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Just when you think you know where this live-action short from Somewhat Awesome Films is going, it, uh, surprises you. Vigil Games added a deeper level of customization to Darksiders II and its central character apparently can't get enough of all the goodies he finds. Except for Resident Evil 6. Can't say I blame him on that one.
PC strategy gods Relic Entertainment look to be moving deeper into the world of free-to-play games, if a number of job descriptions on the company's site are anything to go by.
(They usually are).
They're looking for a Creative Director, Executive Producer and Senior Designer, all of which are specifically tagged as "Free-to-Play" roles.
It's of course not the first time Relic has dabbled in the field; the doomed Company of Heroes Online title was free-to-play before it closed down in 2011.
But that was a conversion of an existing product. Hiring new staff specifically to work in the field implies something a little more serious.
Wouldn't it be a cruel stab in the guts to, after years of asking for a Homeworld sequel, get one only for it to be free-to-play? I...wow, sorry for that. That was a dark place we all just went. I'm actually a little upset now, and am going to go sit down and convince myself it'd surely be something else.
Seems Relic's Expanding Its Free-to-Play Plans [Giant Bomb]
The game features a bleak, post-apocalyptic Moscow. The game itself, though, isn't technically getting the adaptation. The book it was based on—also called Metro 2033—is.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that the movie will be produced by MArk Johnson, who worked on Galaxy Quest and the Chronicles of Narnia films. The film will be written by F. Scott Frazier, who doesn't have that many writing credits to his name just yet.
The sequel to Metro 2033 the game, Metro: Last Light, is due in 2013. No word if the film and games will attempt to tie in to each other, but I'm going to just go ahead and assume and hope not.
MGM, 'Narnia' Producer Pick Up Rights to Russian Sci-Fi Novel 'Metro 2033' (Exclusive) [The Hollywood Reporter]
Good news: true to their word, Vigil has issued the first update for the PC version of Darksiders II, addressing a number of problems players have had with that version of the game. Among the fixes: easier key-mapping, in-game crashes, and crucially, the broken v-sync, which resulted in unfixable screen-tearing for some (but not all) players.
The full list of fixes:
Vigil says that they are still working to address other problems they're hearing about, so if you've still got an issue with the game, let them know in the bug reporting section of their forums.
As one who was affected by the v-syncing bug (And I should point out, since I saw several commenters suggest it: No, there was no way to fix it by forcing V-sync in the catalyst control center), I was happy to boot the game up and see it running in 1080p with no screen-tearing. A game this vibrant and loaded with art shouldn't be hamstrung by tearing, you know? I'm looking forward to finally playing it.
DARKSIDERS II PC PATCH UPDATE #2 [Darksiders Forums]
Sad but true: The PC version of Darksiders II is bare-bones and has some serious graphical problems. Non-functional vertical-sync, strange controls, minimal options for graphical tweaking; it's a drag.
I've been cooling my heels after playing about an hour of the game, waiting on its developer, Vigil, to release some patches. I've been waiting for them to fix the terrible screen-tearing that results from the dysfunctional Vsync, but that's just me.
Today, a THQ representative sent Kotaku the following statement from Vigil:
Darksiders PC owners,
Your feedback is incredibly important to us, so we have been working around the clock to address issues that some of you have been having, as well as adding features you have requested. The team is prioritizing finding solutions to these issues.
We are working on fixes for a number of bugs which can potentially block progression that have come to our attention, while also exploring adding additional features you have been asking for. This work includes vsync updates, improved shadow map resolution, X-axis options and additional keyboard mapping options (amongst other community requests). We hope to roll out a number of patches to address these issues in the weeks to come.
Keep your eyes peeled on Darksiders.com for updates on patch timing and content.
The Vigil Team
It is indeed good to hear that Vigil is working on fixing the game, though I have to say that "exploring adding additional features" doesn't seem quite as urgent as "getting the damned V-sync to work on my graphics card" should. But okay, hopefully that exploration will end with the discovery of a way to make the PC version work better. I would love to play this game, after all.
Kotaku's own Chris Person has created this video overview for those of us who might not have caught the franchise's first entry. Just what is Death wandering through heaven and hell trying to accomplish, anyway? What's this all about? How does it work? And why do people keep mentioning The Legend of Zelda?
As to where the remix itself becomes a new piece of art? That's a discussion we can probably have until the end of time.
The two big games in question were Square Enix and United Front's Hong Kong crime game Sleeping Dogs and THQ and Vigil's comic-booky fantasy game Darksiders II. Both games came out on Tuesday, both were released on Xbox 360, PS3 and, in an increasingly uncommon but welcome move, simultaneously on PC (hooray!).
But while Sleeping Dogs has a robust, customizable PC version, Darksiders II's PC port has more than its share of problems.
Let's start with the good. Sleeping Dogs is, as Tina raved in her review of the Xbox 360 version, a darned cool game. I've played four or five hours, and I'm enjoying myself quite a bit. I like the story, I like the characters, and I like busting heads and breaking legs in nightclubs.
While Sleeping Dogs isn't a graphical powerhouse like The Witcher 2 or Crysis 2, it's still a darned good-looking game. Its Hong Kong setting is colorful and sprawling, and it's the first time in a good long while that a game has given me that wonderful sense of disoriented tourism that the best open-world games can inspire.
I run a middle-of-the-road gaming PC these days, an i5 with 8GB of RAM centered around an AMD Radeon 6870 graphics card. I run Sleeping Dogs somewhere between its middle and high settings, and have got it dialed in to a near-perfect setting.
Sleeping Dogs hums along at a solid 60 frames per second, with its HD resolution and long draw-distance bringing Hong Kong to bright, colorful life on my PC. I haven't had time to put together a side-by-side comparison of how the PC version stacks up to consoles, but the friendly folks at Revision3 have made a video (off to the side here) that about sums it up. Everything on PC—the colors, the framerate, the textures (if you use the PC-exclusive HD texture pack), and the DirectX 11 features to enhance the shadows and anti-aliasing, make the game look and run well on PC. Best of all, it's got a built-in benchmark tool that lets you know how the game is handling your settings without your having to go in and see for yourself.
In fact, I used the word "port" in the headline here, but that word raises the ire of many PC gamers—a "port" is thought to be a shoddy rip of a console game straight to PC, with little thought to the extra horsepower and customization options afforded by modern DirectX 11 PCs. Sleeping Dogs would be more accurately called a PC version of the game. It's not without its bugs and weirdnessness—one time, adjusting the graphics caused my characters to "fall into the world" and tumble unendingly until I restarted the game—but by and large, Sleeping Dogs runs smoothly and looks great.
Darksiders II, however, is resolutely a port. And unfortunately, it's not a very good one.
I'll start out by saying that I actually don't mind straight-up PC ports of console games. I play most of those kinds of games with a plugged in Xbox controller, and I frequently play them on my big TV. Really, I like when a PC game feels like a console game played in true 1080p. Arkham Asylum on PC, for example, ran so smoothly and cleanly that it almost felt like a different thing than its console sibling, even though it was basically a direct port of the game.
So, I was ready for Darksiders II to be a port, but when I booted it up, I was surprised at just how bare-bones the PC version was. (Really, things didn't get off to a good start when the game made me create an account and sign into THQ's proprietary gaming network, blerg, but that's a story for another day.) The in-game menus are essentially indistinguishable from an Xbox 360 game—I couldn't even get into the settings until I'd played through the opening cinematic, and when I did, I was surprised at what I found. No detail settings, not even a high-medium-low graphics dial. Just one setting for screen resolution and a checkbox for V-sync.
I'd seen a lot of screen-tearing in the intro cinematic, so I thought "Well, better turn on V-sync." So I did. I also bumped the resolution up to 1920x1080, since it had defaulted to something much lower. The settings menu stated that I'd need to quit the game and restart it for the changes to take effect (grumble), so I did that, and before long was back in the introductory segment. Despite the fact that I'd turned on V-sync, at 1080p screen tearing had become rampant.
I went into the settings again and checked the v-sync box. Yup, it was checked. Double-huh. It would appear that the v-sync option in Darksiders II does not work, at least for me.
I started playing the game, but the tearing was so intense that I couldn't get into it. Every time I'd pan the camera around my character's head, the screen would roll and clip onto itself, a spastic dance of graphical jitters that were distracting and disorienting.
Eventually, I found something of a solution—I bumped the resolution all the way down to 1280x720, where the tearing became much less noticeable. You might notice that's 720p, or, the same resolution at which most console games run. And even then, the tearing is minimized, but still present.
It's a shame that the only way to make the PC version of Darksiders II run okay on my machine is to effectively turn it into the Xbox 360 version. I don't ask for much in a PC port! But I do ask to be able to run the game in my monitor's native resolution without a fuss. Reader Andy Pavolillo wrote in with this involved but theoretically feasable workaround for the V-sync and stutter issues, but it requires an Nvidia graphics card, so I haven't been able to try it. Regardless, that kind of involved solution shouldn't be necessary for something as basic as V-sync!
Some perusal of both the Steam forums and the official Darksiders II forums have turned up a lot of gamers having problems similar to mine—the nonfunctional V-sync option, in particular. Other PC owners, however, report that while the game may be lacking customization options, it is at least running smoothly and without graphical issues. It sounds as though AMD cards have the V-sync problem while on some Nvidia graphics cards, V-sync works as it should.
But the overarching vibe among PC gamers is one of discontent. Mouse and keyboard control customization is lackluster, and perhaps even worse, the camera auto-centers on to Death (the protagonist)'s back. There's no "free-look" option when using a mouse, resulting in a vertiginous flying camera that players must fight in order to look around while moving.
A large part of the anger is that some PC gamers feel they were mislead—people working on the game had ensured PC owners that the .config file that would allow them to tinker and tweak the game to their liking would be available, but now that the game has launched, it's nowhere to be found. In a post to the game's official forums, community manager Matthew Everett (to his and Vigil/THQ's credit) apologized for giving gamers bad information:
During the Community Summit both Jay Fitzloff and I (Mathew Everett) were under the impression that full .config files and final keyboard/mouse and controller hookups were going to work as promised when the PC version of the game launched. That was the plan at the time from a specifications perspective.
Unfortunately, especially at the end of the development cycle, sometimes things change at the last minute, and this was one of them. This puts us in an uncomfortable spot as we were acting on the best information we had at the time, and it has turned out not to be in the final game (at this point).
Since it was always the intention to implement these features, as I type this, the development team is checking to see what items can get added into the game. While I can't promise what can be done, I can promise we are working with the proper teams and have expressed the importance of including them in a patch.
When I asked THQ about the problems with the PC version, a spokesperson told me that "Vigil is tracking these issues closely and is keeping their collective ear close to the forums." And to their credit, a first patch has already been released for the PC version, addressing a number of game-crashing bugs more serious than anything I've encountered.
This is all a real shame, since Darksiders II is a fun game. Most reviews, including Kate's review for Kotaku, report it to be a fun and generally successful mashup of Prince of Persia, Zelda and Diablo. Everything I've played so far backs that up. But even when reviewing the PlayStation 3 version, Kate advised that players not buy the game just yet, as a number of significant bugs detract enough that it'd be worth waiting until they get patched. I asked Kate about screen-tearing issues in the console version, and she said that the display was fine on her version—the bugs she ran into were mostly functional.
Of course, this tale of woe is nothing new for PC gamers—it's common for this sort of thing to happen. But the contrast between the two games feels like a great example of how to do a PC version right, and how to get it wrong. Furthermore, there's a chance that you'll get Darksiders II to run perfectly fine on your system. But it also might be a mess. It's great that Vigil is working to fix their game, but when it comes down to it, a game shouldn't be released in the state that Darksiders II on the PC was. We PC players may grump about having to wait an extra couple weeks for a PC version, but if that's what it takes to give us a game that works immediately after we install it, so be it.
The overarching narrative of this week has been "Sleeping Dogs or Darksiders II?" Console gamers can't really go wrong, but PC gamers have a clearer choice—pick up Sleeping Dogs now, and you'll get a robust PC gaming experience with HD textures and all manner of DirectX 11 bells and whistles. But you might want to hold off on Darksiders II for a little while, at least until Vigil makes good on their promises to get the game up to snuff.
You could, if Hong Kong gangsters weren't your thing, call Darksiders II the biggest game release of the week. Probably the month, too.
So now's probably as good a time as ever to look at some terrific concept art from the game.
The environmental and weapon images below were done by artist Jonathan Kirtz, a freelancer who has also worked on games like the Warhammer 40K MMO, Warhammer Online and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.
You can see more of Jonathan's work at his personal site.
Meanwhile, all the character art you see (with the exception of the large Death "painting", which was done by Joe Mad and Kirtz) was the work of a team of artists led by James Brian Jones, Vigil's Studio Character Lead. You can see James' personal site here.
To see the larger pics in all their glory (or so you can save them as wallpaper), right-click on them below and select "open in new tab".
Steadfastly refusing to spare anyone over 'til another year, Death rides his pale horse into the spotlight in Darksiders II, otherwise known as the franchise with at least two more sequels in it, if my apocalyptic horsepersons count is correct. Following in the beefy footsteps of his brother, War, Death uses the free time afforded him by everyone already being dead to try and save his sibling from a fate worse than him.
Judging by the reactions of these stalwart game critics, Pestilence and Famine are going to have their work cut out for them if they wish to step out of the shadow of their big brothers. I guess they're used to that. Here goes.
Darksiders II – the somewhat less tangled but no less silly story of Horseman of the Apocalypse #2 as he attempts to undo the end of days and clear War's name – presents the same melting pot of borrowed ideas as its predecessor, but with a few extra ingredients thrown in to spice up the brew. Along with the Zelda dungeons, God Of War combat and Metroidvania item-collecting come the welcome additions of Diablo's looting and World Of Warcraft RPG-ing.
Darksiders II further fleshes out the story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse introduced in the first title - this time with War's brother, Death, at the helm. Death believes that War has been wrongfully convicted of destroying mankind, and seeks to restore humanity to clear his brother's name. The narrative is pretty entertaining, if not severely overdramatic. Though it should please anyone solely in the market for ‘epic,' it lacks any trace of subtlety and often comes off as sophomoric. Given that the end result of any plot advancement is inevitably that Death needs to gather three of something and thrash some skeletons, hearing the characters go on about the old ways and soul judgement just feels a bit silly. However, if a healthy dose of ridiculous doesn't faze you, the contrived reasons for Death's various escapades through heaven, hell and everywhere in between do provide an amusing backdrop for his quest.
Everyone wants something and no one's going to help out a horseman for free. So like any other proper video game protagonist, you're going to spend most of the 20-25 hours helping out the people around you. It starts by getting a forge going and discovering that much of the world in Darksiders II is overcome by corruption. This force is creeping across all the realms, infecting enemies and even the land itself, which is peppered with glowing rock formations that can be destroyed with bomb flowers. You'll work your way through multiple realms, each with its own version of the Tree of Life (or Death, as the case may be) and its own unique landscape and features. The story pushes you from one quest giver to the next, and everyone seems to have a few things for you to collect, be it the two keys, three parts of a staff, and so on. Though the story may be pretty straightforward, the dialogue is well-written and acted well, giving the game a weighty feel, overall.
If the original Darksiders was an action/adventure/puzzle game, then the addition of loot drops role-playing elements into that mix, which brings to mind a potential concern: Darksiders was already a heavy mixture of recipes that had come before, recalling games like The Legend of Zelda, God of War, and even Portal. There were so many mechanics and so many tools to keep track of that the game struggled to find its own identity.
In Darksiders II, a funny thing happens on the way to the apocalypse: it establishes an identity all its own, rather than one defined through the games that inspired its existence. The game's expanded scope (about twice as big as the first game) and thoughtful pace (about twice as long as the first game) are most responsible for this. You now have a chance to breathe between battles, and each new mechanic has time to settle in before a new one is introduced. The more leisurely sense of pace is obvious from the very beginning. Darksiders' first hour was front-loaded with explosions, angelic cries, and the bloodcurdling sights of demonic forces swarming across the earth. Here, there are moments to take in the frozen chasms beneath you, and to enjoy the slick new motion mechanics that have you defying gravity in heady flights of fancy. (You won't miss War's wings in light of Death's fleet-footedness.)
What's truly impressive is the concentrated quality on display in all that dungeon design. Dungeons are layered and loop around on themselves in a way that pushes you in the right direction while maintaining a sense of scale and limiting downtime. Instead of endless hallways or a series of closed-off arena battles, virtually every room centers around one or two challenges - a puzzle to be solved with Death's expanding tool set or a Prince of Persia-style platforming segment that has Death scampering up the walls and showing off the game's beautiful animation work.
Even when dungeons don't hide a new tool for Death, they introduce one-off gimmicks such as lanterns that must be carried between statues to unlock doors or the ability to time travel to a past version of the dungeon. I wish Darksiders 2 placed more new toys into Death's toolbox - only one isn't a repeat from the first game - but even with a familiar inventory, I was always challenged and satisfied with the brain-bending solutions.
With a game over 24 hours on your first run, you might question pacing. Darksiders II paces the items and powers out so you aren't getting inundated with new gadgets and powers all the time, instead scratching that itch with the loot system. The dungeons are heavily varied, and the puzzles don't repeat in other dungeons. Fresh approaches to puzzle solving should push this title away from the Zelda comparisons levied against the first title – Darksiders II stands on its own.
But when it does work, it's a gloriously stupid romp that's far more entertaining than it has any business being. By the time the player has trained a few scythe combos and special skills, combat is satisfyingly solid, and the ability to customize weapons, gear, and skill choices lets the player craft a combat experience well-suited to his or her own preferred play style. I grew to find myself actually liking Death, by the time the heavily-foreshadowed end finally came.
Ultimately, the bugs in the PS3 edition of Darksiders II are a disappointing stain on an otherwise entertaining game. It would be nice to give the game a YES, but we don't yet know if the Xbox 360 and PC versions are clear of the bugs I encountered on the PS3. Hopefully, the game will see a patch sooner rather than later.