Our Interview with Darksiders II’s Jeremy Greiner
Our lovely Sydneyside staffmember Rebecca recently had the pleasure of attending a very special Darksiders II event (more on that later). Aside from getting her hands on some extremely sought after soon-to-be-released games (of which we are highly jealous) she was also very lucky to interview Darksiders II Creative Manager Jeremy Greiner. Check out what he had to say about THQ’s upcoming action-packed release.
So, we’ve just a play of the Darksiders II demo. It’s look really good! How are you feeling? It’s like your baby!
Yeah, it’s finally to that point where I can finally let the baby go. It’s hard as a developer you never feel like the game is done. If the publisher didn’t give us a ship date we’d never finish a game because it’s software, right. You can keep iterating on it and making it better but ultimately you finally get to a point where it’s like ‘All right, it’s time to let his baby go”. And the best thing for me is being able to see consumer reaction or you guys playing it and being able to see the reaction for the first time. And yeah, really looking forward to the 16th of August.
Can sleep easy after that for a while!
Yeah, yeah for a few minutes maybe.
With the first Darksiders that was obviously very popular with a very passionate fan base going in to Darksiders II did that put more pressure on you guys? How did it affect the mindset going in?
Yeah, Darksiders I was kind of like a sleeper hit, I think. Didn’t have the hugest marketing push behind it like we obviously have a massive push behind Darksiders II, pre orders here in Australia are extremely high but no I don’t think anyone could put on more pressure than we put on ourselves. Ultimately we just want to make a game that we want to play so it’s a game made for gamers by gamers. There’s really not much pressure other than living up to your own expectations and the bar that you set for yourself.
A labour of love more than anything.
Yeah! I mean…I say it and it’s so cheesy but as our genre becomes more set piece oriented every year…it’s becoming more like computer space it’s becoming more and more photo real, more and more set piecey and cinematic. Like the action adventure genre is really like just an action genre now. You know? So we’re bringing the adventure back into it which is really cool because it’s almost like a throwback. You know, it’s a bit more cerebral. You don’t feel a sense of accomplishment in Darksiders because you just wasted 50 dudes you feel accomplishment because you figured out a puzzle on your own without going to youtube or cheating. You know, without like taking the easy way out. So, it’s cool you get the thrill but just in a different way.
There’s a big change in the environments as well. We’re getting away from Earth. We’re in these other worlds and realms. Why the change and could you tell us a bit about how they were created and the process of the design?
We actually had the first game on Earth for, just very easy reason, we wanted to make the game identifiable. We didn’t want to throw too much out there too quick. So now that we’ve set this stage and we have the fiction, we have the story of War on Earth that allowed us to really open up and explore the possibilities. You know, Death as the character in Darksiders II what better than to have him go through the seedy underworld, go to these very fantastical realms and to design those it’s a collaborative process. The studio, Vigil, think of ourselves as an art studio first so that lines/lands very well into creating very visually distinctive realms in our art style, our palette. It’s cool because we have Angel Realm which is obviously bright and vibrant a demon realm which is obviously forboding and red, we have the dead plains which is, you know, the dead plains and Death feels quite at home there and then the Makers Realm which you guys played today which is a lush forest type of world but it’s also being taken over by corruption so you can see that it’s kind of aging and withering away. It’s always a lot of work but it’s always a lot of fun.
With Darksiders II there’ll be skill trees and looting involved in it now. Why add these in Darksiders II? Was it something that you wanted in its predecessor?
A lot of what’s in Darksiders II from the RPG element stand point are things that we wanted in the first game but when you’re a brand new studio and you’re building your own engine from the ground up and you’re creating a brand new IP there’s only so much you can get into the title. Loot was definitely something we wanted in the second game. We’ve had a couple guys on that 24/7 since we started. So some stuff was left on the cutting room floor in the first one and some was brand new and unique. And when you introduce a new character like Death who moves completely different than War, speaks completely different, totally different tenor you have to design a lot of new things and where you and I could start Darksiders I with the same War from start to finish if we played Darksiders II for an hour our Deaths are going to be completely different.
Talking about the character Death he seems quite interesting. He carries a lot of guilt for what happened before (killing his own kin) and with his mask, that’s connected to that?
Yeah! It’s like donning an executioner’s hood. You know, and he wears the mask as, kind of like he’s shamed by what he has done. As you play through Darksiders, what you’ll do is…there are definite tones of redemption and atonement in this game which will unveil through the fiction but Death is quite the tormented soul. He’s very good at killing and he did it because he had to but he definitely feels guilt.
They play quite definitely. Death is a lot more agile and War felt a bit more kind of brute force.
Yeah, War was forward that fast. He’d block. Death is super cunning and agile. Like, he dodges. He’s all over the place and same with their personalities, you know, War was very honour bound and followed the rules and Death is sarcastic, arrogant and he’ll break the rules to get what he wants. It’s just like, what he wants to do in this game, in the fiction is that he wants to clear War’s name so a normal person would go out and find what the truth is and then go that route. Death is like “I don’t care. I’m just going to erase the crime.” If the crime is erased then War’s not in trouble anymore so that’s ultimately why he’s trying to resurrect humanity. Not to save humans but to clear his brother.
The possessed weapons, that seems very interesting. A bit of inventory management as well with it. Did you want to talk a little bit about that?
Sure, yeah. Possessed weapons are our highest tier of loot. They’re cool; we have elite weapons, legendary weapons. Not our regular classes and the possessed weapons make sure nothing goes to waste. You can tailor the weapon to your own play style whether you want different arcane abilities or what not. It’s really good, so nothing goes to waste. You can also trade in your loot in to the NPCs at hub town in each of the 4 realms. It’s one of those things; you never want to feel like you’re picking up something for no reason. It gives a purpose to everything and it also gives purpose to combat. It’s kind of that slot machine thing where each time you pull the lever and you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get but you’re hoping for the best and possessed weapons are great. I like building up my secondary weapons, axe- things like that.
With the inclusion of looting, skill trees and what we were talking about before the possessed weapons you can customise your own Death. Has this had any effect on weapon design so it works together and doesn’t look out of place?
Yeah, it’s actually been a challenge. You can’t have the quick striking bucklers and a heavy axe or a hammer and have them all feel the same. It just wouldn’t work. So when you pick up an axe you feel the weight of it. The animation set is much slower. So yeah, with all those different secondary weapons we had to put in animation sets for each and even some of them of the same size have different animations just to make it feel unique and feel right. But ultimately too when Death wields it it feels the way it should. If War is swinging a hammer it feels like it’s coming really, really fast. Death has kind of heave ho to it so, that’s for sure.
With the changes in the weapons, the skills etc; and the enemies that we’re coming across did you have to balance it out?
Yeah, when you’re looking at all the different sizes of enemies in the game. We have small guys we have many mini-bosses, bosses. You have to make sure hit detection and all that is there but it’s cool because each zone you get introduced to new enemies and they all behave a little bit differently so a lot of times, you know, using an axe isn’t the way to go you need the quick strike. So we definitely designed enemies to be combated with a certain weapon. It’ll at least make it easier.
With all that going on it could be easy to feel there isn’t a real threat
Ultimately, you’re Death so you’re pretty bad ass as it is but the thing is the way we really combat that and combat say, you get like a really advanced piece of loot is that we have the experience system so you have to level up in order to take care of baddies using the best weapons out there. We have it scaled pretty darn well. As you level up, we level up – the enemies you’ll be seeing. But if you go back after you’ve levelled up, which you can always go back and do some more adventuring, you’ll find when sparing “All right, I can cut through these guys like butter” now.
What do you hope players take away from their time with Darksiders II when it comes out?
I always like it when a game goes to market and you can see what everyone is thinking but I think what I hope to see and what you will see is that is that this is a true sequel. The game is so much bigger, we have all these different new features in it, we have a brand new protagonist. It’s going to feel very similar and dissimilar at the same time but it’s going to feel like a brand new game. A lot of times out there we get sequels and we feel like it’s just a 1.5. It’s the easiest thing to do to build on what you already have. Do new level design and you’re good to go. We built everything from scratch, from the ground up again. It would’ve been a lot easier to do another game with War.
Was the part of reasoning behind Darksiders II with Death being set at the same time?
Yeah. I mean, in the end we want to tell the story of all 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. It’d be a lot easier just to stick on one but we wanted all 4 and we wanted them to sound different and have a different personality and different play style and to do that it’s a heck of a lot of work and it’s super risky. One of the great a-ha moments was when we got all of the mechanics into the engine and we played as Death for the first time and was like “Okay, it does actually work”. I think just circling back to your original question, I think gamers are going to be really stoked about this because it’s a true sequel and we’re aware how much everyone is shelling out on these games. We do it ourselves, we buy games ourselves and it’s a huge investment. That’s why we have a ton of content and there are tons of
reasons to replay the game and it’s definitely not a 1.5. The DLC that we have coming has not even been developed yet so it hasn’t been carved out of the main game like, you know, which happens sometimes in the games industry. It’s all brand new unique content that the guys are working on as we speak.
Any rough dates for when that will come out?
Uh, when it’s done. A lot of times in marketing talk we end up saying it will be done in 30 days or 45 days but that’s never good for the software. When the first pack is done it’ll be called Argul’s Tomb and anyone that pre-orders the game will get it for free. Anyone who pre-orders will be upgraded to limited edition right away and they’ll have our first DLC drop for free.
Save Game would like to thank THQ Australia and those involved with putting together an absolutely amazing event. Special thanks are extended to Jeremy Greiner for taking the time to speak with us, in addition to Luke and Tess for extending an invitation to the event. One thing’s for sure – THQ Australia sure know how to throw an event.
You can catch up on your Darksiders II knowledge by visiting the game’s official website. If you haven’t already – pre-order a copy to ensure that you’re ready to embrace Death when he visits August 16th.