Darksiders franchise is approaching its 10 year anniversary. During that period, it managed to do a fair amount of world-building, took us to some exciting locations and introduced us to a dozen really cool characters. The original game, often called the Zelda of hack and slash, gave us a harmonious blend of action, dungeon crawling and puzzle-solving. The second one stayed true to the original, broadening the scale and introducing some RPG elements. The third one, however, strayed from the flock and brought about a much different experience. An experience that tried to emulate the Dark Souls formula and somewhat divided the fanbase in the process.
Darksiders Genesis had the task of setting the franchise on the right path. In that sense, it can seem like a risky move due to the change to the isometric perspective. Fear not, however, since, despite that, Genesis proves to be a great addition to the franchise that manages to recapture the charm of the first two games while bringing enough of its own ideas to the table.
Darksiders: Genesis is available for purchase on Allyouplay.
For anyone hoping that Genesis will finally continue the epic conclusion of the original game -- you are in for a disappointment. Not only is it not a continuation but it takes the franchise the furthest back in time we’ve ever been. The prequel format once again serves to flesh out the backstory of the key players in the overarching franchise conflict as well as some of the key elements of its rich world.
With that being said, the story is, despite that, not all that interesting. Most of it is presented through static imagery of the characters conversing. While previous games all tied into the future crossover conclusion of the apocalypse storyline, Genesis is surprisingly left out of that equation. Sure, there’s Lucifer in it, but there’s no huge story push or a shocking reveal here that will play out in the games at the end of the timeline. This ends up making it feel like a low stakes affair where each mission is like an excuse to simply touch upon characters or places seen in previous games.
What saves the story from feeling completely redundant are its two main characters. Genesis is the first time we get to play the gun-wielding horseman of the apocalypse named Strife and although he is interesting enough to carry the game on his own, he is joined throughout the adventure by his brother War. Their distinctly opposing personalities often create some of the most memorable moments of the game. Strife is an almost carefree, wisecracking badass while War is no-nonsense, honorable, straight to the point tank. They heavily reminded me of the dynamic Star-Lord and Drax have in the MCU and made me impatiently wait for their next interaction. Despite that, they do bring some emotional weight to the story and often discuss how they have had to kill their own people in order to become the horsemen.
They are enough to carry the story and you’ll enjoy it even more if you couldn’t wait to finally get to know Strife. If you are a fan of the franchise in general, Genesis, despite its low stakes story stays faithful to its overall themes, visual aesthetics and characters. Every aspect of the game’s world and characters exudes power, mystery, and grandeur that ultimately makes them worthy of exploration through its 20-hour runtime.
The greatest, most obvious distinction of Darksiders: Genesis is the switch in perspective. Whereas the previous installments were third-person adventures with the camera positioned behind the characters back, this one goes isometric. At first glance, this makes it appear like a game that’s gone the route of ARPG’s like Diablo, Path of Exile or Wolcen, but that’s not the case. Genesis is a pure, story-driven, action hack and slash game that plays almost exactly like the first installment of the franchise.
You have a HUB area where you can purchase new abilities or improve your existing ones, talk to some characters, solve a couple of puzzles or go out on missions. Once you do partake in one, the game turns to a blend of combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving. If you aren’t playing cooperatively, you get to control Strife and War and can switch between them at a push of a button.
The missions generally come in two different flavors -- the ones with more open areas and dungeons. Ironically, while open areas allow you to use a horse to explore and fight, they offer less explorative opportunities than the dungeons. Nevertheless, each is littered with secrets, alternative pathways, hidden chests and more. Revealing most of these requires the use of particular items that you’ll obtain later in the game so returning is heavily encouraged.
The combat is a simple, but a wholly satisfying affair. Strife and War play completely different from each other with Strife keeping enemies at a distance with his two guns, while War uses his sword to get in their face. Aside from their regular attacks, you’ll learn or use souls from defeated enemies to buy multiple different special skills that will aid you in combat. Additionally, there are a couple of mechanics like the Hotstreak and Chaos form that will use the wrath meter to massively boost your combat abilities.
Even though I wish both characters would move slightly faster, they each still feel very good to control. You can, by all means, decide on one or the other to be your main without any ill consequences but I’d advise against it since Genesis shines brightest when you combine their versatile kit. Each of them also has a separate health pool so switching between them depending on the situation can be crucial to your success.
They have enough unlockable abilities to keep things from getting stale which is further helped by the excellent enemy variety. You’ll regularly be swarmed by all sorts of demons, angels and anything in between with each level bringing at least one new enemy to the table to keep you on your toes. There are also a variety of mini-bosses spread throughout the stages as well as the full-fledged major bosses to contend with. These are especially well thought out, fun and challenging affairs that will have you using several items in your arsenal in imaginative ways in order to take them down.
As mentioned, the combat encounters will be broken up or interlinked with the occasional puzzle that you’ll need to solve in order to progress. These come in all sorts of flavors -- from environmental ones to the ones that require the use of a specific skill or a specific character. Many can be multi-staged and involve traversing entire dungeons in order to solve. While they can become tedious near the very end of the game, most of the time they are very fun and engaging. Most of them require just the right amount of effort in order to solve and not one ever felt unnecessarily convoluted to the point of me being stumped.
Since this isn’t an ARPG in leu of Diablo, you won’t get the traditional, loot-based, experience level system of progression. Instead, Genesis comes with a unique upgrade system that uses cores you get from defeating certain enemies. While it might seem complex and convoluted at first, the system grants a surprising level of depth and customization. Each of these cores falls into one of several categories and will either boost some stats or grant special effects to your attacks.
Since there are two dozen of these slots, you can mix and match different ones to create a build that will suit your playstyle. Want a tank build that will only increase your basic attacks and health? You can do that. Do you want your weapons to apply multiple status and other specials effects? No problem. You can even level up each core by finding multiple iterations of the same ones by slaying enemies or repeating certain levels. Once upgraded, the game really sells the power fantasy with immensely satisfying screen-clearing attacks that make the combat even more enjoyable and visually appealing.
Unfortunately, both combat and puzzles have some issues thanks to the new perspective. The game often can’t differentiate between different heights and won’t allow you to shoot enemies if they are below or above you -- on stairs for example. Furthermore, there are too many instances of the environment coming into the foreground and blocking the view of the character. While enemy outlines were added in a recent patch, the visibility is still somewhat problematic -- especially during puzzle-solving and platforming segments. Also, there were numerous instances of characters getting stuck in the environment which made some enemy encounters very very frustrating.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
Luckily, unlike the issues, it brought to the gameplay, the isometric perspective didn’t negatively affect the trademark visuals of the franchise one bit. To be clear, Darksiders: Genesis isn’t going to “wow” you with the level of realistic graphical fidelity. Its greatest strength lies in its heavily stylized aesthetic with exaggerated, epic scale of both characters and its world.
It’s immediately appealing, interesting and wholly inviting. Almost all characters are designed to have an air of badass and mystery around them, begging for further exploration. This also translates to imaginative locations where Genesis fully embraces its universe-spanning scale. Each level is different than the last, both aesthetically and in terms of gameplay elements. Some bosses even get their own chapters and unique levels that are completely built around using one or several gameplay mechanics to effectively fight them.
The game generally adopts a very diverse color palette that makes it look very striking, especially during combat which has plenty of audio-visual effects that help make it feel impactful. Each main character’s respective abilities look especially stunning and the Chaos form even shakes the ground while you walk around like the towering bringer of doom you are.
And finally, the Darksiders franchise is known for having excellent music and Genesis is no exception. Each stage, boss fight and significant encounter has its own theme song and most of them are absolutely epic. The main menu music and the one in the final boss encounter, in particular, are entirely awesome and will definitely find their way on to my epic music playlists.