Throughout human history, there have been few decisions so wacky you wonder how they could have been made in the first place. What’s the other side of this sea? What will happen if I eat this? What’s the worst that will happen if I stick that in there?
Darksiders Genesis is one of those weird and out there decisions. Let’s take our popular third-person action game and turn it into a top-down dungeon crawler. Such a curveball doesn’t happen very often in today’s gaming industry – but it did. And it works.
Darksiders Genesis serves as a prequel to the previous Darksiders games, and introduces the fourth Horseman, Strife, as a playable character. For the first time in the Darksiders series, you can switch between two Horsemen, with War being the other Horseman on duty. War, having been introduced in the original Darksiders, is as gruff and steadfast as he was in the first game. Strife, on the other hand, is an easy-going and affable member of the Horsemen clan, serving as a banter balance against the serious and stern War. Making your way through each level their banter comes across as genuine, with the two often talking back and forth as to the goings-on and keeping you in the loop to the various demons and subplots you come across as you make your way through Hell.
If you’ve played any of the previous games in the series you’ll get the basic premise here. Your job, as one of the famed Horsemen of the Apocalypse, is to maintain the balance between Heaven and Hell. I will confess, sometimes the backstory did get a little lost on me, with so many biblical names and grandiose titles getting thrown about it all becomes a little unwieldy. Luckily, the gameplay is strong enough that it kept me going, with getting from Part A to Part B never more complicated than swinging and shooting your way through a few unruly demons and their minions.
Having played the three “main” Darksiders games I was concerned that all the goings-on would sail straight over my head, and if I’m totally honest I’m 99% certain most of them did. The good thing is this didn’t hamper my enjoyment of Genesis one bit, and the 1% I did understand made me feel like I was in the know. If you’re a newbie to the series Darksiders Genesis works fine on its own merits, and if you’re a Darksiders mega fan you’ll no doubt enjoy the references and Easter Eggs that clear sailed right by me. Not to worry though, should you want it, all of the back story is kept neat and tidy in the games Journal should you wish to access it via the pause menu, but really, who reads all that stuff?
Hacking and slashing has always been the main ingredient when it comes to Darksiders, and that still holds true for Genesis. Flipping the perspective from a third person to top-down doesn’t change the core gameplay too much, with the main changes coming in how you see the world around you. Every now and again the map does become a bit of a hindrance, sometimes getting in the way and blocking your character, and often at the most inconvenient time. A minor gripe, but it never stopped it from being annoying when you were in the middle of smashing demon heads together only to have a rock block your view for a second or two.
Exploration is its own reward in Genesis, with upgrades and bonuses hidden away in every level. Exploring is a fun and crucial element to Darksiders, and Genesis has struck the balance between repetitive and enjoyable in that it drip feeds you these rewards at just the right rate to keep it fresh, giving you that ever-important dopamine fix every time you unlock something new. Sometimes the maps can be a little confusing snaking in and out, with the treasure map that you unlock only giving a vague indication of the current section you are in, but by locating landmarks and working your way out from there the whole system is passable.
Your basic abilities are all there, with a light and heavy attack, plus special abilities available for crowd control or ranged attacks. Strife comes equipped with two guns so is perfect for attacks from a distance, while War is equipped with a huge sword making him ideal for getting up close and personal. I found I preferred playing as War, as I felt his attacks had more of a bite to them taking out enemies faster than Strife’s guns from afar, but as I progressed through the game I found myself switching between the two quite frequently. Doing so is a little cumbersome after first, having to press the L1 and X button to do so, and initially, I would mix up my combinations and drop an attack in when what I really wanted to be doing was change characters. Again, a minor gripe but something to look out for in the heat of battle.
Talking about the heat of battle I did experience some juddering and a little frame rate drop when a lot was going on at once. Granted not enough to sour my experience but enough that it warrants a mention here.
Later you unlock the ability to transform into a raging behemoth for a few crucial seconds – dealing additional damage while taking less from enemies. These Chaos forms will be familiar to those of you who have played the previous games, and they work well to make the already satisfying combat feel even meatier as you get towards some of the tougher enemies later on.
Defeating the many demons you encounter on your way causes them to drop health, ammo for your guns and souls, which serve as the games currency. Vulgrim, the demon merchant, makes his return (entrance? Do you return for a prequel?) here, serving up a range of tidbits and upgrades that you can use to power up your arsenal and abilities. In need of Health or Wrath orbs to unlock your special abilities? Perform an Execution using the O button. Fancy some souls to spend the next time you visit Vulgrim? Just whack them around the head and be on your way. This adds an extra level to combat, as you try and balance the need for health and wrath against the upgrades that Vulgrim has available should you have the souls to purchase them.
Occasionally the demons you defeat will drop big glowing orbs, known as Creature Cores, that can be used to level up your character. These serve a variety of purposes that essentially becomes your characters skill tree, up levelling abilities and attributes. The game does not pester you about this – in fact, I literally stumbled across it as I was looking through the pause menu at the side quests I had available. Opening up the Creature Cores tab I was presented with a short tutorial telling me how I could assign different cores to different sockets, upgrading my stats in a variety of ways. As I say, it wasn’t until a few levels in that I discovered this, and even then it was a little while later before I fully started to grasp what it was all about and fully utilise it to help me progress through the game, so just be aware that the creature core is there to make you more powerful, even if it isn’t pointed out to you from the start.
Darksiders Genesis puts a fresh spin on an established franchise. From fluid and satisfying combat, a rewarding progression system and strong replay value makes Genesis a welcome addition to the Darksiders series. If you’ve played a Darksiders game before, don’t let the shift in perspective put you off because Genesis is definitely worth a look.
Darksiders Genesis PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8.5/10
Darksiders Genesis takes an established franchise and does something different with it, and it works. Not only does Genesis stand up on it’s own, it is an enjoyable action RPG with engaging combat, rewarding exploration and some platform puzzling to boot. A must for Darksiders fans.
- Meaty combat that quickly ups in difficulty but remains enjoyable.
- Rewarding exploration that keeps you on the look out for the next upgrade.
- Replay value – some levels have to be revisited later as new skills become unlocked should you be a completionist.
- A map that doesn’t pinpoint the player – with a bit of practice this does get easier and it’s not a big deal, but can be a pain when hunting for the last chest on a level.
- Can be frustrating when objects in the level block the view of the action.
- I did suffer a few freezes, and even one crash, during my review.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.