We talked to Game Director Marvin Donald about Darksiders II, Darksiders III, and everything in-between…
Strategy Informer:The ending of Darksiders is fairly iconic as videogames ending go – why did you choose to do a parallel story as opposed to continuing on from there?
Marvin Donald: We wanted to go wider rather than deeper. We thought it would be cool to show what was going on during that period – I mean you play as War, and you wonder where the other Horseman are and what they are doing – we thought it would be interesting to do that kind of story, and provide a different perspective.
Strategy Informer:The danger of course with parallel stories is that they are either meaningless – because the events of the first game have already happened, or you’re playing a round of tenuous links as you try and connect the two tales more closely – how did you balance that?
Marvin Donald: Yeah, it’s tricky. It’s tempting to have more connections and overlaps but the more we have the bigger the risk. It could be something cheesy, something that doesn’t work that well, or it could break continuity. But there were some things we could have taken advantage off – at the beginning of Darksiders, War is actually in prison for a hundred years, so we’ve got a good chunk of time we can play around with where not a whole lot was actually going on. It wasn’t until the Charred Council released War so that he could go out and prove his innocence that the gameplay for Darksiders starts. That set us up so that we could have a good chunk of time to create connections without making too much trouble for the writing.
Strategy Informer:Someone from the studio has already commented that you guys want to make a franchise out of Darksiders – is the intention to eventually go back to the ending of the first game? With the brothers re-united?
Marvin Donald: I think we have to, right? We don’t have concrete plans at the moment, we’ve got a lot of options for Darksiders III… my point is though, that, imagining myself from the gamers perspective… I’d be disappointed if Vigil did the same thing, a third point of view… it’s just too much of the same thing. We can only get away with it once… but obviously I can’t commit creatively to what we’re actually going to do for Darksiders III.
Strategy Informer:What about the other two Horsemen – Strife and Fury – who are rumoured to be in this game. Is that just to cover their angle so you then don’t have to go and do a third parallel which, like you said, you probably won’t be able to get away with?
Marvin Donald: I can’t really comment on how much content there is for the other horsemen in Darksiders II. We haven’t completely forgotten about them… they’ll have their day.
Strategy Informer: The first Darksiders had several comparisons made towards it, Zelda being one of them… going into development of Darksiders II, did you embrace these comparisons or did you want to try and stand out more?
Marvin Donald: When those things come up it kind of depends on the context, I mean… we’ve got a lot of inspirations; we all like to play games. We’re inspired creatively by the things we enjoy playing. That being said I think it takes time to develop that combination that’s uniquely ‘you’, and we’ve expanded and evolved the formula with Darksiders II. It’s not just the same experience with new content.
The loot system is a huge change, a full blown quest system, you’ll be talking to more NPC’s, and there’ll be a quest journal… I think at some point during the series, how much of what we have, the ways in which we execute things… it’s just going to develop over time and we’ll have a unique combination. We’re growing and learning as a studio.
Strategy Informer:The first game has a lot of biblical elements to it, but I notice that you don’t seem to go for a typical ‘God’ or ‘Devil’ figure in your lore… was that deliberate?
Marvin Donald: We have a lot of hinting at them lightly, but never explaining them. As my experience as a storyteller, there are some things you just can’t completely flesh out, you got to leave it to the imagination, because it gives them the opportunity to make it their own. There is a series or two out there that I think has tried too hard to explain the nitty gritty of how things work, that don’t exist in the real world, something that might specific to that series. Unless it’s the kind of ip that specifically has that style… like Star Trek, for example, they were known for always having an explanation for what was happening, but that was their thing. But again you don’t have to do that, it’s better to provide hints and light direction.
Strategy Informer: Was there always the intention of making a second game when you were developing the first one?
Marvin Donald: No, I think going into it – even financially speaking, it wasn’t worth going into a brand new ip without wanting to extend it to at least one additional title. You need that first game to get people interested in the ip as a whole. I mean our first-day sales were ok, but with Darksiders II we’re seeing a lot more pre-orders, more than what we originally expected, and that’s because people have had three years to get to grips with Darksiders, even if it’s second hand or a rental. But it’s important to have that momentum.
Strategy Informer:Was there anything in particular in the first game that you wanted to make sure you improved on for the second?
Marvin Donald: One of the things we wanted to do a better job on with Darksiders II was the balancing of the game, overall, but we’re at that point now so it’s too soon to say whether or not we’ve already done a better job.
Otherwise, we put a lot of resources into the flying griffin sequence, and I don’t think we got the response from that that we were looking for, so we’ve tried to make sure that similar experiences in Darksiders II are better experiences that are worth the development time.
Strategy Informer:The first lot of DLC has already been announced, what can you tell us about it?
Marvin Donald: There are a few characters you’re going to meet, and a side-quest that fleshes out where the first DLC takes you – which is called Argul’s Tomb – and you’ll be dealing with the characters that surround this fallen king and some of the rare items that he had. Don’t want to spoil it too much, but it’s going to have its own area that you go to, with its own unique look, new enemies etc… It’s going to be a healthy amount of content.
Strategy Informer:The studio has already said that multiplayer won’t be in Darksiders II because of technical issues – going into Darksiders III would that be a priority for you guys?
Marvin Donald: It’s something that we want to do, but we can’t commit to it yet. It all boils down to budget and time really; we’re essentially making four times the game. We’ll want all the characters to play unique, it wouldn’t be the same if it was four characters that played the same but had different skins.
Strategy Informer:So you don’t see multiplayer being anything other than something that involves all four horseman?
Marvin Donald: Most likely, but creatively speaking we haven’t committed to anything yet. I know we’re going to explore it, but we won’t know who realistic it’s going to be until we’ve agreed on a budget and scope for the next project.
Thanks to Marvin for taking the time to speak to us. Darksiders II is going to be an interesting one – with no multiplayer any time soon, it’s down to the story and the gameplay to carry this game through – let’s up its up to the task. Don’t forget to check out our hands-on preview.