|release date||December 2019|
Two years ago, THQ Nordic tried to breathe new life into the Darksiders series. While the third installment received mixed reviews due to inappropriate copying of Dark Souls mechanics, the publisher continued to stir up fan interest by releasing a spin-off titled Darksiders Genesis. The transition to isometry and the erroneous decisions of Darksiders III gave rise to suspicions about another attempt to make money on a well-known franchise, but the game turned out to be better than expected. The studio Airship Syndicate turned out to be a peppy cooperative action game in the spirit of the first parts, but from a different angle.
The Genesis story starts before the start of the original trilogy. Hell is torn apart by an internal war, Lucifer is building some kind of global plans, and the balance is under threat. The Charred Council calls on the Horsemen of the Apocalypse to find Lucifer and his minions. Following the trail, the heroes meet the demon Samael, familiar to the old players, who willingly helps in their search, demanding valuable artifacts in return.
The pathetic plot quickly boils down to the search for these same artifacts, when any development of history is tied to the hunt for a new unique item. And this convention explains the constant change of locations and scenery. And the characters and the general atmosphere perfectly convey the spirit of the original games.
We play for two horsemen — War and Discord. The first acts in the form of an angry berserker, smashing evil spirits with a huge sword. Discord plays the role of a caustic, boorish merry fellow with pistols. And all the dialogues in the game are based on the opposition of these characters, which makes the story brighter and more alive.
The presence of two characters involves a joint passage or a single mode with a constant change of hero in different situations. Genesis offers an easy-to-learn combat system with different abilities for each hero. Using two basic attacks, you can easily cut through crowds of monsters with a sword or shoot them with pistols. Along the way, dodges and jumps are used to avoid attacks. The combination of actions allows you to use more powerful combo attacks, and over time, the heroes learn new tricks and get additional weapons.
In a fight, you need to constantly maneuver and perform finishing moves in time between the main blows. In response to our commands, the heroes famously smash hordes of enemies and perform beautiful tricks, cutting off the lives of exhausted demons. It looks spectacular, especially with combos that shake the ground and are accompanied by bright flashes.
Despite the transition to an isometric view, the game captures the spirit of the original parts well, where the horsemen are powerful mystical warriors capable of resisting demonic hordes. There are difficult battles and battles with powerful bosses, but there is also a feeling of a strong fighter under your control, who famously cuts through the hordes of evil on horseback.
Genesis skillfully combines combat and exploration of the world, as it was in Darksiders II. Our heroes masterfully overcome chasms, crawl along rocky ledges, glide over falling platforms and perform other acrobatic stunts with parkour elements. And in addition to the story stages tied to acrobatics, there are many side adventures that require rock climbing and precisely adjusted jumps with flights between hooks.
There are many collectibles scattered around the locations, which stimulates the study of all nooks and crannies. Valuable objects are immediately marked on the map, which gives a general idea of their location. Next, you need to follow some tricky procedure or solve a small puzzle in order to get to the desired prey.
Genesis has a distinct sense of progression that revolves around combat and collectibles. The more demons fell from your blades and pistols, the more souls and different spheres you collected. The more persistent you are in search of secrets, the more useful elements for pumping are received.
And with new skills, you get even more opportunities, which allows you to return to old locations and get an artifact that previously seemed inaccessible.
Character skills affect both combat and research capabilities. War has a throwable blade in its arsenal that can be used to start fires when solving puzzles. A powerful blow to the ground allows you to destroy the growths of crystals that block the path. Discord has sticky portal bombs to link two points in space. You change heroes and use their unique skills to perform different combinations of actions to unlock doors, activate mechanisms, and so on.
The combat skills of the character directly determine your tactics in battle. Initially, War appears to be a more skilled fighter due to his sword and combo attacks. But by unlocking new types of ammo for Discord, you get a serious advantage for ranged attacks. Sometimes it’s better to dodge a fast opponent and incinerate them with the burn beams from the pistols instead of trying to force melee. You get maximum pleasure from the right combination of characters, when you shred nearby creatures in time, get away from the attack of a big monster and finish it off from a long distance. And having gained the required amount of rage, you activate the demonic mode in order to tear the next portion of enemies into pieces in the form of a fiery creature.
A variety of enemies actively stimulates combat variability. Difficult opponents force you to look for a new approach and use your skills more actively. This is especially true when fighting bosses, which can surprise not only with their size, but also with unexpected abilities — teleport or the creation of doubles.
For pumping, we put the essence cores obtained in battle into the development tree. This provides small stat bonuses or side effects. And the right combination of cell category and kernel increases the overall effect. Along the way, you collect a variety of fragments, from which you can collect stones with additional improvements. And there is always an option to buy some kind of upgrade from local demon merchants.
The game has a clear structure with separate locations and a hub level where story characters gather and important dialogues take place. Story locations can be replayed to collect previously inaccessible items. Collecting all the items in one playthrough is not possible, as some actions will become available in later stages with new skills. Replaying locations is a controversial decision. It may be interesting because of the new elements, but some will find it time consuming.
There may be problems with the control of heroes during acrobatics. The isometric view requires precise positioning, which can make it easy to miss the right ledge or platform while jumping. And this creates serious difficulties on long acrobatic stages, when a quick change of direction is required. Control in battle can also cause difficulties, because in a major battle the picture turns into a mess of bright effects, behind which the character is lost.
The graphics are good. There are dark locations of the same type, but basically the game pleases with diverse bright views with shiny surfaces. At the same time, the original visual style has been carefully preserved.
The game uses the Unreal Engine 4 engine. Its system requirements are slightly higher than what you would expect from an isometric slasher with a fixed camera and a limited view.
Below are the results of our testing of video cards in Darksiders Genesis, which give a broad idea of the performance at different resolutions. This is supplemented data from the review «Games against video cards 6».
The maximum graphics settings are enabled. The test episode is presented in the video:
At 1920×1080 resolution, the game does not need powerful graphics cards. Old models of the GeForce GTX 1060 and Radeon RX 580 level show excellent results. The overall advantage of NVIDIA solutions is noticeable, but at a high frame rate this is not critical.
As the resolution increases, the game becomes more demanding. A comfortable performance level at 2560×1440 starts with the GeForce GTX 1660. The GeForce RTX 2060 Super is minimally inferior to the Radeon RX 5700 XT. AMD’s older solutions are noticeably weaker than the GeForce RTX 2070 Super and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.
Darksiders Genesis is a solid isometric slasher with a vigorous combat system, small puzzles and leveling, which is tied to exploring locations and collecting artifacts. The game successfully inherits the style of a big trilogy with a common pathos mood and similar musical motives, which reinforces and enhances the sense of interconnection with the overall game universe. A successful offshoot that will take its rightful place within the Darksiders franchise. But you have to be prepared for some challenges due to the many platforming elements and difficulty navigating through the intense fights.