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Review | Darksiders Genesis

"Journey is yours to take. The hell is one big bastard to defeat. Kill those demons and prepare for Doom Eternal - that's where the real fun starts."

by Foggy, 23-02-2020, Edited by: Jim Tepedino

Next in line in the Darksiders universe, Genesis sneaked his way around 2 months ago when it was released for the Google Stadia and for the PC. For console players, the wait was prolonged until 14.2.2020 when the game finally saw its light.

When we talk about the game, we talk about a spin-off title which follows the story events of the previously released games (Darksiders 1-3). We control Strife and War. Strife is a new member of the Horseman crew, while we had the opportunity to play as War in the first Darksiders game. They are both playable characters here, with slightly important role being the one for Strife. He is the man here.

For development we have Airship Syndicate – a company/group which has yet do develop something significant. Or maybe not. Their history is not long and Darksiders Genesis is their first “bigger” project. We can say big, maybe even the most important one, since Darskiders as a franchise exists for quite some time now. As usual, THQ Nordic was the publisher.

First and the only in game animation. Kicking demons asses is something that everybody likes.

Darksiders Genesis is not what we’re used to playing. This is its own Viktor Vran/Diablo clone - top down view, charged with action and packed into a Horseman of the Apocalypse package.

As I mentioned, the story follows the development of the events before the first Darksiders game. The king of Demons, Lucifer, has his own ideas how to disrupt the natural flow (as much as I can say “natural” in terms of these themes). The Council is trying to preserve the Balance and our Horsemen’s are here to support them. Lucifer is trying to strengthen his master demons throughout hell as a part of his plan.

War is rude. Well, who wouldn’t be when the only merch is charging you Souls in exchange for the goods? Bastard, after asking us to bring him demon artefacts on each level, like that was not enough.

As a countermeasure for the Lucifer’s plan, Strife and War have a mission. 16 (17) to be exact. The story follows the turn of events through levels, which for sure is where nostalgia kicks in. Unfortunately, there is only one animation when the game starts. The rest are artwork type animations which look like a Darskiders comic, followed by some decent audio dubs. I miss more animations and I miss having a better story. The story is just not important in this game, it’s somewhere in the distance, but I guess that’s something that goes alongside of hack ‘n’ slash genre.

Simply beautiful artwork, especially if you love seeing your beloved franchise in a comic sense. This is what you get for all in game events.

Technical (non)flow and the details

I was always careful with THQ games. Darksiders 3 was full of bugs and I though Genesis would be polished, since this game is really short and small in comparison to their main games. Plus, it was out 2 months ago, so there is nothing that can justify an impaired experience in this one. Of course, I was wrong. This has bugs galore. It’s like they don’t need quality assurance guys. I guess nobody even played the game in a fluent/faster way, otherwise they would've improved the clunkiness, getting stuck after certain button combinations and player changes. I was stuck so many times, I can’t even begin to explain the frustration.

The worst is definitely the map. Oh my god, the map. For a hack ‘n’ slash game, to create a map where you barely understand in which area you are, but without the actual pointer of your character…What the hell were they thinking? And when you do bring the map up, it resides somewhere at your neighbours place – you have to move the focus one million miles to get it where you want it. Then we have the wrong counters for collectibles – I have 21 coin while the map casually says 19, then there is that thing where, you know, the game just don’t mark what you’ve collected, but randomly! Oh man, that is just so much fun. Really, what the hell guys?

So, you will hate the camera. I’m sure of it. In half of the situations you will be behind some object and trying to make your way through only by using the shadow of your character. The lack of rotation function would be bearable if they did a fine job with the auto rotation. But no, denied! Some secrets or regular paths are just there where you don’t see squat further than the edge.

Tell me folks, where the hell am I here? Yes, I did the Tricker door on this level, while my map just loves me and lies in my face.

I’m surprised that there were no game crashes. On my PS4 PRO things ran smoothly, but soon after, things tended to get stuck, not fluid at all…It’s just frustrating. But, let’s go further, I don’t want to spend my words on every bug I’ve encountered, it would take too much of this review.

When it comes to graphics, we can point this game towards the PS3. I don’t mind, the graphics are not what measures the quality of a game. The real problem is when you run fast and the engine tries to render and load the textures, it’s just too slow and you feel all those issues with your eyes. I love that comic artwork and I love the audio dubs. Even some comments from Strife are good enough, which makes me want a AAA title featuring Strife and only him.

Common case. When you don’t get stuck on every corner, when you don’t walk the air, you will try to find the sense on the map – which funny enough, doesn’t have one.

Using action to go through the Hell

The thing I liked is the action segment itself. All the demon killing stuff is neat. Every level has its own theme, although some of them don’t make much sense theme-wise, but in general expect snow, dirt, tombs, hell and stuff like that. Levels are semi opened but very linear (which is never a bad thing in my eyes). There is a certain platforming included, but that is easier said than done with the awful camera. More details soon.

Strife is a long range dude. His 2 guns (which have their own names!) are what you will be using for the most of your time. There are also 2 daggers for close combat, but that is only if you feel lucky enough. War is on the other hand a rock solid strength dude with a sword meant for close combat.

I always thought how the hell can I play games like this with a joystick. I still think that. Partially. R1 and R2 will serve as bullet buttons. You shoot what you equip on them. Regular bullets are unlimited and honestly, maybe the best choice in many situations. The other ones I loved were electricity and beam type ammo – all of those you will collect as you progress through the levels. You want to fill the burst bar which will make you enter the burst mode where your bullets evolve into a badass form where they inflict some serious damage for like 20 seconds. Rinse and repeat.

Burst Mode is what you want. Now, attack with electricity or use the beam to desecrate everything in front of you.

War has elemental enhancements for his sword, so you can choose which element to use while attacking demons. Some are decent, some are not. He is more for a close combat and he is a great solutions when Strife is damaged goods and you need to recover him a bit. The game is all about collaboration, so don’t hesitate to find the best combinations. Especially for the apocalyptic difficulty run where you are dead in a couple of hits.

Both characters have 3 special attacks which you will collect as you play. Some of those will save you in undesirable situations. Strife has 2 really shitty ones, where World Ender is the one you will spam like crazy. It grants immunity and does decent damage to a wide-range of enemies. War is stronger, but only his Blade Geyser special is useful, so spam that one and revert back to Strife.

War saves the day, if there is enough mana to actually save the day. Arena can get tough, but nothing our heroes cannot handle.

Certain parts can be played in a local coop mode, but if you lack some friends around, you can always find some online and experience the split screen. I miss those days. The joy of playing this game grows as everything is more fun when you are in good company.

Good ol’ split screen. I remember the days when I was yelling at my brother for dying so often. I need to let him kick my ass, he deserves it.

Bottom line – everything is about killing the demons and making your way out of that mess. You will button mash a lot and transform when you fill your transformation bar. That is another form of special attack, the strongest one. Both characters have different transformation, but that doesn’t last long. Use them wisely.

Not to forget, the last type of attack in your everyday hero agenda is while riding a horse. The Horsemen can use them as a mean of fast traveling and to swing or shoot from a horse. Since the camera is so bad, you want to use the horse only when you actually need to do so (for one boss especially). I’m certain that everyone will find something to love.

The boss battles are mediocre, I miss some kick in those. They all tend to follow 2-3 different patterns and that’s it.

Level design and what they have to offer

The game works in a way that you have a hub area from which you enter different levels (play certain chapters). Vulgrim is here. That rotting bastard just wants your help and he will charge you for everything. Like surviving hell is not enough. There are a couple of more characters that will ask for things in that hub area, but nothing worth mentioning. They are underdeveloped and mostly I spent my time bored as hell while reading all dialogues. So, mission, back, talk, buy, repeat.

Through the 16 levels in which you will find a way to survive many elemental disasters. Mostly the levels are linear, with a pinch of semi open world approach. They all contain some side mission that are important if you aim for trophies or you want some challenge. One is for example to bring all the gold ingots and toss them into the furnace. They are hidden of course. Another one is to defeat certain mini bosses, or a boss without killing 5 of his minions. Stuff like that, nothing too ambitious. I liked exploration, collecting the keys for Trickster doors, Boatman coins and all the neat stuff you can find. Collecting all health and mana upgrades is a must if you plan to do some higher difficulty runs. Like I said, the only bad thing is that you will not see everything you collect, as some level counters are just buggy as hell itself.

Some challenges will tease your brain, but in general they are easy. I loved doing some, but the experience was degraded with technical issues.

Each level contains more or less different enemies. They do repeat themselves, but since there are only 16, they at least did a good job to insert some variety. I’m not saying it’s enough, but at least they didn’t add too much of the same types just in different colours.

Each monster can drop a creature gem. You want those. They can be equipped on your character development tree (both Strife and War share one) to strengthen your power level and stats. The more gems of some type you have, the higher level and abilities you will gain from them. So, you got the point, killing demons and collecting gems is what you need to aim for. Some boss gems are special and they will add more forms of attack, like when you are dodging, one gem can leave the lava trail behind. This is the highlight of the game, alongside with the action segment. Mini RPG system, if you prefer it that way. Maybe it’s not the complicated and the best one, but it’s certainly evolving and fun to use.

Combine this with new moves you buy from your hub shops and you have some variety in a sense of playing however you prefer better. I’m just sad those upgrades don’t change the experience much, you can survive just fine even without them.

The horses are so cool. And there is a double jump mechanic from the start. Love, love and love that.

The important part is also how to solve the riddles. Each character has 3 types of special gear that you will shift to reach your goal. Throwing the “shuriken” with War can transfer the flames and light the torches, Strife can open portals on marked objects, he can control the ball to reach some distant switches, stuff like that. Nice addition, I always love to think how to solve something. Too bad it’s quite basic and easy, nothing we haven't already seen in games.

Sphere grid system. Kill the demon, get the gem and equip the gem.

To finish the game it will take about 10 hours if you are in a rush. Almost double is if you aim to collect everything on each level, plus most of the side quests. The thing is, you need to backtrack as some levels require upgrades that you earn on future levels. Finishing the whole arena takes about 4-5 hours (20 missions plus the last one where you play until you die). The arena is the best way to grind and collect creature gems.

Have in mind that when you actually die with one character, you have 20 seconds to survive with the other so that your other character revives. Other than that, there are health potions that have limited use per level, but help a lot. It took me 35 hours to get the platinum trophy.

Oh boy, now the grade… This is not a AAA title. At the same time, playing this game as someone who is not a Darksiders fan or a fan of hack ‘n’ slash type of games is not something that goes altogether. If you find yourself in favour of any of the 2, of both, you can try. Expect technical issues, bugs, some frustration, but expect also to have fun. It’s a simple game, it offers multiplayer mode and has some replayability. Just remember, it’s a spin off title. Nevertheless, I cannot forgive those re-occurring issues, especially when they knew what was wrong from the first release and they never polished it as they should have. Be your own judge, just don’t expect much.

"Solid spin off title which stands somewhere around good, but falls behind because all of the technical issues and simplicity."