me have probably occasionally gone awry, did that for me.

Darksiders II's Death Carries A Heavy Weight On His Shoulders (And It's Not Just Dead Bodies)

Before my boss battle with the Crowfather, he pleaded with me to destroy the green-glowing amulet chained around his neck. Even with Death's Cubone-looking mask on, I could see pain in his eyes while he explained that he couldn't alleviate the Crowfather's stress by destroying the amulet. It looks like he wants to, and hates that he knows he can't. There's a deeper plotline here that I want to poke through. What's the amulet exactly? Why does it trouble him? Why does the Crowfather have it, and why is it driving him crazy?

By the boss fight's end, the amulet transferred its powers into Death, embedding it into his chest. It's unclear what exactly this will mean for him, or what the deal bartered between Death and Crowfather was that handed the amulet off to him in the first place, but what we do know is that the amulet contains all the souls of Death's annihilated race: the Nephilim. All of his brothers' souls are captured in there, and now trapped in his own body. It's a harrowing thought, to know that the deaths the four horseman were responsible for—the deaths of his own kind—are now flowing through his brain and undoubtedly his conscious.

You can expect more coverage from us before the game's release in August.