The most exciting element of Darksiders Genesis is the ability to play as Strife and War, quick swapping in solo play or playing co-op with a mate.
Darksiders Genesis is a top-down hack-and-slash ARPG developed by Airship Syndicate and published by THQ Nordic. The game was released on Google Stadia and Steam on December 5, 2019, and was released on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 14, 2020. My Darksiders journey started back in 2010 on the Xbox 360 when the first game in the series was released. Having not owned any previous consoles and being a PC gamer, Darksiders was my first hack-and-slash console experience. We played as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in a war on Earth between heaven and hell. Wielding his huge two-handed sword named Chaoseater, War was awesome to play as he unleashed his wrath on the demonic enemy.
A Warmastered Edition was released in 2016 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam, 2017 for Wii U and finally on Nintendo Switch in 2019. In 2012’s Darksiders II, we played as the second horseman of the apocalypse, Death, and his dual-wielding scythes. 2018’s Darksiders III let us play as the third horseman Fury, utilising a whip and magic to smite the enemy. All three games utilised a third person view of an open-world and having to solve puzzle and defeat various bosses. What about the fourth horseman? This is where Darksiders Genesis comes into the series.
From the dawn of creation, the council has maintained the Balance across existence. Carrying out their orders are the Horsemen, Nephilim (powerful beings spawned from the unnatural union of angels and demons) who have pledged themselves to the Council and been granted immense power. However, this power came at a tragic cost: the Horsemen were ordered to use their newfound strength to wipe out the rest of their kind. What followed was a bloody battle on Eden where the Horsemen, obeying the will of the Council, annihilated the Nephilim. Still reeling from the events on Eden, War and Strife have been given a new assignment — Lucifer, the enigmatic and deceptive demon king, has been plotting to upset the Balance by granting power to master demons throughout Hell. War and Strife must hunt down these masters, gather information, and ultimately fight their way through a tangled, demonic conspiracy that threatens to forever upset the Balance and unravel all of creation.
Set as a prequel to the original Darksiders, we finally get to play as Strife, the fourth horseman of the apocalypse. The game utilises a top-down view and there are more RPG elements to the gameplay which makes it feel more like a Diablo-style ARPG than the previous third-person games. This is a great thing in my opinion as it allows it to be different enough to the other three games and can easily be someone’s first entry into the series. In addition, you can swap characters on-the-fly and play as War from the original game. Strife feels a bit like Cayde-6 from Destiny 2 – a bit of a smart ass and cool as hell. Whereas War is the more serious of the two and I love the banter between these characters as you progress the story.
This character swap feature means that Darksiders Genesis is the first game in the series that can be played co-op with a mate. Unlike other games that have a similar hop-in hop-out co-op aspect, campaign progress is retained for the guest player whenever they join your game. Other games could learn from this as there’s nothing worse than playing a co-op session, only to go back to your solo game and the campaign has been advanced beyond where you left off.
Strife utilises dual pistols, named Mercy and Redemption, and is a ranged specialist whereas War is a melee specialist, once again wielding the mighty Chaoseater. The best part? When playing solo, you can freely switch between the two characters when you need to change up the combat. If too many enemies are swarming you as Strife, switch to War and unleash hell with the two-handed sword. Both characters have a warhorse they can ride to cover some of the vast open areas. You can use basic attacks whilst riding the horse to mow down enemies as you charge forward. As you slay enemies a meter fills up and once full, you’re able to use much more powerful attacks for a short time and a quick burst of high damage.
The art style of the game is fantastic with some great depth perception in some of the backdrops and the game ran smooth, even in large fights with lots of enemies. Level design is fairly linear with some branching paths that you can take to explore and find more chests and objects to bash to gain health orbs, souls and other loot. The fixed camera angle sometimes restricts your view, despite the character sprite glowing when out of sight. Some of the items you can collect were tricky to work out how to jump up to with the camera angle, but trial and error usually rewards your efforts. Some of the puzzles were clever and satisfying to work out.
The in-game map shows locations of chests and items to collect, ticking the ones you’ve completed so you can make sure you collect them all before moving to the next stage. The biggest feature lacking with the map was showing your actual location. The section of map that you were currently in glows and flashes, but you don’t know exactly where you are in that section. I had to rely on landmarks to work out where the heck I was standing in them. It took a lot of time to get used to this and it’s such a strange omission given almost every other similar game will show exactly where you are situated.
I love the increasing complexity of the puzzles as you progress through the game. From searching for trixter keys to utilising the vorpal blade, a weapon that can be thrown from a distance allowing you to hit enemies or even objects in the distance. You can chain items together so that the vorpal blade can hit certain switches in order to advance the puzzle. Another item you’ll come across is the void bomb which is used to ignite molten rock blocking doors and rooms, and can also be used to transfer fire from one firepit to the next in order to open a secret door. Timed sequences feature in the game as well and these puzzles are a welcome break up of the waves of combatants thrown at you. Boss fights are also a cool part of the game which require you to use all you’ve learned in each stage to finally take them down.
Once you complete a stage you are shown some completion statistics which measure the number of items found, types of enemies encountered and gives a brief overview of the story from that area. This is where replayability comes into the game, allowing you to go back and find any items you missed in your first story run. You can also alter the difficulty for more challenging foes and greater rewards. Each stage shows the recommended gear score that you require, so you will need to ensure you’re upgrading Strife and War’s abilities. I did pass some stages with a few points under the recommendation, but there were times where I had to repeat some missions to level up enough to meet the next stage requirements.
There are also overarching quests that can be completed through gameplay which will suit the completionist gamers out there. One quest is called Hardcore Parkour, requiring me to navigate an area without dying. Rewards for these range from creature cores to souls which can be used to upgrade abilities. There are some great abilities that you can unlock which means how you choose to play Strife and War is likely to be slightly different compared to your mates.
Overall, Darksiders Genesis is a fantastic addition to the Darksiders series. The top-down ARPG gameplay is a welcome change of pace and style. The most exciting element is the ability to play as Strife and War, quick swapping in solo play or playing co-op with a mate. Fans of the Darksiders series will enjoy this prequel story, while new players will find Genesis to be a great entry point.
This review utilised a Steam key provided by Koch Media. Darksiders Genesis is available to play on Google Stadia, Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis