Published on March 3rd, 2020 | by John Werner
Darksiders Genesis Xbox One Review
Summary: Set before the cataclysmic events of the first Darksiders game, ‘Darksiders Genesis’ takes players deeper into the world of Heaven, Hell, and the balance that binds them.
Set before the cataclysmic events of the first Darksiders game, ‘Darksiders Genesis’ takes players deeper into the world of Heaven, Hell, and the balance that binds them. As the fourth title in the ‘Darksiders’ series, developer Airship Syndicate brings a fresh new look into the franchise as well as the long-awaited debut of the gun wilding horseman, Strife. Along with his fellow horseman and brother, War, the pair must track down the lord of Hell to uncover a conspiracy that would see the destruction of the balance between good and evil.
When I first saw the trailer for ‘Darksiders Genesis’, like many of you, I was skeptical. Here was the long awaited fourth addition to one of the best hack-n-slash games series that I’ve played. Yet, it wasn’t what any of us were expecting. To explain my position better, you need to understand what has already been done in the previous three Darksiders games. Each game, up until now, followed a rather strict pattern: It would always be a 3rd person hack-n-slash adventure game, it would introduce a new horseman as the main character and tell their part of the story about what they did when War was framed for jump-starting the apocalypse. Initially, it appears that ‘Darksiders Genesis’ breaks all of these rules. However, at a second glance, it seems that the developer has made some very clever design choices that actually work incredibly well. The more I played this game, the more I began to understand why everything was done the way it was. But the ultimate question still needs to be answered: Does it work?
The most important thing you or anyone else needs to know about the Darksiders series is that each game is very story driven and each addition is built further into the game’s lore. ‘Genesis’ is no different, taking place before the events that initially set the stage for all other Darksiders games. Before they were Horseman, Strife, War, Fury and Death were part of a race called the Nephilim, the unholy offspring of Angel and Demon. In an attempt to restore order, the four were offered power and a place as the enforcers of the balance in exchange for whipping out the rest of their kind. It is after these events have occurred that the story of ‘Darksiders Genesis’ begins, and quite possibly the reason for making the game so different from other titles. It is my belief that the developer chose this path to help differentiate ‘Genesis’ as part of the overall origin story of the horseman and not as an additional chapter that follows on from ‘Darksiders 3’, hence the reason there are two playable horsemen rather than just one like other titles.
Gamers who are already familiar with Darksiders lore will know that each horseman has their own unique and very iconic weapons. In Strife’s case, it’s a pair of revolvers called Mercy and Redemption that can be loaded with different types of ammunition that produce unique effects when fired. Had the developer kept with the same 3rd person style as other Darksiders games, we’d be left with nothing more than a slow paced shooter. Choosing to go with a top-down view creates the perfect environment for players to really see Strife at his best and utilize his playstyle to the fullest. As a new customization option, players can pick what ammunition Strife loads into his gun, thus determining the type of attacks he’ll produce during combat. Amongst his deadly arsenal is a mixture of your typical low-damage/fast-speed and high-damage/low-speed attacks, plus some more unique powers such as black holes and chain lightning. However, if that wasn’t enough, these attacks then take on a new ultimate form for a limited amount of time when they become fully changed.
The other playable character, War, also has some cool new tricks up his sleeve while still building on his combo-attack style, as seen in Darksiders 1. The developers have done an amazing job of recreating all of War’s classic moves while still making him a valuable fighter with some level of diversity. Players can now use War’s gigantic sword with different elements to add powerful effects to his attacks. While they may not be as flashy as Strife’s ammo options, choosing what element to equip can drastically improve War’s combat style from AOE to DPS. One thing I did like about this system is that both characters can change their weapon enhancements on the fly during combat. This gives players a lot more creative freedom when tackling difficult boss fights and overwhelming waves of enemies. During my playthrough of the game, I found that having this option made gameplay much smoother and kept my interests during missions. I personally hate when games make you pick all of your loadouts before taking on a mission as a way to force players replay missions with the correct equipment. Thankfully, ‘Darksiders Genesis’ doesn’t follow these patterns.
While ‘Darksiders Genesis’ does have the option for co-op and split-screen gameplay, the game functions incredibly well as a solo adventure. Rather than having both characters on screen simultaneously, players can switch between War and Strife at any point, with the option to activate powerful ‘synergy’ moves when doing so. Each character has their own health and stats but still share the bonuses from any pickups, meaning that when one character is low on health, he can be place in reserve while the other collects health potions for him. This feature means that you don’t need to worry about having one really strong character and provides a more balanced use of both horsemen. War and Strife also share the same skill tree which, like everything else, can be changed at any point in the game. Rather than using experience points, items called ‘creature cores’ can be placed into the tree that provide unique bonuses based on the cores level and location within the skill tree. Each core has either a bonus that applies to both horsemen’s stats like health and damage, or enhances one of their skills and abilities. The bonuses offered by the cores are designed to offer something for both horsemen, meaning that no core is only meant for a single character, thus ensuring a very even balance between the two playable characters.
As far as graphics go, ‘Darksiders Genesis’ is both visually pleasing and keeps true to the style setout by other games within the series. The animation team have done an amazing job of recreating all of War’s iconic attacks, appearance, and demonic form into a top-down game. In truth, the same can be said about Strife’s fun and playful design. Both of their movements feel smooth and natural, and preforming their execution moves on enemies is extraordinarily fun; Even after the 100th time, it doesn’t get old. However, as far as graphics go, I do have one issue with the level design. The trick to making a good top-down game is ensuring that the level design is done in a way to maximize the players visibility, therefore ensuring that the main character can be clearly seen at least 90% of the time. Unfortunately, someone got a little carried away when creating the amount of foreground elements in each level. During many combat heavy moments, large pillars and other foreground elements blocked my view, leaving only a blue silhouette of my character and the enemies around me. This made combat almost impossible as it was difficult to figure out what direction I was facing or what attacks where been used. Additionally, any loot that was dropped would be hidden from view with no clue if a rare creature core had dropped. This was especially annoying during one of the boss fights later on in the game. In some cases, it was the contributing factor that got my horsemen killed. The only other issue I have with the level design is that there is no marker on the map to indicate your location. Figuring out where you are is more of a guessing game as only the region that you’re in is highlighted. I’m sure a simple update would fix this problem but it still needed to be said.
‘Darksiders Genesis’ is an interesting addition to the Darksiders series, but arguably necessary to add more depth to the game’s lore and backstory. By having two characters featured in cut scenes, we are able to see a level of dialogue not seen in previous titles. Strife brings a lot of much needed humor to the game and works very well with the already heavily established character, War. The game also boasts an enormous amount of solo and co-op replay for players who want to replay missions or take on the challenging arena levels that offer greater rewards. Difficulty wise, ‘Genesis’ is very well balanced for both new and experienced gamers and offers options for additional assistance to help players learn the controls. I definitely recommend this game for anyone who wants something that is story driven but wants something to play casually without having to commit to a 1000-hour saga.