STAFF REVIEW of Darksiders Genesis (Xbox One)

Thursday, March 19, 2020.
by Brent Roberts

Darksiders Genesis Box art Ever since there was recorded time, there was the story of Good Vs. Evil, Heaven Vs. Hell and God Vs. The Devil; the stories have echoed throughout all of recorded human history. Throughout the Darksiders games, we have always been treated to 3rd person games that were littered with impressive cut scenes that depicted the horsemen of the apocalypse and their battle to maintain balance at behest of the Charred Council. Now though, things have changed. Developer Airship Syndicate Entertainment has opted to go a completely different pathway and give us a top-down isometric view, akin to a Diablo style game experience. A complete shift from the games we've come to expect from a Darksiders game, but with such source content at their disposal, what could possibly go wrong? (Insert foreshadowing music here)

In Darksiders Genesis we get to take control of Strife, who is, for lack of a better phrase, the "Deadpool" horseman. His primary weapon are his two guns which are basically two handheld machine gun pistols. These have tremendous range so they work well in targeting enemies from far away, and as you go through the game you can customize their damage, but more on that shortly. Strife is paired up with War and the two are sent to deal with Lucifer and Samael as the Charred Council claims that they have been conspiring with each other. In reality though, Lucifer has offered a price that no demon would ever be able to resist; anything they want for the death of Samael.

The story behind Darksiders Genesis IS a Darksiders story that is done well. The game consists of you literally teaming up with Samael (as you always seem to do) to go after Lucifer. The game itself boils down to doing the errands of Samael in an attempt to get closer to Lucifer. It's something similar we've seen before in the original Darksiders, but on a much larger scale. There are over 15 levels and each one of them is a very large sandbox world that is laid out and designed to offer rewards to those who go exploring. However, there is a massive problem here. The map sections.

This thing is one of the absolute worst abominations of any map structure. For starters, you have absolutely no icon to show where your character is on the map itself. Think that may be a helpful thing? I do too. Instead of a very logical pointer icon, they have sections of the map flash to indicate that is where you are. That makes absolutely no sense and there were times where I had to go to previously opened chests or collectibles and gain my bearings from there. Why? Because as you navigate, the map doesn't rotate. You can shift the map around and even zoom in (which is literally the most useless feature I've ever experienced in a game... ever). If you don't even know where you are, the point of zooming in is to what, see a larger flashing area that you don't know where you're at? How hard would it be to get a simple icon that said "you are here" and put an arrow or a dot, or ANYTHING other than this. Sigh... This is a big blow, especially when you gather how large these maps actually are and all the intricacies within them.

Now onto another thing that is kind of pointless, but for other reasons. The characters Strife and War. Now you're thinking, why are these pointless? The reason is, when we first see Strife, we see a fleeting glimpse in Darksiders III of him going to wage war on an oncoming demon army. Now, in Darksiders Genesis you get to upgrade your character and unlock abilities, but that's the problem. War isn't how we left him and there’s no sort of "backstory" as to why he now needs to go around upgrading his abilities. Strife is the exact same way.

There are three abilities that each character must unlock by obtaining them, 3 distinct gear slots that you have to obtain to unlock, and finally, each character also comes with a unique skill wheel that pertains to their character. You have to also obtain these as well. If these are supposed to be the horsemen of the apocalypse, then why are they always so weak to begin with? I understand that developers want to give something the gamer should work for, but you could also increase the challenge on a fully powered character and get the same effect. Alas, in Darksiders Genesis you'll be forced into navigating the levels and figuring out how to access these upgrades and unlocks. Good thing you have a good map system to guide you right?

The game controls are pseudo simplistic. The Left Stick moves the character while the Right is where you aim your focus for your attack. Your bumpers and triggers do different things depending on the character you're controlling, but your Right Bumper calls up your skills menu where you can select X, Y, or B to perform a unique skill. For example, if you're controlling War, pressing RB with X performs a massive AOE attack that sends blades up in circles around him that deal massive damage and knock enemies back. If you're controlling Strife though, pressing RB with X causes Strife to move out of the way exposing a shadow clone of himself that fires at enemies with ammo that can not only pierce through, but also bounce off surfaces and draw the aggro of surrounding enemies.

The transformations into Havoc forms exist, and while we are accustomed to War, Strife's form is interesting, as he seemingly turns into a massive demon with some truly overpowered swords and what appears to be a minigun. Along with the havoc form, since there are two horsemen to play as, there is a special link attack as well. Let's say you're playing as War. You're killing enemies left and right and this little bar builds under your character's wrath that is your link gauge. After you've done enough action your meter will be full. During this time, you can hold down A and Strife will come in and essentially perform a screen clearing, Quentin Tarintino shooting scene that decimates everything.

There is a new tree that focuses on Demon orbs. These orbs come from fallen enemies and consist of both minor and major quality. There are three classes for these orbs which I'll call health, attack and wrath. This tree allows you to insert these Demon orbs into these slots that will grant you upgraded powers such as increased damage, increased wrath time/power, more souls, etc. Now should you match a slot on the tree with the corresponding orb (attack slot + attack category orb) then you will receive an extra bonus to your enhancement. This is particularly helpful when you also realize that the slots range from tier 1 to 3, where 3 provides you the biggest bonuses. This means you have to choose your orbs wisely, but the customization options are endless since you don't HAVE to go for these extra bonuses if you don't want to. This tree is a wonderful addition to the game and one of the best parts of it. To obtain these orbs you can either farm through the game's levels or you can enter the arena and go through all the stages for a really easy way to max them out.

The graphics of the levels are nice sometimes, good most of the time and meh sometimes. There's one massive flaw though in this game's development and that comes with the boss fights. Once you get Strife upgraded through the tree, he literally becomes a one-man wrecking crew with his guns. When he fires and hits, he builds a meter that when full, unlocks his full shooting ability and you can unlock a charged version of his secondary ammo. Secondary ammo? Yes, outside of the infinite standard ammo (which honestly, you'll use 99.5% of the time and be perfectly fine with), you get the ability to have different types of shots from your guns.

You can fire chain lightning like a Sith lord, you can fire a gravity shot that acts like a mini black hole on enemies or how about healing shots that act like a shotgun blast that converts shots landed on your opponents to health orbs (this is a GREAT way to survive long rounds in the arena but you don't get this shot till later on in the game). When you reach a boss, Strife literally just needs to go in a circle (if possible) and strafe and shoot until the enemy is dead. This makes the fights incredibly boring. What about those who you can't orbit while firing? Simple, switch into Strife's havoc form, target the boss and literally do not let go of the trigger. The damage inflicted will be incredible which will allow you to simply mop up the rest when you break from the form.

This hurts the game because Darksiders is always about the massive boss fights and you don't really get that sensation here. Sure, the character models themselves are big (sometimes) but there's no real grand scale since we are looking from the top-down. This is where I felt a detachment from the Darksiders genre. I would have given anything to switch into a 3rd person point of view for the boss fights and just alter the controls for a time being and really produce something incredible. Sadly, that isn't found here. Just like Dark Helmet said, "Keep Firing" and you'll beat any boss with very little trouble.

Another letdown are the cutscenes themselves. Done in a scenic still display with narration rather than actual movie cutscene, these moments helped showcase the grandeur of the characters and the roles that they play. I'll even admit it, I miss the old Vulgrim. Darksiders Genesis could have done so much with all the characters, especially with Samael. However, we do get the voice actors at least (thankfully) so I guess that's something? Speaking of the audio, that has to be my favorite part. There are scenes of choirs chanting, melodies ringing, beats driving and I loved hearing every minute of it. I think it was easily the part I enjoyed the most.

I would talk about the camera system but honestly, I don't want to beat a dead horse... I'll just say that it's fixed position would be OK if there was absolutely never any level design feature that would have served better through a rotational camera. Say when trying to traverse around poles, ledges and performing jumps and glides that require precision. Think of the camera system like the quality of "map 2.0" and that should sum up how absolutely terrible it can be at times. OK so I did actually talk about the camera, you'll be glad I did.

Darksiders Genesis is heavily flawed. If you're thinking it's simply Diablo with a Darksiders skin you're going to be disappointed. Darksiders Genesis is a cheap Diablo knockoff that doesn't provide the same spectacle that made the previous 3 games the iconic status that they are. Despite all of that though, I LOVE DARKSIDERS GENESIS. Yes I'll tolerate the worst map ever, a camera and movement system that makes me want to hunt down the developers and deal with all the problems of level design and boss development, because I enjoyed playing the hell out of it. A game doesn't have to be perfect to be fun and Darksiders Genesis proves that to be true.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.8 / 10


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