When I learned I’d be reviewing Darksiders Genesis, I was excited. I’d only played the first game in the series, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, and its sequel always lit the fires of temptation inside me when it went on sale. I decided to check out a trailer while I waited for the game to finish installing. My heart fell when I noticed the gameplay; the God of War/Zelda clone I had so loved had been transformed into a Diablo clone. Worse, the protagonist, Strife, seemed utterly obnoxious. War wasn’t exactly brimming with charisma, but his ridiculously persistent bad mood was endearing to me. But then, something happened, and it changed my perspective entirely: I played the game.
Strife was still a little annoying, but pairing him with everyone’s favorite hulking sourpuss created a fun rapport–not to mention a glorious tag-team adventure rife with all the flashy murder, gorgeously over-the-top visuals, and deeply satisfying puzzles that had brought me to the Dark Side in the first place. Like an archetypical hero returning from an arduous journey, I was stuck with a new point of view, but I was undeniably coming home.
- What is Darksiders Genesis? It’s a top-down hack n’ slash action RPG. Shoot, slice, and bludgeon those who would threaten the Balance, solve devious puzzles, and don’t forget to tease War a bit.
- Reviewed On: Windows
- Price: $29.99
- Developer: Airship Syndicate
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
- Release Date: December 5, 2019
- Website: https://darksiders.com/
- Multiplayer: Local/Online Co-op
Perfectly Balanced, as All Things Should Be
In terms of combat, Genesis feels like a synthesis between the first Darksiders and Diablo III. War plays similarly to how he did in his debut–hacking and chopping out brutal combos, then executing enemies with blunt, ruthless efficiency. Strife, meanwhile, feels similar to the Demon Hunter in Diablo, making good use of caltrops, shadow clones, and of course his paired handguns, Mercy and Redemption.
Each Horseman feels distinctly satisfying to play. Strife is agile and evasive, and using his different ammo types and abilities to whittle down enemies before finishing them off with a charged shot or an execution is downright exhilarating. War, meanwhile, is a humongous beef boi. It’s just fun to single out the biggest enemy in the room and grind them into mush. In singleplayer, you can swap between the brothers seamlessly, which leads to a lot of great moments. There’s something cinematic about blasting away at a horde of enemies as Strife, getting cornered and knocked down to half health, then swapping to War and turning the tables with a sudden, devastating Blade Geyser.
Combat is nicely varied throughout. Some levels allow the Horsemen to ride their horses (imagine that), and Strife in particular becomes an untouchable killing machine when mounted on his trusty steed. Most of the time, however, it’s a sprawling melee carried out on foot against numerous enemies. While the majority of encounters are easy or moderately difficult, there are some truly devilish foes (Demonic Magus, I’m looking at you) and boss fights are appropriately climactic. And if you aren’t sated by the violence in the main story chapters, the Arena offers plenty more ne’er-do-wells to hack down.
Storm and Stillness
Flashy, absurd violence aside, Darksiders Genesis is a consistently engaging, well-rounded experience. Despite the borderline juvenile art style (which I love, by the way) and simplistic story, Darksiders is meticulously designed. Levels are packed with secrets and puzzles, which are absolutely worth seeking and solving, respectively. Many games introduce non-combat gameplay as an afterthought to break up the flow of the experience, and these elements wind up coming across as limp and underdeveloped. Not so with Darksiders; puzzles are intuitive and varied, and exploration is compelling and rewarding.
Furthermore, there are numerous options in terms of progression. Both War and Strife can use souls to purchase upgrades to their Health and Wrath meters, new combos, and Creature Cores, to name a few. Speaking of which, the Creature Core system is the most modular aspect of progression, allowing you to experiment with different builds in order to optimize the destructive power of the Horsemen. Basically, when enemies are defeated, they can leave behind Creature Cores, items which can be slotted and arranged in various configurations and synergies, which you are free to alter at any time.
High Ground View
In addition to the new perspective it offers, Darksiders Genesis is significant for introducing cooperative gameplay to the franchise. This is a wildly entertaining addition. The combat, already visceral and breathless in singleplayer, benefits greatly from coordination and camaraderie. Difficulty is scaled up to match the added damage output, and the result is a more challenging combat system whose high points were worthy of exultant cheers.
Genesis has netted a considerable amount of (deserved) praise, but it’s by no means perfect. While the puzzles are generally well-designed, platforming controls often feel imprecise and frustrating. Similarly, one button controls the acquisition of important items, executions, and revives, and it is profoundly aggravating attempting to revive a teammate when wounded enemies are swarming and Creature Cores are clogging the floorspace. The perspective also creates problems when enemies corner you behind a piece of scenery–your Horseman is usually highlighted, but the enemies are not, leaving you swinging (or shooting) wildly in the dark. Add in some bugs and repetitive banter, and Genesis arouses a measure of exasperation.
Game title: Darksiders Genesis Review
Game description: In a prequel to the original Darksiders, join Strife and War as they seek to unravel a demonic conspiracy hatched by none other than Lucifer, King of Hell. Play alone to swap between the two brothers at a moment’s notice or bring a friend along for the ride. Ride a scary flame horse, pull off all manner of flashy executions, maybe turn into a gigantic manifestation of chaos and rage, devastating foes with your cataclysmic, irresistible might. When the killing starts to get tiresome (for two guys called Strife and War?!), there are always secrets to sniff out or puzzles to chew on. Also, you have to take a moment to appreciate Samael’s delectable voice. That’s a requirement.
Combat - 9/10
Puzzles & Exploration - 9/10
Co-Op - 9/10
Story and Audiovisuals - 8/10
Controls and Perspective - 7/10
With glorious combat, engaging puzzles, and rewarding exploration, Darksiders Genesis serves as a stellar showcase for co-op and a worthy prequel to the rest of the series. Finicky controls, some tired story beats, and sporadic glitches frustrate, but it’ll take more than that to knock the Horsemen of the Apocalypse out of the saddle.
- Amazing combat
- Compelling puzzles and exploration
- Charming, ridiculous audiovisuals and atmosphere
- Awkward controls, perspective problems
- Some grating narrative repetition
- Bugs and glitches