The Darksiders franchise is known for being one of the most underrated hacks and slash action-adventure games in the video game industry. Fans of the series would rank the tales of the Four Horseman among other games such as God of War, Devil May Cry, and Bayonetta. So, when it was announced that the newest entry to the series would be a top-down dungeon crawler akin to games like Diablo, fans were understandably worried. Would this decision shove the series deeper into the shadows or is this the change needed to bring it into the spotlight it so deserves? Here’s our Darksiders Genesis Review.
As someone who has always been interested in the Darksiders series, but has never been able to carve out the time to play any of the previous games, I am glad to announce that Darksiders: Genesis holds its own as a strong entry into the series, and has me excited to continue the story in the remastered titles of the earlier games.
Darksiders Genesis is a prequel that follows two of the Four Horseman, Strife and War, as the Charred Council sets them to the task of putting an end to Lucifer’s plan to destroy humanity. This begins a journey through numerous plot twists, that ends in what feels like a great cliffhanger explaining what happened before the events of Darksiders: Warmastered Edition.
One of the first things that stand out about this game is just how beautiful the art style is. Each realm players traverse through has its own unique color tone. From the dirty browns of Blackstone Keep to the Icy Blues of Icebind Cavern, to the Sinister Greens of Vulgrim’s Lair, each new chapter had moments worthy of putting down the controller to take in the scenery.
With top tier, voice actors reprising their roles (Liam O’Brien, Phil Lamar, and Troy Baker return as War, Abaddon, and Vulgrim) Chris Jai Alex does a phenomenal job taking on the role of the fourth and final Horseman Strife. The brotherly banter between O’Brien and Alex is perfectly peppered throughout the game just enough so as not to overstay its welcome and will leave players wanting to hear more. It was quite amusing whenever the plot would evolve as I would find my concerns being voiced aloud by the witty Horseman.
It is quite interesting that the game recommends that players use a gamepad for the best experience. It seems like the folks over at Airship Syndicate are quite aware that the Darksiders fanbase resides mostly on the console. Playing with mouse and keyboard is a painful act, and while the keys can be reassigned to whatever the player likes, it just feels more intuitive to play with a controller. Combat is easy to learn but difficult to master. Combos are very prevalent as both Strife and War have multiple ways to juggle, pushback, and even pull enemies to you using a variety of tools that are unlocked along the journey.
With three difficulty options (and a fourth completely insane difficulty that unlocks once the main story is complete), players can decide at the start of each chapter what kind of experience they wish to have. Playing through on normal was quite easy, save for a few very difficult boss battles. What makes the challenge of higher difficulty levels even more inviting is how Airship Syndicate was able to make dying not to feel punishing but also not trivial. On the single-player, when Strife or War dies, players automatically switch to the other Horseman and simply must survive long enough (roughly fifteen seconds or so) for the other Horseman to revive. This also holds true when playing co-op (both split-screen and online options are available) which ended up being crucial when fighting some of the more difficult bosses later in the game.
Although the mini-bosses quickly became repetitive, the twenty-three different minor creature variants kept things interesting, especially with the introduction of the Creature Core system.
The RPG elements in Darksiders: Genesis is a bit tricky. Whenever players kill an enemy it has a chance to drop something called a creature core. Players can then place the core into the Creature Core grid that will grant extra bonuses such as a chance to leave a lava trail on the ground behind your Horseman whenever they dash, or increased health, or damage resistance, just to name a few. Minor creature cores are dropped by, you guessed it, minor creatures, while major creature cores are dropped for the most part by bosses. Each core type (twenty-three minor and eleven major) can also increase in level by collecting a certain amount of each, ensuring that players must play through the game multiple times in order to get a max level in these cores.
One of the less enjoyable aspects of this game was the sheer amount of time wasted trying to figure out how to get through certain obstacles that turned out to be puzzles that needed to be solved. While quite clever, these puzzles were not very intuitive in informing the player that this needs to be ignored for the time being until the right tools are unlocked. There are several upgrades that can be easily missed, especially if players do not explore every nook and cranny of each realm. One late-game tool that Strife gets, is only needed to clear puzzles in a single chapter to progress the story, which depending on perspective, can be a good or a bad thing. Many of the puzzles, discoverable upgrades, and unlockable content, can be overlooked. This combined with the want/need to level creature cores, and the arena mode in which players are pit against wave after wave of enemies, give players many reasons to go back and play through each chapter multiple times.
Darksiders Genesis Review – Verdict
While the story at times felt a bit trite, and the enemies can feel a bit repetitive, this game is fun to play. While it will only take players around twelve to thirteen hours to complete the first playthrough, between the Apocalyptic difficulty setting, Arena mode, and metroidvania type puzzles, players will find themselves sinking dozens of hours into the game well after completing their first playthrough.
[Editor’s Note:] Darksiders: Genesis was reviewed on the PC platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]