|ONLINE||Yes: 2 Player Co-op [Local + Online]|
|RELEASE DATE||February 14, 2020 [Consoles] // December 5, 2019 [PC/Steam]|
|PLATFORMS||PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC/Steam|
Darksiders as a whole has a fairly interesting story – if a bit obvious and predictable. It’s not just a battle between Heaven and Hell/Good versus Evil. It’s a plot – a scheme – someone (Or something) has brought about the apocalypse early for reasons that don’t really start to become clear until a bit later on in the series. All is not as it seems on the surface level.
Every game since the first has kind of been a prequel, taking place before or during the events of the first game – and Genesis is no different on that front, though it’s not entirely clear just how far in the past it is from Darksiders 1.
The timeline for the series is a bit unclear as a whole, honestly (There’s a huge amount of time (I think like 200+ years?) after War was captured by The Council and locked away for bring about the literal apocalypse before it was time (Which is a whole thing that I won’t spoil if somehow you still haven’t played the original (And you should!)) – which is where Darksiders 2 & 3 take place, while Genesis is before all hell breaks loose in game 1.)
Genesis, as I mentioned, takes place before any of the other games – and it’s a little hard to talk about it as it also kind of spoils some events/reveals in later-timeline games.
So I won’t, really. Suffice it to say this is very much a Darksiders story that reveals some more detail about the goings-on of the other games, while also working to build out War and Strife (Best boy, btw) as characters.
It was a fun ride if a bit cliche (Like the rest of the series).
It has also definitely seated Strife as my favorite of the horsemen – especially paired against War’s straight-man act. Sarcastic, chaotic dumbass with heart + Loyal, lawful dumbass is always a great dynamic. (Why do you think I love Yakuza so much? Majima + Kiryu is almost exactly that.)
It’s honestly a miracle the horsemen get anything achieved with the amount of dumbass energy all 4 of them exude.
The game is very pretty – I can’t deny that.
Honestly – I’ve enjoyed the look of the entire series. Joe Madureira’s art style shines through quite well in 3D. Levels are bright and vibrant – lots of color without being overbearing. They’re all distinct – no 2 areas feel the same. Connected and adjacent – sure, but not the same.
The music is also decent, if a bit forgettable – though I do really like the game’s main theme.
On the technical side of things, though, is where things get a little bit hairy. It runs well for the most part – but I can’t say I had no issues at all. Framerate dips here and there, clipping into geometry and out of world – things like that.
I never had a crash, at least, but even after patches, things are better – but not nonexistent. However, there is at least one problem that I find rather frustrating: The subtitles in cutscenes (Not the dialogue boxes, but actual cutscenes) are poorly timed. They tend to disappear long before the line is actually finished – and pop up long before a line is actually given.
That said – these issues are mostly minor, just noticeable.
They don’t happen too often, thankfully, so they don’t really drag anything down.
The gameplay – as is usually the case – is where Darksiders Genesis really shines.
The two characters – War & Strife – play very, very differently from each other.
War plays like he does in the original Darksiders – it’s almost 1-to-1 with the exception of a few little control changes (The dash button changes, and there’s no lock-on/over-the-shoulder aiming.) – so if you’ve played the original, you’ll feel right at home here. He’s good up close and has decent tools for dealing with crowds.
Strife, however, is new – having never been playable before. His gameplay feels more like a twin-stick shooter (Think Alienation, or even Dead Nation). Strife works better from a distance – using his guns and different ammo types to deal with enemies.
The game is built in a way that, while co-op play is encouraged, solo play is completely viable. You always have access to both characters – you can switch between them freely and quickly. Just hold L1/Left Bumper and then hit Cross/A. You’ll even gain abilities later in the game that allow you to switch a character in with a super attack when you’re solo, or just do that super attack in co-op when the meter is full.
Other than those differences – the game is very much Darksiders. Think God of War (The originals, not the reboot), but with a little more emphasis on exploring and using upgrades earned throughout the story to explore further – ala Zelda or Metroid.
Puzzles, for instance, are generally pretty clever, requiring at least a little bit of thought most of the time and often requiring the use of both characters skills.
It’s satisfying to figure out a Strife Void Bomb puzzle that also incorporates War’s Vorpal Blade.
Upgrades work a little differently in this game than they do in most of the others in the series. Important, key upgrades are generally found through normal play. They’re usually placed directly on the critical path so you can’t miss them.
But things like Wrath abilities, War’s Sword Enhancements and Strife’s Ammo types? You have to either find those in chests hidden around the levels – or purchase them from Vulgrim/Dis
You can also purchase potion upgrades from Vulgrim that are extremely useful – more potions to use, the ability to turn picked up health into a potion overcharge and the ability to automatically use a potion upon a fatal blow. It’s generally worth investing your souls and Boatman’s Coins into these.
Dis, on the other hand, provides access to move upgrades mostly – as well as the Horsemen’s “Synergy” attacks (The super moves I mentioned earlier). You can also get new combos from her – but these aren’t quite as useful. Worth getting eventually, as there’s not much else to spend your souls on – but you can hold off on them for times when you don’t have anything else more critical to invest in.
The other way to upgrade your characters is through the Creature Core system. This…was a weird system to get a hang of at first. It’s also the main way to actually upgrade your character’s strength as well as being the most RNG heavy, grindy part of the game.
Creature Cores are obtained by defeating enemies. They’re random drops from every specific enemy in the game, and the only way to upgrade them is by collecting more of the same core. The rarer the core, the less you need to upgrade it, but the harder they are to come across. There are also a few that can be purchased only, as well as “packs” that can be bought for souls that give you a random core from a specific set of enemies.
However, these cores are essential to maxing out your character’s abilities for the later difficulties. Even more so than the standard Health and Wrath Cores that you find that increase your HP and Wrath pools.
Speaking of difficulties – Genesis is set up a little bit like Airship Syndicate’s other notable release, Battle Chasers: Nightwar (Which I also plan to review eventually.) Every level essentially acts like a dungeon, you can change your difficulty at pretty much anytime with no penalty for doing so (You have to do it before you select your level, though!) Doing so can increase the rewards you get for that level – more souls, better core drops, etc. So if you’re looking to upgrade cores, it’s a good idea to replay older levels at a higher difficulty if you can.
Just know that if you’re underpowered, you’ll definitely struggle.
Once you complete the main story, you’ll unlock Apocalyptic difficulty, which is the hardest difficulty in the game and increases power recommendations substantially
. By the end of my playthrough, my characters were at around 1,500 total power each – that’s after gaining the full Abyssal Armor sets for both, all wrath and health upgrades, and all but 1 creature core (More on that later.) – with the creature core grid completely filled out with pretty much all maxed out cores.
And I was still woefully underpowered for Apocalyptic. Every level has a recommended level of 1,900. Everything killed me almost immediately.
It’s not enough to just max out your cores, either – you need to match them to their slots properly in order to get the best benefits from them. Health-type cores (represented with a heart icon), should go into Health slots – this will boost your health pools. Wrath to wrath (A swirly flame icon) – this boosts your Wrath power. Attack to attack (A sword icon) – boosts your attack power. Wild-type slots can match any core. Wild slots will boost whatever stat your chosen core boosts.
Slots also have levels – if a slot is level 1, it will only grant level 1 abilities of a core. Even if that core is level 3.
Once you get a grasp on how it works – it offers a lot of freedom in how you build your characters. I used Strife most of all, so my build generally focused more towards him and enhancing his abilities – like Shadow Clone & Hotstreak.
There’s also an Arena you can try your hand at after you’re done clearing out every level – if you just want to grind out cores easily without replaying them. Every level features different sets of enemies across 10 total waves, getting slightly tougher as you get into later stages. There’s also an Endless variant that goes on for as long as you can survive, progressively getting harder and building a multiplier that increases your score for defeating enemies.
At the end of a run, you get a final score – and the higher that score, the more rewards you can claim (Though they can only be claimed once).
Now, I had a fun time with the game overall – but it’s not without its problems either.
The biggest offender is probably the platforming. In the main games, platforming isn’t much of an issue as the camera allows you to have better depth perception. You can tell where you are much easier in relation to a platform. That’s not quite the case here.
While the shift in the camera works well for pretty much every other part of the game – it hinders platforming pretty noticeably. There were a lot of times where I fell from a platform I jumped to because I couldn’t tell where my character was in relation to it – causing me to either over or undershoot it.
This transfers over to what is seemingly universally regarded as the worst part of the game: Leviathan’s Landing. Remember that 1 creature core I mentioned not having?
It’s the reward for completing at least one part of Leviathan’s Landing. There’s no other way to get it.
Thankfully, this is an entirely optional part of the game – so if you’re not a completionist, you don’t need to worry about it. Just know that not only is the core tied to it – so is 1 trophy/achievement: getting all 67 creature cores – Leviathan counts for that.
The section wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the camera not being controllable. It forces camera angles that aren’t super conducive to platforming – especially the difficult platforming required to complete these jumping puzzles.
As I said though, it’s an entirely optional part of the game that you don’t actually have to do – it’s just the best example of how the camera can hinder the otherwise stellar gameplay. There’s a reason most of the old isometric ARPGs don’t do platforming, and when they do it’s rudimentary and simple.
This is a game that greatly encourages replay. Go back to old levels to build up your cores. Higher difficulty levels. Exploration hidden behind upgrades that you get later.
There are even small quests in every mission – and general quests that you can work towards for extra rewards like souls, cores and Boatman’s Coins.
Genesis even features tracking for each level, showing you all of the collectibles in a given level and how many you’ve actually found so you can know, easily, when a level is 100% completed.
With the exception of Leviathan’s Landing, the trophies/achievements for the game are fairly simple, like the other games. There’s nothing that outlandish here and as long as you’re thoroughly exploring your levels, you’ll get most of them pretty easily. The hardest parts will definitely be Leviathan’s Landing (Which I can honestly see ending most people’s attempts at 100%-ing the game) and Apocalyptic difficulty – which will require some grinding to really get ready for, as well as building a strong character.
I had a ton of fun with Darksiders Genesis. Having now put nearly 40 hours into the game, getting every upgrade and maxing out most of my cores – I can safely say it’s my favorite in the series. I love ARPGs, and seeing a series I’ve enjoyed thoroughly start to lean more into that side of itself was a treat.
The platforming drags things down a bit – if only because it’s disappointing they couldn’t get it to work better, but getting to see some background on the only Horseman who’s had yet to properly appear in the series was fun and I genuinely can’t wait to see him get his solo game.
I also hope we can get another game like this – but have it be a 4-player affair with all 4 horsemen! If War can work this well in a game like this, then so can Death & Fury and I’d love to see that. Maybe bring back the loot system from Darksiders 2? Go full Diablo with the full team. I’d like that.
If you can’t tell yet: Yes – I would definitely recommend this one to pretty much anyone. Fans of the series or not – it’s a really fun game.