DARKSIDERS GENESIS / DEVELOPER: AIRSHIP SYNDICATE / PUBLISHER: THQ NORDIC / PLATFORM: PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE (REVIEWED) / RELEASE DATE: 14TH FEBRUARY
A prequel to the original Darksiders, Genesis stars War and his brother Strife – two of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – as they attempt to stop Lucifer from bringing death and destruction to all mankind. Players are able to swap between the two characters at any time to utilise their unique weapons and abilities – newcomer Strife is more suited to ranged combat with his guns and superpowered ammo, while War (who will be familiar to anyone who's played the first Darksiders game) uses his massive Chaos Eater sword for close-quarters melee combos. They both also have a couple of different Wrath abilities (special attacks) as well as two unique gadgets each that can be used to overcome traversal puzzles within each level, making the two characters feel very different from each other yet still immensely enjoyable to control.
At first glance, Genesis' shift from a third person perspective to a top-down viewpoint gives some strong Diablo vibes, but the similarities between the two games pretty much end there. This is very much a Darksiders game through and through, with all the familiar puzzle-laden hack and slash mayhem that we've come to know and love from the series. Throughout the game's 16 chapters (and 20+ wave-based Arena battles), you'll be dispatching enemies left, right and centre, racking up countless souls to spend on upgrades and new combo moves, and gaining new abilities that will allow you to access previously blocked-off areas (completed chapters can be replayed as many times as you want).
Instead of using a traditional levelling system, all enemies in Genesis have a chance to drop a “creature core” when defeated. These cores – which fall into three different categories – can be slotted into a skill tree to boost your stats. The cores themselves can be levelled up by collecting more of the same type, and the drop rate increases on higher difficulties, leading to a satisfying grind as you continually get stronger, bump the difficulty up, find more cores, and repeat. Later levels can really get quite tricky, especially when you're challenged to fend off hordes of demonic monsters while trying to figure out how to access some of the more difficult to reach parts of the environment. There are also optional objectives to consider in each chapter, completion of which will reward you with even more cores and currency.
Genesis goes a long way to freshening the series up a bit, although it isn't a complete success. Some control over the camera would have been appreciated – despite being big hulking brutes, the camera is so far away that your characters (and their foes) seem tiny, and it's easy to miss the button prompts that appear over their heads when execution moves are available. Also, judging your exact position during some platforming can also be quite frustrating due to the fixed camera. And one other thing to be aware of – it's possible to fall off the edges of the levels, which is never fun...
If you prefer to casually breeze through a game and just enjoy the ride, you'll be more than happy, but the addictive combat, collectable creature cores and Metroidvania-style backtracking mean there's plenty on offer for those who want to spend time grinding away to power up their characters before taking on the higher difficulty levels. Despite a few minor grumbles, Genesis is easily the finest Darksiders game since 2010's original.