The Art of Darksiders IIYou 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".

Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you're in the business and have some concept, environment or character art you'd like to share, drop us a line!

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Death Claims the Souls of Seven Darksiders II Game ReviewersMost men of modern profession have the good fortune to face death but once in their lifetime. These brave and critical souls stared into those empty sockets for hours and did not flinch... much.

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.

Death Claims the Souls of Seven Darksiders II Game ReviewersGames(TM)
Death may be a leaner figure than his armour-clad sibling – the topless protagonist less a stocky mutant knight and more a sinewy ghoul right off an Iron Maiden album cover – but the game he's starring in is undeniably better built out.

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.

Death Claims the Souls of Seven Darksiders II Game ReviewersIGN
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.

Death Claims the Souls of Seven Darksiders II Game ReviewersGiant Bomb
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.

Death Claims the Souls of Seven Darksiders II Game ReviewersGamespot
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.)

Death Claims the Souls of Seven Darksiders II Game ReviewersPolygon
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.

Death Claims the Souls of Seven Darksiders II Game ReviewersGamingTrend
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.

Death Claims the Souls of Seven Darksiders II Game ReviewersKotaku
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.


Darksiders II: The Kotaku Review

I am become Death, destroyer of crates.

Also vases. And skeletons. And bees. And, oh yes, enormous slavering eldritch horrors from Hell. I destroyed a bunch of those, too.

Darksiders II begins more or less where the first Darksiders left off. In that game, War—as in, the apocalyptic horseman—accidentally triggers the Armageddon before the correct moment and everything, more or less literally, goes to hell. But it was a set-up; other powers used War for their own ends and he is, if not blameless, at least not as guilty as other parties think. Darksiders II stars War's brother and fellow horseman, Death, as he attempts to set the record straight and redeem War's good name. Doing so mainly involves going places and killing everything that lives there.

Plot-wise, the game never does make any more sense than that. But that's okay. It's the video game version of the summer popcorn flick, and that's not a bad thing.

Darksiders II: The Kotaku Review
WHY: Because although the game is entertaining and fun to play, the sheer number of bugs encountered in the PS3 edition really need a patch. We're waiting for confirmation on if the Xbox 360 and PC versions are plagued with the same issues or not.

Darksiders II

Developer: Vigil Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release date: August 14

Type of game: RPG-inflected platformy action killfest

What I played: The entire story arc (without any side quests), in < 25 hours, on PS3.

My Two Favorite Things

  • Mid-and late-game combat is extraordinarily satisfying if you happen to enjoy being a madly cackling whirlwind of death.
  • The scope and scale of both dungeons and overland realms. Death is a big guy, and the Forge Lands make him look tiny.

My Two Least-Favorite Things

  • The mad proliferation of occasionally game-stopping bugs.
  • The rule of threes gone amok. Recruit three lords, but to get one to come with you you'll need to perform three tasks inside his dungeon... at a certain point it becomes Threeception.

Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes

  • "Since when is there such a cartoony-looking God of War ga—oh." - Kate Cox, Kotaku.com
  • "This is the first game I've played in ages that puts cut scenes in places where quicktime events could go." - Kate Cox, Kotaku.com

Darksiders II needs you not to question its internal logic. Much of it is, at best, strained. While playing, I had several conversations, like:

"I have to go to the land of the dead."
"Aren't you Death?"
"So isn't that your..."
"This is one of those questions you shouldn't ask."

"So you're invincible in this game, right?"
"Nope. That's my health meter, and I have potions."
"But if you die, who kills you? And when you do, does everyone else become immortal?"
"Remember what I said about questions?"

Much in common with certain blockbuster films, it can be a delight to watch as long as you don't look through the logic holes. The game makes a covenant with you: if you promise not to think about any of it, it will provide you with the tools you need to travel, and the reasons to keep pressing onward.

Like the double-bladed combat and inventory full of magical garb, that need not to think too hard about the construction and purpose of the world is something Darksiders II borrows handily from games that came before it.

Darksiders was a pastiche of other games, brought together into a new package. Darksiders II is, in many ways, more of the same. Death's default weapon, the double scythes, feel so much like Kratos's arm-blades that it took me several hours to stop trying to use combos and motions still stored in my muscle memory from the God of War games.

So. For players who were wondering what would happen if God of War cross-bred with Zelda, then added a touch of the Kingdoms of Amalur aesthetic, and added dungeons that were essentially Fallout 3 and Portal, the answer is: you get Darksiders II.

The amazing part is, after a sort of rough beginning, the odd medley actually works. It does take three or four hours for all the disparate pieces to feel smoothly integrated. Like cooking or—better yet—like baking. When baking, it takes time and patience to get all of the ingredients in the bowl to stop being just ingredients, and to start being a cohesive dough. So, too, with Darksiders II.

Certain elements never do quite work. One late-game dungeon, set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, very suddenly invalidates everything Darksiders II has taught the player over 16+ previous hours of play. The modern, real-world setting, full of destructible cars, isn't actually the problem. (In fact, it's a pretty great change of pace.) The mechanics, on the other hand, are completely upended. It's a large area with no climbing, and rather than being able to use the abilities and weapons he has leveled up over two previous large acts, Death is more or less constrained to an awkward, two-handed angelic machine gun that makes taking any other action more difficult than it has to be. Put down the gun, open the chest, pick up the items, pick up the gun, move to the left, kill two things, put down the gun, melee kill the other twenty things, pick up the gun... The weapon was a frustrating exercise in "ideas that looked better on paper than in practice." Still, the game did try to provide new guns frequently, as if it knew that, at some point, I would have given up and left mine lying behind me in the dust.

Aside from some exceptions like Salvation (the machine gun), the tools that Darksiders II provides with each new area generally work well. And again, aside from the same exceptions, each added mechanic—a grapple, an ability to be in two places at once, and so on—generally carries forward well from dungeon to dungeon and act to act, staying useful as Death continues his journey.

A colleague and I discussed Darksiders II while I was playing. I said to him that I had been ready to hate the game, realizing how utterly derivative it is, but that somewhere around the four-hour mark, Death had grown on me. The stolen and borrowed parts, I remarked, had grown into an entertaining whole. He agreed: "You're just like, 'this is just Zelda with a growly grouchy man in bad World of Warcraft armor.' Then four hours in, you're like, 'This is great! It's like Zelda! But with a guy in grouchy WoW armor!"

But his final verdict summed up everything I was thinking about Darksiders II: "If you're going to steal, steal well."

Darksiders II: The Kotaku Review

A Word About Glitches on the PS3

I hit a great many bugs during Darksiders II. Some were cosmetic, some could be worked around, and some halted my gameplay entirely. I got stuck inside of objects and walls more than once, I encountered a couple of system-freezing hard crashes, and I repeatedly faced issues where my quicksave and fast travel abilities disabled themselves during normal play, and I had to quit and restart to bring them back. I also encountered several larger issues. Among them:

  • A collision problem during the fight with the Guardian. The script requires players to grapple onto the boss's shoulder and to strike a gem there. Multiple times, with both shoulders, the grapple would take Death inside the shoulders, gripping an invisible point from which his scythes could not connect with the gem. Eventually he would drop to the ground and I could try again. Even though I knew the script and understood the tactics, I had to repeat each part of the fight 2-3 more times than should have been required.
  • Late in Act II, there is a vertical platforming section requiring Death to scale the inside of a tower while a very lethal floor (on fire, covered in spikes) inexorably rises beneath him. Touch the floor, and it's all over.

    When I finally succeeded at climbing the tower, I hit X (the jump button) in order to ascend from the final landing position to safe ground, and got stuck. Death hovered in mid-air, apparently the victim of invisible geometry. Then an amazing thing happened: the game tried to trigger both the "you have been stabbed by the spiky floor and are dead" animation and also the "you have successfully navigated this obstacle and here is a pan of the room showing your next door" animation. The screen glitched, jittered, and tore for a brief, horrifying "Schrodinger's Death" moment before resolving into a loading screen. The end result? The game had decided that yes, I died, and would need to respawn—but it also had decided that I completed the platforming section, and so I respawned at the top, instead of at the lower checkpoint.
  • The next-to-lass boss is probably the most difficult of the game. I learned his fight and eventually won, but no cut-scene triggered. Instead, he simply vanished. Loot lay where he had stood, and it looked as though I should be able to retrieve it, but I was stuck. Nothing on my controller worked except for Start, which allowed me to pause, change the options, or quit, and the right stick. I could move the camera around to get a good look at how stuck I really was, but that was it. I turned off the controller and swapped it for a freshly charged one, just in case the issue was with the controller, but the end result was the same: no left stick, no d-pad, no control buttons or triggers. I restarted the game and fought the boss again.
  • When asked about a patch, THQ PR responded that Vigil was "looking into the issue as we speak," and added, "The team is currently polishing "Argul's Tomb" [DLC] and prepping bug fixes for an imminent submission to first party."

Darksiders II: The Kotaku Review

Bugs aside, the game doesn't always work. Some puzzles are more obtuse than they should be, and sometimes, even when they work in theory, something gets stuck in practice. There's a lot of irritating backtracking deliberately built in. Swapping tools and skills can be clumsy, and certain sections near the end overstay their welcome, slow down the action, and are just tedious. There is too much pixel-hunting when it comes to performing any action; finding the exact right spot to stand in order to have the option to act can be a pain.

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.

Community Announcements - Kedhrin

Make sure you sign up! If you have friends that may want to play, we are giving away FREE tournament passes that gives your friends full access to the game throughout the Tournament. Theres tons of prizes and a chance to fly out to Machinima's HQ for the finals!

US Residents Only

Don't Fear European players! We have something we hope to do soon for that area.

Community Announcements - Kedhrin
Patch notes:
- Fixed a round cycle client crash when building Post Match information.
- Tweaked quick match to be biased more towards lower ping than player count.
- Fixed dedicated server player counts being reported to Steam wrong if people continued to connect after the server had gotten full.
- Fixed an odd crash with loading the startup video settings and SSAA/PostMSAA.
- Fixed a crash when flushing the render thread command buffer when the render thread isn’t initialized yet. Only happened if the renderer was told to shut down during startup due to a failure/error while starting up.
- Fixed a crash when a connection establishment packet is received from a server after you're no longer trying to connect to the server.
- Shorting out the Quick Match searcher when a more than adequate score is calculated for a potential server. This makes Quick Match a LOT faster when there's a low ping server with people on it available.
Announcement - Valve
This weekend only, play Nexuiz for FREE until Sunday at 1pm Pacific Time. Plus, save 75% off during the Weekend Deal*!

Plus, the Nexuiz Steam Workshop is now available! Create custom levels and share them with the Community. Or just browse, download, and rate awesome maps that others have created. Maps with a high enough rating even have a chance of becoming official!

Nexuiz reinvents Arena FPS gameplay and pits warriors against each other in 9 arenas with over 100 game-changing power-ups.

*Discount ends Monday at 10am Pacific Time.


The New Red Dawn Movie Channels a Little Bit of Homefront If you played Homefront, the new trailer for the remake of 1984's Red Dawn is going to seem like déjà vu all over again.

When THQ's ambitious but shallow 2011 first-person shooter first started its hype machine, the comparisons to the 1980s Cold War action movie rampant. Part of that is because the movie and the game shared the same core premise, where a foreign power invades and occupies American soil.

The two projects shared a creative contributor, too, in the form of John Milius, who wrote the screenplay for Red Dawn. Milius helped Kaos Studios shape the dramatic scenario for Homefront, which also had an ordinary town torn to shreds by the army of another country.

In Homefront, the invaders were from a unified Korean army. The villains in the new Red Dawn trailer are Korean, too, led by Will Yun Lee, who voices the lead character in the upcoming Sleeping Dogs game. The remake, like the game, has America invaded by the Koreans (who were, as with the game, supposed to be Chinese). The remake was in the works before the game, though.

Not surprisingly, you'll see some motifs repeating in the trailers for Homefront and the new and old Red Dawn films. Armies marching down suburban streets, swarms of enemy aircraft hovering ominously overhead, a ragtag rebel force fighting back… all of those plot points get trotted out in game and movie teasers.

The new Red Dawn comes out in November. We'll see if they go as far as Homefront did in its depiction of an American occupation.

Community Announcements - Tiggs

If THQ Gets Its Way I'll Be Dead in Five DaysFirst THQ's media relations folks send me a furry hat that's too small for my head. Now they've signed my death warrant.

In honor of next week's release of Darksiders 2, THQ got some lovely folks in Pakistan (it says so on the sticker on the bottom) to jinx the living hell out of my life expectancy. The laws of irony are at their most powerful in my household; I'm not sure they could resist a farcical death date inlaid in gold on a miniature genuine marble/onyx headstone.

If I don't show up for work on Tuesday, someone please train my children to become deadly assassins so they can one day exact bloody revenge. That is if THQ doesn't go under thanks to all the money being spent on threatening my life.

Community Announcements - Tiggs
We now have a series of videos availble on YouTube for the Nexuiz Workshop. You can find these video's listed under Nexuizshooter http://www.youtube.com/user/Nexuizshooter/videos