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At the beginning of developer Vigil Games' first installment of its Darksiders series, War arrives on Earth to find it ending. He is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, after all, so this makes perfect sense. In a very brief sequence, players see helicopters falling out of the sky, buildings collapsing, people running for their lives, and, in the middle of it all, angels and demons waging their final battle for the planet.
It's a pretty badass opening, and the rest of the game picks up a century later with the world laid to ruin and the two sides of the cosmic war still duking it out. Rampant plant life chokes out the few buildings still standing, and highways lie in pieces. Every human is either dead or a zombie, and still that final battle continues.
"Hang on," says every other version of the End Times we've heard. "What about the eternal souls of mankind? Aren't they at stake? Isn't the human race what all of this is about?"
"Nope," says Darksiders. "Get over yourself."
Darksiders II, which came out last week for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, takes place during a century-long gap in the first game's story. It still takes place after the helicopter went extinct, though, so don't expect to see any humans running around, for their lives or otherwise.
They do, however, figure heavily into the story, as War's fellow Horseman Death has the crazy plan to bring them all back to life.
"There we go," the traditional End Times say. "I knew we were important."
Not so fast, every myth ever. Death only wants to bring humanity back to clear War's name for his alleged role in their annihilation. See, it's very hard to blame someone for murder if the victim is still up and eating at McDonald's, and Death is looking to exploit that loophole to erase the very crime for which War stands accused.
In video-game terms, he could just as easily be restoring a temple (which he also does, by the way. Several times), collecting a shitload of keys (check on that, as well), or assembling the scattered shards of a powerful magical object (I wouldn't rule it out; I'm not done with the game yet). The point is that the fate of life on Earth is just the device that Death is using to carry out his greater objective: saving his brother.
Simply put, Darksiders' stance is that we are nothing but 6 billion collectibles. But what does it mean?
Mainly, it means that Vigil is free to use the Apocalypse as a gateway to a much more epic and interesting story than the one we've heard from crazy people on street corners since time immemorial. By reducing Earth to just an arbitrary bit of real estate that angels and demons have decided amongst themselves is their trophy and reducing the eradication of human life to a tutorial, Darksiders is free to step outside the myth.