Darksiders 2 may have disappeared into the bowels of gaming’s forgotten history but it’s recently been given a new lease of life by Nordic Games and Gunfire Games with the recent Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition. Along with bringing the game to current gen consoles, Gunfire Games has also pushed to significantly improve the visuals while further upping the resolution.
GamingBolt had a chance to speak to Nordic’s business & product development director Reinhard Pollice and Gunfire Games design director John Pearl about the experience, especially with Pearl revisiting Darksiders 2 after three years. When is Darksiders 3 happening? The answer may not be what you expect (read: not anytime soon).
"We invested a lot of time and energy into the visuals. We upgraded all the texture resolutions or re-did textures completely. We changed the rendering output to true Full HD 1080p rendering where the previous generation version of the game was actually sub-720p."
What motivated the desire to remaster Darksiders 2 for current gen consoles (besides the fact that almost every other previous gen game is getting a remaster)?
Reinhard Pollice: Darksiders 2 is an extremely well aging piece of a game, and we think that it did not quite have the audience it deserves. Also, revisiting the game was a good choice as the game was left with some issues on the last gen platforms.
Why not include the original Darksiders in the Deathinitive package? Will it be remastered separately for PS4 and Xbox One?
Reinhard Pollice: It would have been close to impossible to include Darksiders in the same app with DS2 so we would have needed to do two separate applications anyways and it would be easily another 6 month of work so we decided to go for Darksiders 2 first.
What new content and tweaks can players look forward to in Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition besides the DLC?
John Pearl: We revisited many of the encounters and rebalanced them to make sure they were challenging but fair. There were encounters that felt too hard or too easy for where they took place in the game’s progression and we adjusted them accordingly. Additionally there were some major boss encounters that didn’t yield a reward in the form of a unique weapon or item, this is one of the ways we made the DLC content feel more integrated and those bosses will now drop items. All of these items have been rebalanced to an appropriate level to when the player will now find them in game. Additionally there were very few weapons previously that benefited from Arcane Power so a player who went with arcane gear would’ve been at a disadvantage compared to someone focused on strength. Another thing we added was we hide additional skill points in hard to reach treasure chests. The skill points were previously only given out each time the player leveled and as specific quest rewards. This meant there was a hard limit of 49 possible skill points to spend in the 2 skill tress. Now players who want to explore every nook and cranny of the world can maximize their build even more.
We’ve also added “Deathinitive” Difficulty to the game which is actually harder than the previously max level difficulty “Apocalyptic”. This should present a major challenge to even the most die-hard Darksiders fans. If that wasn’t hard enough, we’ve also updated Nightmare mode to Deathinitive difficulty where previously it was set at Apocalyptic. Nightmare mode is our truly hardcore mode, where if you die your save is deleted and you have to start over.
Can you tell us about the overall changes to the visuals and frame rate performance of the game?
John Pearl: We invested a lot of time and energy into the visuals. We upgraded all the texture resolutions or re-did textures completely. We changed the rendering output to true Full HD 1080p rendering where the previous generation version of the game was actually sub-720p. We changed the lighting model which becomes quite obvious when comparing screenshots – we think this all adds up to a really nice looking game.
What are your thoughts working on PS4 and Xbox One? Were there any hurdles in developing for either console compared to the previous generation?
Reinhard Pollice: Both of them are great platforms to work with. Working on the PS4 was a bit more straightforward than on the Xbox One. On Xbox One we had to learn just a lot of things as they were completely changed from the previous generation. However the more we became familiar with it the more it made sense and the more we liked it. Sony and Microsoft are really competing on a very high level but I hope that some things like patching and certification processes become even less strict.
"I was quite sceptical about VR. I mean VR is not a natural add-on to the way we are used to play games now. The visual possibilities are amazing but that needs to go hand in hand with things like camera, controls or user interface etc."
Quite a bit has been said about the Xbox One’s hardware and how it pales in comparison to the PS4. Where do you see both consoles in the long run, especially with the rising power of PC hardware?
Reinhard Pollice: The main factor for home consoles is still the price compared to beefy gaming PCs. In the next years consoles will be still a big factor and probably even beyond that if a console manufacturer finds the right formula for price, power, service quality and content offering. Xbox One has just recently announced some great things like backwards compatibility. So I expect them to close the gap.
Has the experience of bringing Darksiders 2 to current gen consoles helped aid you in developing future projects like Darksiders 3?
Reinhard Pollice: Of course – shipping a title is always invaluable experience that we at Nordic can use for all our projects. So for example working on PS4 and Xbox One will be a great help for upcoming titles that we announced for those platforms like our huge Open World RPG “ELEX”. With regards to Darksiders 3 I can only say that the more successful Darksiders 2 Deathinitive Edition becomes the more likely Darksiders 3 is.
What improvements or changes would the gameplay see if Darksiders 3 were to happen?
Reinhard Pollice: There are a few very good and obvious possibilities gameplay-wise for Darksiders 3. We are evaluating all these paths carefully. But I am not here to talk about a maybe-Darksiders 3 😉
Generally speaking, what are your thoughts on the emerging technologies in gaming like virtual reality and HoloLens? Will there be a place for third person action adventure titles like Darksiders?
Reinhard Pollice: I was quite sceptical about VR. I mean VR is not a natural add-on to the way we are used to play games now. The visual possibilities are amazing but that needs to go hand in hand with things like camera, controls or user interface etc… A couple of games are more fit then others for this and add a lot to the overall experience of a game. For example the BulletTrain demo on the rift was a really great VR experience that brought action gameplay to a new level. Also the Gunfire crew are working on a great VR title – “Chronos“. For third person action adventures like Darksiders it is a bit difficult. I think you have to go a step back and for example provide a total different camera scheme as we are used to see today. But after all I think that a lot of gamers still want the way we play games today.
What do you think about introducing multiplayer into the Darksiders universe, be it through co-op or competitive play?
Reinhard Pollice: It would be really cool! I would love to play that but I don’t think it’s the only way to achieve the most fun for a Darksiders game.
When do you think you will actually begin to work on Darksiders 3? You do know that fans want it.
Reinhard Pollice: Sorry, no comment.
"I am not sure if cloud based processing is the future. After all games should work forever and I am sure that in 10 years from the original launch most providers will have shut down their services – just look into the past – even very cheap services have been shut down already."
The remastered version runs at 30fps on both the consoles. Was there a specific reason why you guys did not achieved 60fps on the PS4 and Xbox One?
John Pearl: When we started out, we looked at what it would take to achieve 60 FPS but we knew it would be a very challenging undertaking. It sounds easy especially as other games have achieved it but it really depends on howthe game was built and how versatile the engine is on console. In the end we would have had to re-do some levels from scratch to achieve 60 FPS. Some areas in the game currently run well over 60fps while others run at 30fps. Running the game unlocked allowing the max frame rate would end up resulting in a lot screen tearing and an overall poor experience for the players.
Additionally, to get an engine running at a solid 60fps on consoles it has to be a goal when creating the engine and the assets or at least a lot of serious work has to be put into it to get it running at 60fps. The engine that both of the Darksiders games run on were not optimized to run at 60fps on console nor was the data optimized for that. There would have had to have been major overhauls to the way things were rendered at the core of the engine and some major changes to some of the visuals. There are technical cheats out there that would allow the game to run at 60 fps at the cost of a variable resolution. We decided a locked 1080p at 30 was more important to us than the 60fps with major drops in resolution.
I am sure you must be aware about Crackdown 3 that uses the cloud to enhance physics and destruction effects. Do you think the next Darksiders could use something like that given that the scale in the previous games has been nothing short of impressive? Furthermore what are your thoughts on cloud based processing used to improve visuals?
Reinhard Pollice: Yes, I have seen something about that but first they need to ship with that. I am very much looking forward to it. Great physics/destruction effects were also possible with the last generation – just look at our title “Red Faction Guerrilla”.
I am not sure if cloud based processing is the future. After all games should work forever and I am sure that in 10 years from the original launch most providers will have shut down their services – just look into the past – even very cheap services have been shut down already.
Did the Xbox One’s eSRAM posed any issues while developing the game on it?
Reinhard Pollice: Well, there isn’t a lot available so we had to cleverly use it.
So what is next from the development team? What projects are you currently working on?
Reinhard Pollice: At Nordic Games we have a focus on PC titles based on our IPs for 2016 – We are working hard to shape SpellForce 3 and The Guild 3 into awesome games and then we are hard at work with “ELEX” the next big open world RPG – this time in a fresh Science Fantasy setting.
John Pearl: At Gunfire Games, we’ve got a few projects in production. Primarily we’re focused on finishing up Chronos. An action adventure game made exclusively for the Oculus Rift and will be available at launch. Fans of Darksiders and action adventure games in general will find a lot of love in Chronos in terms of combat, puzzles and exploration. We’ve also been working to update our Gear VR game Herobound: Spirit Champion to take full advantage of the higher specs of the Oculus Rift. Additionally we’ll be launching a smaller, multi-player focused game called Super Fuse Ball on steam in the very near future. Suffice to say, we like to stay busy!