System Pitch: Darksiders Genesis — Ultra Execution & Frenzy Enemies

Oliver Gallina
4 min readJun 15, 2023
An Execution being performed on a boss (all gifs & images by me)

One of my favorite systems in Darksiders Genesis’ combat is the Execution system, which lets you perform a flashy attack on a low-health enemy and guarantee some Health and Wrath Orbs, some of your primary resources, upon killing them; if you don’t do an Execution and instead deplete their health normally, you won’t be guaranteed these rewards, and open yourself up to more damage by taking longer to kill them. It’s an engaging mechanic that sells the “Horseman of the Apocalypse” power fantasy, and rewards you for paying attention to an enemy’s health in the midst of combat.

Where I think the Execution system could be improved, though, is in its sense of strategic decision-making. Whenever you get an enemy to their Executable state, there isn’t much of an interesting choice to make; the optimal strategy is to just Execute them ASAP to take them out faster and guarantee the Health & Wrath Orb drops. This can feel good to perform at first, but repeating it throughout most encounters with little variation can make it feel monotonous.

Combat can often feel like a handful of AOE abilities followed up by a bunch of Executions in a row

Because of this issue I have with the Execution system, today I’m going to pitch a system which I believe alleviates it, and adds a new layer of strategy to Darksiders Genesis’ combat on top of that: Ultra Executions & Frenzy Enemies.

The Pitch (Description Below the Image)

  • Every so often (10~20% of the time) when you reduce an enemy’s health to their Executable state, they’ll regain 100% health and become Frenzied, dealing more damage and attacking faster & more often (enough of an increase to make them feel like a considerably larger threat than before, maybe 25–50% for damage & attack speed & rate).
  • You can Execute these Frenzied enemies at any time, but if you instead reduce their health to zero, they’ll become staggered for several seconds, giving you the chance to perform an Ultra Execution (uses the same button as the regular Execution). Once the stagger period is up, they die normally, removing the opportunity to Ultra Execute.
  • Ultra Executing provides a large amount of resources useful both inside combat and in Shops: it gives double the Health and Wrath Orbs of a normal Execution, guarantees both a Creature Core drop and a large amount of Souls, fills the Chaos Gauge a little bit, and damages & blows nearby enemies away (it preferably also has an even flashier animation than a normal Execution).
  • Frenzy has a chance to occur with any enemy in the game, though it doesn’t happen at all with elite enemies and bosses UNLESS you’re on Apocalyptic difficulty, in which case it’s guaranteed for them.
  • Frenzy rate & strength increase / decrease with higher / lower difficulty levels.
Example of an elite enemy, denoted by its thicker & brighter health bar

I believe the Ultra Execution & Frenzy system would lessen the sense of monotony in Darksiders Genesis’ current Execution system with its dynamic percent chance to Frenzy, and it would add another strategic layer of risk vs. reward by asking players whether they want to Execute a Frenzied enemy now or take them down with an Ultra Execution for greater rewards. It would also allow for deeper tactics in Co-op Mode, where one player could take on a Frenzied enemy one-on-one while the other handles several normal enemies.

In terms of difficulty, since Frenzied enemies can be Executed at any time, I believe this system keeps the game at roughly the same challenge level, but raises the skill ceiling a bit more for players who enjoy pushing their abilities even further (especially on Apocalyptic difficulty), and rewards them for doing so with various resources and a useful blow-away effect.

Imagine Executing this guy, but Ultra

Playtest Points

  • Are Ultra Execution’s bonuses enough for a satisfactory amount of players to engage with it? Or would the vast majority of players just perform normal Executions on every enemy as soon as they could?
  • What needs to be tuned progression-wise to balance out the rewards gained from Ultra Execution? (e.g. Souls, Health & Wrath Orbs, Creature Core drop, Chaos Gauge boost)
  • Does this system change players’ combat behaviors in a negative way? Do they play more conservatively out of fear of an enemy Frenzying, for example?
  • When it comes to elite enemies & bosses on Apocalyptic difficulty, would the allowance of normal Executions at any time during Frenzy conversely increase the sense that you’re “skipping” the rest of their health bars?
  • Do enemy attack patterns require tuning to accommodate the Frenzy status?
  • Since some boss encounters are balanced to only be Executable once their health is fully depleted (or they’re not Executable at all, like the Blight Cannon), does it hurt the pacing & sense of finality story-wise to allow Frenzy for those bosses?

Thank you for reading this system pitch! I’ve really enjoyed Darksiders Genesis and have had a lot of fun planning out how to introduce a new system into its already excellent combat.

--

--