Interview

Darksiders II Interview (PS3)

If you missed Part One of our huge Darksiders II interview, make sure you check it out before you read this. Let's resume where we left off, with Vigil Games' Lead Designer Haydn Dalton.

Strategy Informer: The original game came out the same day as Bayonetta in the US, do you think that had any impact on how it performed? Right now, Darksiders II doesn't have much competition. Do you think it's better place to perform well?

Haydn Dalton: It's weird because, I think Bayonetta was the only game released on the same day, and I don't think there was much else around it. I think we've got a reasonable release, there's maybe one of two titles around us, even though August was originally like, 'Yay, it's just us!'

So it's in a similar position really. Obviously you never want to go into the same opening spot as some juggernaut like Call of Duty.

 

Strategy Informer: God of War III release two months after as well...

Haydn Dalton: It was, I think it was two months after. Another one was Dante's Inferno, I think was released a month after, something like that.

So, it was kinda like, 'If I buy that I might not get this', or some people might have held off. Because again, the way it was marketed last time was that everything pointed towards it being a hack 'n slash, or a very action orientated game.

If people can only buy one game in three months they're going to look at what's coming out, and they've got to make a decision. I can see why that would hit the sales of the first one.

Now, in this one, I think people understand what the game is now. There's been a lot of word out about it, loads of previews out there, so I think that's helped it a lot.

I think there's already a little bit of buy-in from people, in the first one you don't get that, you don't stack it up. They don't know what we've done as a team, what is a Darksiders game? I think that's helped a hell of a lot.

Strategy Informer: So there isn't a direct competitor you're worried about at the moment?

Haydn Dalton: No, not really. I mean, people have said, 'Well your combat isn't as good as Bayonetta', but Bayonetta is a full on melee/brawler game, ours is not. It's kinda like saying, when you play Grand Theft Auto, are you judging the driving against Burnout Paradise or Gran Turismo?

No, you don't because they're doing all these other things. As an experience, it's awesome. You don't just pick one thing out and say, 'Well the guns aren't as good as X', so it gets a little bit annoying for us as developers that people take one thing out of ours and challenge it up against a game that really focuses all their effort on that.

Strategy Informer: Now the game is practically complete, is there anything you're not happy about or feel you could have improved on?

Haydn Dalton: I don't think there's anything I'm unhappy with, but I think a game is never finished. Anyone who tells you that probably lying to you.

A developer will work on it forever if they could, there's always something you can make better or enhance, but I think we've definitely found a place where we think as good a job as we could have done with the time. We're really happy with that extra time.

Strategy Informer: Getting hands on with the game, Darksiders II definitely feels like a complete package, far more than the original.

Haydn Dalton: Well that's definitely a good thing. The thing is, I think we've got a lot more cohesion with this one. It might be down to the team being more confident, but it's also things like we've grown into our skin a little bit.

In the first one our characters were very stylised, but some of our backgrounds were semi-realistic. This time everything is slightly exaggerated. There's lots of small visual cues in the environment that weren't in the first one, and also just the texture style, we used a mixture of painting and some were taken from real things. This time, everything is hand painted.

When you see it altogether, it's more cohesive visually. From a composer point of view, on the first one, you had three different people working on it. We had an interior composer and two external composers, so the music was very orchestral, but then we had high-tempo combat music.

In this one we just got Jesper Kyd to do everything. All of that is consistent now, it is all cohesive. Each theme each area really well.

Strategy Informer: The switches in music seem to be really subtle this time, giving every location a unique feel.

Haydn Dalton: Well, that's what drove us to Jesper. It'd be really melodic and then he'd use something really weird, but it works. I don't know any other composer that does that, certainly in games. That's what really made us say, 'This has got to be the guy.'

It's funny because when we were choosing a composer, we had five or six different ones. We'd give out the tracks to everybody, and wouldn't tell them who did it. We chose which music we liked best, and his was the stuff everybody liked. We were drawn to it, and that's how we chose it.

 

Strategy Informer: Do you feel the soundtrack is as important as the art style?

Haydn Dalton: When you do a complete product, you cannot sleight in anything, that's what makes an experience. Having all those receptor things firing off cohesively as a unit. The textile element with the visuals and the look, the sound of things that are giving you an impression of more and depth. Even the movement of grass and weather, or whatever it might be, all these things add to the experience massively.

Strategy Informer: With the financial troubles at THQ, do you feel there's more pressure for you to perform?

Haydn Dalton: I think for THQ, the pressure's really on them. We obviously know about it, but our biggest pressure is ourselves. We want to do a good game, and we're our worst critics.

We see what people say about the game, but believe me, we say a lot of worse things to each other. When we're in the office we really cane each other and say, 'How could you do that? It doesn't even make sense'. We really get at each other's necks a lot.

So, we push ourselves more. It doesn't affect us in that way because we know what we need to look to personally, and we see what other people are doing, the bar's really high out there, so we need to make sure we do a good job. That pressure's really on us.

Strategy Informer: Is the future of Darksiders dependent on how this one sells?

Haydn Dalton: Absolutely. We've got ideas for what we can do within the Darksiders universe, and it's a huge universe. We've got ideas for different types of games as well, we've got a lot of mechanical things that are the boil and are ready to go depending on how this sells. With the focus on DLC we want to sustain the amount of time people can spend playing Darksiders.

Hopefully within that time we'll find how it's been received, how people are liking it, so a lot of our future as a games studio will be dependent on how this goes.

Strategy Informer: If the series continues, will it always be based on the four horseman?

Haydn Dalton: Erm...(pause)

Yeah, because that's basically what Darksiders is. This is the name given for this collection of people who work for the Charred Council, so yeah, I think it's really going to revolve around the four horseman- whether that's singularly or altogether.

Strategy Informer: Is there an incentive to play through the game more than once?

Haydn Dalton: Yep, New Game +. There's actually certain loot you can only get on New Game +, there's a component called The Crucible, which you unlock partway through the first playthrough. Ut's kinda like a battle arena that has levels to it, and you will unlock the real deep levels of it through New Game +, as you have to be at a certain experience level to get to the latter levels.

There's some legendary items to loot, but these are only useful on the second playthrough. So yeah, there's definitely a lot of reasons for that. New Game + was important for us because all of the effort from the first playthrough can be brought over and used, because after finishing the first game, there's wasn't really much reason to go back.

Strategy Informer: I just wanted to say, the ending to the first game was amazing!

Haydn Dalton: Haha, I know! I remember reading the script for that, we were going through it for hours, I remember finishing the script and going, 'Bloody hell, that's awesome!'

I read the script and thought it was awesome, but I remember seeing the first rough cut of the cutscene, and I remember getting goosebumps. That was an absolutely awesome and satisfying ending.

It'll be hard to top that. It's funny because it's in so many 'Top 10 Best Ending Ever' pieces, and it's awesome to be nominated for something like that.

Strategy Informer: Have you tried to produce something like that again?

Haydn Dalton: We certainly took that into consideration. I mean, how do we top something like that? It's really hard because it was a combination of all things up to that point, that give you that feeling.

I mean, what War said at the end, with that setting and the potential of what might happen, it was all so big and grand. It was hard, we definitely said how are people going to think about this when we've had that? It did make us ponder a few things.

 

Strategy Informer: Final question: why should our readers buy your game?

Haydn Dalton: Well the simple answer is because it's bloody good! I think you'll get value for money, I think it's a really high quality level. It's a more refined product than the first one, there's a hell of a lot more depth than the first one.

I think people will get a lot for their money. They can sit in a room, and because it's single-player, they can just enjoy it all. Our game players are getting 20 hours, with no side quests. Someone told me earlier that somebody completed all the core and side-quests, and it took them 32 hours.

A huge thank you to Haydn and THQ for setting the interview up, your time is much appreciated. Darksiders II is available on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 from 21st August, 2012.

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