Darksiders II Interview (PC)

With the Darksiders II release getting ever closer, we got in touch with Haydn Dalton, Lead Designer at Vigil Games, to discuss the much-anticipated sequel.

Strategy Informer: How excited are you that Darksiders II is finally coming out?

Haydn Dalton: Very excited! I mean, it's just like anything, when you've been putting in all that effort and getting up that hill, to be able to push it over the top is very exciting. The team is really excited, there's a great buzz around the office.

We think the marketing on this product was much more concise and consistent. I think everyone is really happy with how everything has fallen into place. Just the community and fans, I go on a lot of forums to see what people are saying about the game and how it's being received. So far, it's been absolutely brilliant.

So yeah, we're all buzzing right now.

Strategy Informer: Did the recent delay help the game progress?

Haydn Dalton: Absolutely. I see us trying to sculpt something from a block of ice. We have a visual idea at the start of what we want to do. When you start to chip away and form the shape, you get to a point where you can see it, and you clearly know what you can refine and take away to make it awesome. We were at a point where we had it, but we knew it was still rough around the edges. We needed a little more time to keep chipping away at it and refine it.

THQ had the guts to say, 'we could do with it out now but we'll give you that extra bit of time.' That shows a lot of belief in the team and what we're doing. We're very grateful for that. We worked very hard for that extra time we had.

Strategy Informer: In hindsight, would you say the original Darksiders could have used extra time also?

Haydn Dalton: Yeah! The first one was kinda like we were punching above our weight. We were a new team, new technology, a new IP. I mean, each one of those things was considered a risk, we were red-lining everything. We had a small team, we only had 65 people, so we had to work a lot harder. We just didn't have the sheer size and hands on deck.

The thing that was always very clear from Darksiders is the fact that it's fun. Even us as devs, we played those levels so many times. When we played them again, sometimes people wouldn't see you for a long time because they'll be focusing on the graphics in one level or the animation here, but when we actually sat down to play it all in one go, we just thought this is goddamn cool.

Strategy Informer: Was there any aspect of the original game where you didn't achieve what you wanted?

Haydn Dalton: Erm...(pause)

Well, we wanted more NPC's in the game. It made the world feel a little bit, well it's supposed to be desolate, but it made it feel shallow. You didn't really get much back story about what was going on. It's always nice to give the player an impression that things are going on irrelevant of what they do, you want them to feel like it's a bigger world that exists without them.

Having NPC's doing their own thing and also giving you side story content always makes it feel like there's more depth to the world. Now, that's what we did in this one. We looked at a few things we thought was lacking in the first one, like side quests that we didn't have time to do in the first one. They were probably the big things I think.

Strategy Informer: Do you think the RPG elements in Darksiders II make it more accessible, and that it will appeal to players who overlooked the first game?

Haydn Dalton: It might draw in a new crowd. The big thing we wanted to do was make sure that people who liked the first one will like the second one. So the heart and soul, which I consider to be the level design and puzzles, which is what the game is known for, that was the most important thing we wanted to nail. Then we lay other things on top of that and try to compliment the style of game.

That's the reason we have things like quick equip items, we don't want to keep breaking the experience by going into the inventory mode. You can turn the numbers off if you don't like the numbers, the player doesn't need to worry about stats all the time. We tried to keep it feeling like a action/adventure, but the loot adds depth.

We've given players a big world, if they want to spend more time and do those types of things they can do that. It's not massively important to do that.

I think with stuff like that you get a lot more verbal communication between players. 'I got this, did you get that, oh this one, I've never heard of that', or whatever it might be. It generates more energy between players and there's a random element to it.

Strategy Informer: How would you define the genre of Darksiders II? It seems hard to pin down.

Haydn Dalton: The thing is, I think genre lines are blurring a lot. I consider them both action/adventure, but this one, yeah I don't know, it definitely has got heavy RPG overtones. I mean, I don't even know what defines an RPG any more, it's hard. I mean, like people adding loot to Borderlands, things are getting blurred. I'd still consider it an action/adventure.

Strategy Informer: When you set out with Darksiders II, what was the main goal? Do you feel you've achieved that?

Haydn Dalton: The main goals I wanted was flexibility for the player and how they play the game, plus how much depth is in the game. I think we've done that. You guys got a very small taster of what's to offer from the loot side and quests, but it really starts to open up even more. The higher the level of loot, the more tiers of stats we wanted. You can spend a lot of time trying to figure that out, and then with the skill system, we only had four active skills in the last one, this time we've got double that and you can bump those active skills as well. I've played the game using lots of different combinations, maxing out one type of stat here and playing with one skill set, then trying exactly the same again with another skill set. The outcomes have been quite a bit different. It's good that different things will work for different people.

Even with that kind of stuff going on in the office, it's been absolutely brilliant. The first one was more about how you fight the guys and which one skill you used, there wasn't really that flexibility there.

Strategy Informer: Comparing the two games, it seems the team are a lot more confident now. Darksiders was a slow burner, do you think people are now more willing to give it a chance?

Haydn Dalton: I think so, yeah. I still find people online or on Twitter who are getting it for the first time on Steam or through a friend, and it's great to still see that energy being generated out there. Even on the forums people are still saying, 'make sure you go back and play the first one.'

That's been really exciting for us. It's weird because the fans are really passionate, it's been awesome, they've really latched on to it. I think we've hit a vein, maybe because of something like the old-school element to the game, I'm not sure. People of a certain age will remember those games very fondly and we've kinda ignited that. I do think the type of action/adventure we're doing, single-player certainly, is a dying breed.

Part Two will be live on the site tomorrow.