For newcomers discovering the franchise for the first time, Darksiders Genesis will get them hooked. The gameplay may be initially frustrating, but once that barrier is broken down, players are treated to a game that is polished, funny, and kick-ass. Designed with replayability in mind, Airship Syndicate has done a wonderful job crafting each level to be unique and filled with loot begging to be found.
Darksiders Genesis acts as a prequel to the Darksiders franchise and focuses on the fourth horsemen of the apocalypse, Strife. Strife is sent on a mission by the Charred Council (with fellow horsemen, War) to prevent the demon king Lucifer from granting power to the master demons of Hell. To accomplish this mission, players take on the roles of Strife and War, changing between the two in a fresh top-down perspective that maintains the action and hack-and-slash styles of its predecessors.
One initial problem with Darksiders Genesis is that the gameplay is not immediately intuitive. The two characters have slightly different button configurations, making the transition between War and Strife awkward during early levels. Fully grasping the control scheme of the game can take a few chapters, but once that is achieved, frustration dies and enjoyment quickly ensues.
A game like Genesis that allows the player to switch between two characters at any time runs the risk of character favouritism. However, developer Airship Syndicate has struck a balance between the two horsemen in a way that makes them equally useful and fun. The seamless transition between characters makes experimentation with the different play styles offered by both easy, and as new mechanics are introduced, it becomes obvious that even when playing alone, cooperation is the key to success.
Upgrading character gear and abilities is necessary to increase the player’s power level to meet the soft requirement of each chapter, but one of the best ways to upgrade is seemingly hidden in plain sight. Enemies drop creature cores that the player can use to boost passive stats via a drop-down menu located in the pause menu. The game does not prompt the player to use this menu but does provide a tutorial once they do. Despite the creature core feature being easily discoverable, guiding the player to it would have prevented some unnecessary confusion.
Darksiders Genesis is a funny game due to some well-written interactions. Strife’s personality is brimming with sarcasm that perfectly contrasts the anger and formality underpinning War’s character. When the two collide, a natural comedy plays out, prompting more than one laugh on many occasions. The presence of humour complements the otherwise intense game without ever feeling forced or unnatural.
Enemies are simple to understand, yet challenging enough to never be boring. Additionally, the boss battles offer some incredibly engaging content. Of particular mention is the encounter with demon master Mammon. Staged upon a sea of gold, the fight is thrilling and deeply satisfying.
The incredibly reasonable price point is no indication of the game’s length. Darksiders Genesis features sizeable levels that beg to be replayed to satiate one’s inner completionist. Add to this the inclusion of an arena campaign that is introduced as part of the main storyline, and Darksiders Genesis can become a worthy place to spend many hours.
Darksiders Genesis may be a spin-off, but it is a star in its own right. The classic looting, shooting, and stabbing style of the game feels of another era in the best way possible. Airship Syndicate has delivered a game truthful to its origins, yet fresh for a modern appetite. Players willing to forgive its minor mishaps will delight in the heavenly romp through Hell that Darksiders Genesis has to offer.
Reviewed on PC. Coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in February 2020.