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Set before the events of the first game, Darksiders Genesis sees Strife and War journey throughout Hell to unravel a plot against humanity by Lucifer. begrudgingly agreeing to work with several demons to achieve their goal, the Horsemen put aside their differences in the face of a much larger threat.
Unlike other entries in the Darksiders series, Darksiders Genesis is played from a top down perspective not unlike something you might find in a Diablo game and also as a break from the norm, this one is designed to be played in co-op with one person controlling War and the other controlling Strife though you can still switch characters when you both choose to if you’re close to each other. While it does function as a co-op game you’re in no way penalised for playing alone, certain sections that might require two people are altered for single player so that it can all be played alone, you can switch between the two Horsemen at any point in the game even during combat.
When it comes down to it Strife and War are two completely different characters and it reflects that in their abilities, Strife is much more of a long range fighter with the majority of his power being held in his guns, he is also much more agile with his fighting relying on quickness and deception and although he can fight at close range, the amount of damage he inflicts is marginal compared to his brother, War. War is the heavy hitter of the two and when you need someone to get up in the face of their enemies War is the Horseman for the job, being much slower than Strife his focus is on the strength of his attacks and rather than dodge like his brother, War can block instead. If you’ve ever played the first Darksiders game then War will, for the most part, control the same way as you remember.
The difference between the two characters extends beyond their physical abilities to the kinds of equipment they can obtain throughout the course of the game, this means that you’ll have to utilise both of them if you have any hope of progressing through many of the game’s puzzles. While their equipment is mainly used for exploration and puzzle solving it does have some offensive use, though the amount of damage dealt by this equipment is little more than a scratch to some of the game’s later enemies so it might be better to stick to the regular combat abilities. It’s worth noting as well that some of the abilities you can find for Strife and War are completely optional and the game can be finished without them.
Darksiders Genesis retains that essence of exploration its predecessors had, despite the fact it takes on more of a mission based approach. After the first level you load into the void which is basically the hub world and it’s where you can shop for upgrades and new combat abilities and you can also explore this area to find the secrets it holds. Each mission of the game can be played over and over after they’ve already been completed but I would recommend that you wait until the end of the game until you do so considering some of the secrets require end game equipment to find. The levels themselves are all well varied with their own sets of enemies and each one is very nice to look at and while you do visit some areas more than once it’s not in the same place so it always feels different. There’s also a boss fight every few levels to spice things up a bit.
Strewn about the levels are Boatman Coins and it’s these, in conjunction with the souls you gather from items and enemies you destroy, that you use to buy things from your not so friendly merchant, Vulgrim and his associate, Dis. Vulgrim stocks various items including enhancements that allow you to carry more potions or to give the ones you use additional benefits as well as health and wrath upgrades, he also sells unique creature cores and randomised packs of creature cores to help fill out your collection. Dis on the other hand exclusively sells new combat techniques and moves to make you more effective in battle, she also sells what’s known as a synergy move which functions differently depending on whether or not you’re playing alone. Buying these enhancements and techniques increases War and Strife’s power levels in a way similar to an RPG and it has an indication of how difficult a level might be by displaying a recommended level so if either character’s level is above or below the recommended one it can change the challenge you find with it. If you want to have more or less challenge then you can adjust the difficulty before you select a mission to play, though bear in mind you have to finish the game before you can try your hand at the apocalyptic difficulty setting. Changing the difficulty will adjust the recommended power level based on the difficulty you choose.
As you slice your way through hordes of demons in Darksiders Genesis, you’ll gradually start to build up a sizable collection of creature cores, these are items dropped at random by your enemies that grant additional power to War and Strife. They can be powered up to a maximum level of three and each one has a different number of them you have to collect before they’ll level up, for example; one you obtain by defeating a boss may only need a few to be at max level whereas an armoured flea from the beginning of the game would need more than 20 just to reach level two. The creature cores can power up your characters beyond their normal abilities by granting them things like increased damage and wrath or making friendly monsters come to their aid when they take damage. The way they’re applied is in a grid like system and the creature cores have different types associated to them so if you use a strength one in a strength slot it’ll boost the effect, once you have applied a creature core it will unlock the adjacent places so you can expand the amount you can equip. The creature core grid has limited spaces and there are more cores available than there are spaces for them so you’ll have to decide what kind of boosts you want to what abilities, the good news is that they can be changed and swapped around so it leaves room for you to be able to customise War and Strife for different scenarios.
As well as the game’s campaign which is surprisingly long, especially if you like to look around in every nook and cranny for collectables, there’s also an arena mode which is several stages of 10 waves of assorted enemies. This mode is not only great for the rewards it offers on completion but it also provides a quick way for you to be able to stock up on any creature cores, you could always do it on the levels since there’s a visual indication of which ones are found where but since the arena mode has the same thing and each stage is over much more quickly, it’s great if you’re just wanting to farm them without having to go through a whole level.
Darksiders Genesis is fairly fast paced, more so than earlier entries but it is easy to pick up and play so newcomers to the series should have no problem getting to grips with it, add in the fact that it’s a prequel and it’s easy to see it being enjoyed by all. Initially I was wary of the top down perspective since it’s not exactly my preferred way to play Darksiders but thankfully the developers have managed to capture the feel of the mainline entries very well. It’s also nice to see at least some of the Horsemen interacting with each other without any pretext, they’re just going on a mission and no one can be mad at anyone for things they may or may not have done in the main story line, it also gives a brief window into what the Horsemen are like as people and not just as death bringers and warriors which I really liked. A couple of things I found fairly annoying are for one that when you’re in the void or a similarly echo-y place, it’s difficult to understand what the characters are saying and without the text boxes it would be almost impossible to tell. The second thing being that the cutscenes are a little lacking, it’s especially disappointing when the game is introduced with a high quality CGI cinematic, one I absolutely loved and that made me wish those who made it were hard at work on a Darksiders movie, but then the game features voiced over still images.
I’d recommend this game to anyone, fans of the series who want their first look at Strife or newcomers who are looking to see if Darksiders is the franchise for them and with this being a prequel, it’s the perfect place to start. Personally I would have liked it if Strife had his own mainline entry but this one more than steps up to the plate while we wait for whatever comes next in the Darksiders series.
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