By Adele Chapline Smith
NEW YORK (CNS) — The hack-and-slash adventure “Darksiders Genesis” (THQ Nordic) takes excessive artistic license with Christian tradition. Thus, although it’s well-crafted, this is not a title suitable for a wide audience.
It would be an especially inappropriate choice, moreover, for those lacking a firm grasp of Catholic theology.
The original three installments of the popular franchise took for their setting a postapocalyptic Earth where angels and demons battle for dominion of the world.
The Horsemen of the Apocalypse are the last of the Nephilim, the offspring of angels and demons according to game lore (though not according to those books of the Hebrew Scriptures in which they’re mentioned). It’s the responsibility of the Nephilim to maintain the balance between good and evil.
“Darksiders Genesis” is a prequel which sees two Horsemen, War (voice of Liam O’Brien) and Strife (voice of Chris Jai Alex), try to save the remnants of mankind from absolute destruction by Lucifer himself. The two brothers find themselves at the start of a journey that will uncover a conspiracy much deeper than even the fallen angel’s grim plans.
The game consists of 16 story chapters which can be completed in under 20 hours, with room for re-playability. Despite a few mechanical flaws, much of the game design is well executed. The combat system is complex and satisfying, quickly becoming smooth and fun once the initial tutorials are completed.
There is very little in the way of coarse language; the dialogue consists mostly of clever banter and eye-rolling dad jokes from Strife, with deadpan, humorless responses from the more somber War.
Platforming is clunky given the restricted camera angles, making it difficult to determine which areas are reachable. The map shows where to collect valuable items but fails to indicate where the player is, making navigating the map itself quite tedious. But actual exploration and the environmental puzzles gamers encounter are skillfully crafted and enjoyable.
“Darksiders Genesis” is the first in the series to introduce cooperative gameplay, either online with a friend or via split screen couch co-op. A second player can take on the role of the other Horseman as the two progress further into the story. Solo players have the option to switch back and forth between Strife and War, depending on their preferred play style.
Gamers collect the souls of the dead, which can be used to buy items and upgrades for their characters. Demons drop souls called “creature cores” and these are used to build up different skills or resistance to types of attacks. Well-catechized Catholics will, of course, find these two concepts absurd.
The presence of demonic imagery within the game is obvious. Yet this is somewhat offset by the pervasive sense that the goal is to fight for truth and justice.
The demons of hell are, appropriately, depicted as monstrous and evil. Nonetheless, given its strong reliance on satanic material, “Darksiders Genesis” is best left to mature gamers. Some parents may find it acceptable for older teens well formed in their faith. But caution is advised.
Playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia and Windows.
The game contains occult themes, mostly stylized combat violence with some gore and occasional crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is T — teens.
Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.