(Reviewed on Xbox One by Games of DAYNE)
*Disclaimer: This review was originally written as a member for One More Game and Xbox Gamer Dad, edited by co-founder Adam Potts and/or founder Matt Brook. A review code for this title was provided by OMG/XBGD. This review was written from my perspective with editor input. Click HERE to read this review as originally published on onemoregame.com.au*
Darksiders: Genesis has a trilogy worth of mythology and journeys exploring the stories of three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. War, Death and Fury have each received solo outings in third person hack and slash action-adventures and in this prequel, we are finally introduced to Strife. Unlike the previous trio’s adventures, Strife’s journey is not alone and is instead being accompanied by fan favourite War from the first entry of the series. Also unlike the rest of the franchise, Darksiders: Genesis genre is a top-down hack and slash, adding a unique approach to the formula that had many worried it would not work. For fans of the series and newcomers alike, Airship Syndicate’s first foray into developing a Darksiders title succeeds on many levels.
The change of perspective does not take anything away from the legitimacy Genesis brings to the franchise, instead it creates a new lens of which its lore rich world is experienced. This new dimension feels more free and open and it is a refreshing feeling to have something so different feel so familiar. One recurring minor issue is when the environment such as cliffs, walls and bridges instructs the view of the character. Highlighted as a blue silhouette, the player can at least see where the character is and any enemies also out of sight will be highlighted red. The over the top attacks feel as fun and vicious as the third person games and with a simple control layout, it feels more accessible than ever.
The control list can be toggled on or off to display on the right hand side of the screen, which is helpful to get familiar with the controls while not intruding on the screen space. Players can summon their fiendish horses in open areas that are great for quickly crossing a location whilst maintaining the ability to attack. Both characters have unique weapons, abilities and gear that can be cycled through to vanquish the demonic forces and for light puzzle solving to progress or discovering hidden areas littered with collectibles.
Opening chests, smashing boxes and barrels reward the player with health, Wrath, ammo orbs and Souls. When defeating enemies, they too drop souls but there is a chance they well also drop a Creature Core. Souls are used as one of the in-game currencies to purchase upgrades for abilities, stats and weapons. Creature Cores provide various stat boosts and are allocated via a skill tree system accessed by the Options button. Each Creature Core is either a Minor or Major, with their stat boost appropriately increased as by their defined category. There are three different classes; Health, Attack and Wrath and the tree displays an associating icon to depict these. Placing these into the designated spots provides an additional boost while also opening up the next spot in the tree for allocation of Cores. It is not a complicated system and the benefit of taking a moment to understand it will bear significant advantages in battle. They can also be leveled up by collecting certain amounts, which can be easily harvested by replaying levels and arenas.
As this title features local and online co-op for a second player, once another player signs in, the main player will need to find a Summon Stone in the environment to interact with. This brings the other player into the game to control whatever character is not being played, splitting the screen vertically in the process. The inclusion of not just online co-op but local co-op in particular is an excellent feature that certainly earns Genesis a few bonus points. The Arena mode, which is essentially a wave based survival situation, can also be played in co-op which is a lot of fun.
If playing solo, the player is able to switch characters at any time, allowing for the gun toting attack style of Strife to the more heavy hitting power strikes of War. Outside of combat, switching characters will be required to utilise their specific gear to solve puzzles, typically to open gates and activate objects in the environment. Alternating between the two characters and experimenting with their play styles keeps the combat fresh and the dialogue they each randomly express in the heat of battle is often amusing. War is stern and the serious one of the two, while Strife is sarcastic and mischievous. The dynamic allows for some entertaining banter but also offers room for their relationship to eventually grow and evolve throughout their journey together.
The story itself further expands on some of the narrative points mentioned in the three previous games as well introducing new threads that delve into Strife’s past. The cinematics are presented in a visual style similar to comic books with narration over the top and complements the visual direction of the main game nicely. Some familiar faces make an appearance while introducing new ones, both playing a part in a number of uneasy alliances the two horseman must forge for the sake of the greater good. It’s a clever story that never really gets out of first gear but the gameplay itself consistently ups the ante and fluctuates in pace accordingly.
The world is so excellently detailed, featuring appropriately hellish and divine locations throughout the approximately 15 to 20 hour story, although this could be significantly longer on the punishing Apocalyptic difficulty. The stage design is relatively more of the same as it moves along but the visual distinction between them is enough to set them apart. The sound design is excellent too, with the wide variety of enemies having their own defiantly imposing sound effects and death groans. The arsenal at the disposal of the horseman have satisfying cracks and snaps of the guns and swords, adding to the immersion of the divine war they wage in the fiendish sand covered, snow capped and lava flowing wastelands.
The entire presentation of Darksiders: Genesis is different in every way to the style the franchise has become known for and while this was a potential cause for concern, it exceeds and ultimately positions itself as the best Darksiders to date in the THQ Nordic published series. With local and online co-operative options to revisit the story or play through the arena missions, there is enough to keep players returning for more. It’s fun and action packed gameplay is excellent which is steadily paced from start to finish, making it a truly satisfying fourth chapter in this saga of the four horseman of the apocalypse. Now that all four have finally had a game focused on their exploits, the stage is set for an explosive reunion for Fury, Death, War and Strife, and that is certainly something Darksiders fans can look forward to if Genesis’ revitalised experience is anything to go by.
+ Fun and accessible combat
+ The dynamic between War and Strife
+ Visually impressive
– Story doesn’t match the pace of the gameplay
– The levels feel similar despite their unique visual distinctions
Developed by: Airship Syndicate
Published by: THQ Nordic
Release Date: 14 February 2020
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC