Han Randhawa Discusses Death's Design in "Darksiders II"

Joe Madureira and his team at Vigil Games have been keeping pretty busy since the release of "Darksiders" in 2010. Since then, Vigil has been working painstakingly on the upcoming sequel, "Darksiders II," hitting stores this June from THQ. While the original action/adventure game set its sights on the battle-ready War, the sequel sees players take control of his fellow Horseman of the Apocalypse, Death. During an in-depth preview of "Darksiders II," in 2011 Vigil showcased some of the new features of the game and Death's signature weapon, the scythe. More recently, Maduriera and members of the Vigil Studios team released a behind-the-scenes video detailing Death's creation with even more details on Death's movement and the game's improved environments and level design.

Among those helping to bring Death to life is Han Randhawa. As the Art Director for the original "Darksiders," Randhawa has resumed the role for "Darksiders II," keeping Death on his toes for a brand new adventure. Randhawa took some time to speak with CBR News about the inception of Death's design, the research done to get his menacing look just right, the character's incredibly expressive skull mask, level design and what players can expect from the sequel's deep gameplay.

CBR News: Han, what compelled Vigil Studios to go with a completely different lead character for "Darksiders II?" Were you just trying to tell a different side to the apocalyptic story or did you think it was time for a change?

Han Randhawa: We'd already told the story of War and there were three Horsemen waiting in the wings to be explored, so it seemed like a natural progression for the series to change the lead character to Death. It's allowed us not only to create new gameplay features based on his different moves, but also fill in a lot of story and game universe details.

How much research was performed when it came to the Death character? We noticed there was a lecture at the presentation we just went to this past week.

We did do a fair amount of research, but what ultimately ends up in the game comes from our own imagination. We don't want to feel held back by old source material, so if we think it's cool and it makes sense then that's what we create.

How did you go about coming up with the design for Death such as the mask with no mouth?

Death's design process has been circular. When we were working on the original "Darksiders," Joe Mad did a drawing of all the Horsemen for reference (and you can see these sketches online or in the "Darksiders" art book). When we knew we were going to feature Death in "Darksiders II," Joe literally went back to the drawing board and did a bunch of new concepts. The more versions we saw, the more we liked that first sketch. So that first drawing became the basis for Death.

After we decided that, Joe's next dilemma was figuring out how a character whose face is entirely covered with a mask can convey emotion. The drawing I've included shows the exploration he did on that. Once we saw this, we knew we could pull off Death having the mask, and away we went!

What exactly is Death's role in the game? Why does he feel he needs to vindicate War?

It's less about vindication for Death, and more about protecting his family. Death has known War for a millennia and knows his brother would never have started the Apocalypse. So he goes about clearing War's name by working behind the scenes.

We've seen some of Death's abilities in the game, such as being able to use double weapons and a "death grip" to get around. Can you elaborate more on how he can mix these together? Will projectile attacks make a return in the sequel?

As you progress through the game, you'll always be getting new equipment, acquiring combat moves and gaining abilities -- and that includes projectile attacks such as being able to boomerang your scythes or using the pistol. We wanted your arsenal of maneuvers to continually be increasing, therefore allowing you to create combos that get bigger and better as you play.

So, to use the demo you saw as an example, you could use the Ghost Hand to pull an enemy toward you, juggle them up in the air with your scythe, shoot them with your pistol while they're suspended, then slam them with a giant hammer as they hit the ground.

How did you go about designing the levels of "Darksiders II?" Were you looking to go the extra mile beyond the first game's environments?

The greatest boon in terms of world design this time around is that we weren't bound to Earth as the first game was. Since the game takes place in various locales all across the Underworld, our imaginations were our only limit. You want to create a floating fortress being pulled by giant serpents? Go for it. We want to make a lava level? Let's do it. You'll see that the environments in "Darksiders II" are much more vibrant and fantastic with a more epic feel.

Can we expect some epic boss encounters this time around -- perhaps the return of a few favorite characters from the original, looking for revenge?

Oh yes. What other games consider a boss, we call a Noss - which is shorthand for Not a Boss. The weapon of one of our bosses is bigger than most boss characters!

As for the return of characters from the original, I can't say anything or it might ruin some surprises.

Much like the original "Darksiders," "Darksiders II" features no multiplayer mode. What was the reasoning for that decision?

We had a lot of ideas for the first "Darksiders" that got left on the cutting room floor because we ran out of time. So for "Darksiders II," we wanted to get all those features into the game -- and we knew that would result in a deep single-player experience dripping with places to explore. Once we saw the scope of what we'd be creating, we knew Death deserved the spotlight all to himself.

Tell us about the voice actors involved with "Darksiders II". How hard was it to find someone to have Death's vocal tone?

Normally, finding the right person for your main character is an incredibly time consuming process. We just happened to get lucky and snag Michael Wincott early on. His gravelly voice is actually how many imagined Death would sound. It's so great that we got to work with him.

How long in length would you say the game is, or is that still being worked on?

I can say that "Darksiders II" is definitely a bigger game than the first, but can't break down exactly how much longer since we're still working on it.

Following the release of "Darksiders II," are there plans for a third game in the series with another horseman?

Can I get back to you on that? We're too busy finishing up "Darksiders II" to look that far ahead!

"Darksiders II" arrives on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in June and is a launch title for the Wii U.

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