Review – Darksiders: Genesis
The Darksiders franchise has become one of my all-time favourites. With a deep lore, great visual art style and every new game having a different feel without betraying it’s core design. Even at its weakest in Darksiders 3, there was still so much to love about it. To my surprise, Darksiders Genesis lives up to the franchise’s history and might possibly exceed its predecessors despite being just an isometric spin-off.
Being a new Darksiders game we obviously get a true introduction to our new and final Horseman who has only had a brief cameo before; the gunslinger Strife, a cocky gunslinger who is stylish, confident and an absolute badass. Joining him on his journey is his brother, War, who hasn’t had a big role since the first game way back in 2010.
Set before the events of every other game in the series, Genesis goes back to the start and explores just how the four Horsemen came into favour of the council and earned their ranks. They’re sent out on a mission to track down, take down and stop Lucifer’s plan to upset the balance of the world, but everything is not as it’s seems. We will meet new and familiar faces, one of which is Vulgrim, who has a much bigger role this time.
The dynamic between Strife and War is one of the best aspects of this game. While Strife is a wise-cracking cowboy, War is much more straight faced and just wants to punch everything in sight, leading to some amusing dialogue between the two. They play off each other perfectly and it’s already getting me excited to see how the other Horsemen are going to interact with Strife. Of course, being a prequel, don’t really expect huge game-changing revelations. What we get instead is a lot of character development with the interactions between the siblings.
Don’t let the new isometric camera fool you, this is very much still a Darksiders game and all the elements you would expect from the franchise are still at play. There’s still your fun core combat, platforming and light puzzle solving, blended together for an experience that is very familiar to the series whilst sticking to tradition and giving us something that feels a bit fresh each time.
Genesis is split into sixteen chapters, with a good amount of them being huge in size and scope, with plenty of diverse environments to constantly spice things up. To help you get around, Strife and War can summon their horses to traverse larger and more expansive sections. Packed into these levels are a ton of secrets and hidden areas that are impossible to find in a single playthrough, as you will need abilities that you get later in the campaign. Some upgrades and abilities are hidden, so make sure to have a good look around. It encourages replayability, and I even found myself going back to previous levels just to find everything before moving onto the next.
During the game you can switch at any time between Strife and War, who have different gameplay styles. Strife’s main weapon is his dual pistols and is typically played at a distance in a twin stick shooter style of combat. Throughout the game you will gain access to multiple ammo types you can switch between at any time. Strife still has melee abilities but they are mostly there to help him out of a jam.
If you want to go full melee, War is who you want to play as, with a combat system very similar to the first game, with a few tweaks. He is more of a tank that can take more punishment but can also deal a massive amount of damage. The combat is fast and fluid for both characters with a ton of abilities that has me constantly switching, I never stuck to one character for too long. Also, for the first time in the franchise, there is full co-op play with both characters present, playable in split-screen or online multiplayer.
One of the best aspects in Genesis is the progression system. When you kill enemies, they will sometimes drop orbs that you can pick up and slot into the rune screen. There are three types of runes, and matching them up will give you an extra bonus to your power score, which is needed to progress through the story and complete higher difficulty levels. It’s much simpler than it sounds, and you will get the hang of it within a couple of minutes of experimenting with the tree. Then we’ve also got the standard purchasing upgrades from Vulgrim and other characters in the hub.
As a franchise, Darksiders has always struggled on the visual side of things. Whilst the art styles are always fantastic, the overhaul technical side of things just fall flat. It’s roughly the same here, with some textures looking a bit underwhelming but the art style and enemy designs more than make up for it it. The biggest issue though is when the foreground won’t fade away so you can see what’s happening, more often than I would like the environment would just get in the way. Only highlighting your player character and not the enemies around, it can be incredibly annoying and happens frequently enough for it to become an issue. Ideally the foreground would go transparent when crossing through it.
With every Darksiders games comes a new composer to deliver a fantastic soundtrack. This time it’s the turn of Ori and the Blind Forest‘s composer Gareth Coker, who once again delivered something truly special. Elsewhere the sound design is also excellent; leading the cast Strife and War are brilliantly voice acted and the supporting cast does a good job as well.
Darksiders Genesis is the biggest surprise of the year for me. Strife is quickly becoming my favourite of the four Horsemen, whilst the gameplay is the strongest it has ever been. Hopefully the next game in the series can borrow some of the excellent design choices.
It might not technically be a visually impressive game, but the excellent art style more than makes up for it.
Fast, fluid and a hell of a lot of fun with only a few drawbacks. It’s still a true Darksiders game, despire the isometric perspective.
Strife and War play off each other perfectly, whilst Gareth Coker delivers another stellar soundtrack.
Darksiders Genesis is a highly entertaining spin-off that might be my favourite game from the franchise so far.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Darksiders Genesis is available now on PC and Stadia, with Playstation 4, Xbox One and Switch releases coming in February 2020.
Reviewed on PC.