The Darksiders series is one of those where my enthusiasm for it isn’t quite what it used to be. The original was a pleasant surprise offering an interesting and darker Zelda alternative while its sequel – despite its many haters out there – I actually enjoyed for its bigger world and addition of RPG and looting mechanics. After a lengthy hiatus, Darksiders 3 released and despite its injection of Dark-Souls-like ideas didn’t fare so well feeling dated and downright unpolished in spots. So, as you can imagine, news of a spinoff wasn’t exactly met with open arms. Still, perhaps a fresh take from a new developer could help breath some much needed life into this series?
Darksiders Genesis acts as a prequel to the original trilogy, focusing on two of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. War (returning from the original Darksiders) and Strife (the last of the four horsemen to be playable in the series) are given orders by the Council – mediators maintaining balance between the forces of Heaven and Hell – to stop Lucifer and his plans to threaten humanity.
We might be getting a deeper look at events prior to the first three games as well as some more time with War, but I would have preferred seeing the series move its story forwards rather than focus on the past yet again. It doesn’t help that the tale being told here lacks the weight of the originals nor that it’s all told through some rather budget-feeling comic book-like cutscenes. On the flip side though it’s often fun watching the characters of War and Strife bounce off one another other with the latter offering some the game’s more comedic moments.
Thankfully the actual game portion of Darksiders Genesis fares much better once again retaining a similar mashup of combat, puzzle-solving and platforming only this time all from a more aerial perspective. Players can control both Strife and War (switching between the two in single player or sharing the pair with a friend in co-op) each of which handle and play very differently. War remains a close-combat character, his attacks more deliberate but able to string together some powerful sword-based combos. Strife meanwhile is the quicker of the two more focused on dashing around and long-range attacks with his double pistols.
Playing as both proves good fun not to mention offers the chance to tackle battles in different ways. Slashing away with War feels satisfying while the fact Strife plays almost like a twin-stick shooter means you’ll want to juggle between the pair often to mix up the combat especially since you’ll be doing a lot of it. So much in fact that it can make some chapters feel like a bit of a slog, fighting the same enemies over and over, mashing your way through.
Darksiders Genesis isn’t all hack that and slash this and shoot those though, each sprawling chapter also featuring moments focused less on the combat side of things. While both the platforming and puzzles are unlikely to leave you stuck or stumped, they at the very least offer some much-needed variety to the mix. Chapters also reward exploration, different routes often leading to new skills or currency to put toward improving your arsenal. While making your way around with each character feels nice and pacey, navigating the game’s map is a nightmare. Unclear and unhelpful it leads to further confusion more than anything else.
Rather than gathering experience and levelling up your dangerous duo, the game instead relies on you picking up Creature Cores to develop. Dropped from bosses and random enemies, these can be equipped within your skill tree to boost health, attack or even provide interesting perks such as being able summon hellhounds or leave a trail of lava behind you. Gathering more of one type of Creature Core will also level it up, increasing its affects further. Reliance on random drops to improve your characters is an interesting idea but one that also means you’ll find yourself grinding in hopes of finding the Creature Cores you’re after or at least the ones that will benefit you most.
Beyond Creature Cores you’ll also expand your inventory, learn skills and of course unlock new weapons (or ammo in Strife’s case). There’s definitely a lot going on in Darksiders Genesis but much like the genres the game is mirroring, improving your character and watching the numbers go up is a large part of its appeal.
As mentioned before, Darksiders Genesis can be played on your own or with another player locally or online. Whichever option you choose offers a great experience though.
While the new camera perspective does make for an interesting twist for the series – not to mention opens the door for a co-op adventure – it does also bring with it some problems too. I would repeatedly find the view of the action often obscured by large pieces of landscape in the foreground, a real pain especially in the heat of an intense battle.
Similarly, the new camera angle can also make navigating platforming heavy sections more trouble than it feels they ought to be. The zoomed-out viewpoint also means characters feel much smaller, not so much an issue when playing in docked mode, but a little more so when dealing with the much smaller screen of the Switch. It doesn’t help either that handheld brings with it other issues such as blurry visuals and occasional slowdown. Personally, I would opt for playing in docked mode.
Darksiders Genesis is a pretty decent hack-and-slash adventure that takes the series in an interesting new direction. While my experience with the game rarely left me jaw-dropped, I nonetheless had an entertaining time slashing away at demons and finally getting to play as the fourth and final horseman.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by THQ Nordic