Death can’t come quickly enough for Darksiders fans. With Darksiders II recent delay, War’s devoted brother is now slated to make his debut late this summer. We recently had a chance to ask a few questions to Darksiders II’s Producer Ryan Stefanelli who gave us some insight into what the extra time will allow the team at Vigil to work on, as well as some of the creative decisions around the character differences between War and Death. Whereas the original Darksiders was a bit of a sleeper hit, Darksiders II is stacking up to be a blockbuster right out of the gate.
MTV Multiplayer: War and Death play as two distinctly different characters – how did the thinking behind the level design change in preparation for working with a more agile character?
Ryan Stefanelli: It becomes apparent pretty early in Darksiders II that the dungeons are more vertically designed than the first game. Since Death can skitter up walls, leap from ledge to ledge, and run across tightrope-like beams, it would be a crime for players not to use these abilities in traversing around the world. So when you enter a new area or room, you’ll find yourself looking around in 360 degrees to find potential places to explore.
MTV Multiplayer: What was the biggest piece of feedback you received from the community that was addressed in Darksiders II?
Stefanelli: Right after the first Darksiders came out, almost immediately we were seeing people ask, “If I’m a Horseman of the Apocalypse, why don’t I have a horse?” Of course, you did get a steed but not until you were almost halfway through the game. In retrospect, it’s obvious we should have given it to you earlier. So we’ve made sure that doesn’t happen in Darksiders II. Death literally begins the game on the back of his horse, Despair.
MTV Multiplayer: Was there anything from the original that got cut, that you were able to include in this game?
Stefanelli: A majority of the new features in Darksiders II were things that we wanted to include in the first game but just couldn’t due to deadlines. The experience and leveling systems, the skill trees, the loot – all of that was intended for the original, and was naturally at the top of our list for inclusion in the sequel.
MTV Multiplayer: Was changing the loot system a hard decision to make?
Stefanelli: Not at all. It makes character progression not only more exciting, but more personally involving as well. Deciding on your equipment isn’t just a matter of what does the most damage. You have to decide if you need protection from certain elements, want side effects such as healing or wrath regeneration, or even if it makes you look cool. Plus, there’s a kind of slot machine effect where you’ll find yourself killing creatures you don’t necessarily have to just to see what items they’ll drop.
MTV Multiplayer: How do you think the branching magic trees will factor into how people play the game?
Stefanelli: It should be interesting to see how players spec out their Death. Since each skill can have up to three points put into it – with each point in making that ability more powerful – I can see some people having a broad spectrum of skills, and others focusing in on just a few. There will certainly be some heated discussions over how to build the ultimate Death.
MTV Multiplayer: By introducing Despair earlier in the game, did that present any unique level design choices, or new gameplay options?
Stefanelli: Darksiders II has much more open world areas than the first. We’ve created some fantastic vistas for players to see, and plenty of secret areas to find within these worlds, so making it as easy as possible to explore everything was our primary reason for starting players with Despair from the get go.
MTV Multiplayer: How do the hub towns factor into the progression of the game?
Stefanelli: The hub towns serve multiple purposes. They’re usually one of the first places the player will see when they enter a new world, so they showcase the new environment and the denizens therein. They’re also the spot where many of the world’s quests are gained, where equipment is bought and sold, and where training in new combat maneuvers takes place.
MTV Multiplayer: What has the release date delay allowed you to address?
Stefanelli: It’s given us the time to make sure the loot and skills are well balanced, and add a ton of small details and polish to the final game. It’s a ton of little stuff that individually wouldn’t be noticed if they were absent, but when taken as a whole they add to the immersion you’ll feel while playing. For example, our opening level is set in an arctic ice world and we just added in some blowing snow effects. If it weren’t there, you’d still know you were in a cold place, but that small detail really helps bring the area to life.
MTV Multiplayer: What would multiplayer look like if it were to be implemented?
Stefanelli: AMAZING!!! Ha, to be honest we really haven’t put anything to paper in that area. We all have plenty of ideas, of course, but nothing concrete. We’re still too busy finishing up Darksiders II.
MTV Multiplayer: What has it been like to work with Joe Madureira, and how has that relationship changed over the course of the two games?
Stefanelli: Well, I was working with Joe even before Vigil was formed so we’ve had the pleasure of forming the company, making our first game, seeing it succeed, and having the opportunity to create a sequel together. I think our personal and professional relationship is much the same. In other words, we still make fun of each other mercilessly on a daily basis.