Also On: Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Airship Syndicate
Darksiders Genesis marks the 4th game in the Darksiders series, and serves as a prequel story to the first game, utilizing familiar characters including the protagonist of the first game, the horseman known as War. This time around Darksiders puts an emphasis on co-op, introducing the final horseman that?s been mentioned in prior games but unseen until now, Strife. Also, much like it?s predecessors, Darksiders Genesis opts to head in a new direction with its gameplay style, transitioning away from the Dark Souls-lite mechanics of Darksiders III, and opting for an isometric action game that feels a little more in tune with the action/puzzle/platforming mechanics of the original game.
That?s right, despite the camera viewpoint suggesting something akin to a Diablo game, Darksiders isn?t a loot focused adventure. It?s not even much of an RPG at all, eschewing leveling and experience in favor of upgrade orbs dropped by enemies that?ll boost base skills and attributes. It?s an easy enough to understand system that also gives you a reason to revisit stages again and again, as you can collect additional orbs from the same enemies to boost those skills/attributes even further. Of course, there?s also a host of collectible items and secrets liberally dispersed throughout each stage, some of which you won?t be able to access the first time you run through a stage.
The way combat works is somewhat dependent on which character you play as. When playing a solo game, you can freely switch between War and Strife at any time. As War, you?ll mostly hack and slash your way through groups of enemies, favoring melee combat with simple combo strings using light and heavy attack inputs. As Strife, you?ll be more focused on ranged combat, using Strife?s guns to shoot at enemies from afar, with a number of special ammo options that you?ll obtain as you work your way through the adventure. You?ll likely find yourself switching between characters fairly often, as enemy encounters can absolutely vary throughout, forcing you to switch your approach pretty often.
Overall, the combat is easily the most satisfying aspect of the game, in addition to collecting the enemy orbs to power-up your characters. While the combo system isn?t as involved as the combat in Darksiders 2, it?s still varied enough, and the boss encounters will force you to do more than mash buttons to win.
I also mostly dig the look and presentation of Darksiders Genesis. Despite the drawn back isometric camera view, I thought all the enemy and character designs looked pretty great, and there?s a solid amount of environmental variety between stages. Also, I appreciate that most areas in the game are open to some level of exploration, with plenty of little secrets to uncover that you likely won?t find on your initial playthrough.
However, there are some definite issues with Darksiders Genesis too. For one, the map in this game kinda sucks. Mostly due to the fact that the map you can bring up will not highlight where your character is located outside of a really vague area highlight effect. It take some adjusting to and makes exploration more cumbersome than it really needs to be. You?ll start to adjust by looking for previously opened chests or other markers in order to determine exactly where you are, but I think this particular problem is the one that?s most likely going to drive new players away from the game.
My other complaint comes from some of the platforming segments, which can be a real pain due to the isometric view. When jumping through the air, War and Strife will have a small shadow underneath them to give you some idea of where they?ll land. However, a lot of the surfaces in the game tend to obscure that marker, making certain segments tougher than they probably should be. I can understand having a bit more difficulty with some of the optional areas in the game, but I certainly found myself getting a little too frustrated at moments that were hard in a way that had little to do with difficulty, and more to do with not being able to tell where my character is in relation to the platform I?m trying to land on.
Despite those frustrations, I still found myself ultimately enjoying my time spent working through the campaign of Darksiders Genesis. It?s a fun action-adventure game that builds upon the lore of the series in a way that works pretty well, with interesting combat mechanics and an addictive upgrade system that gave me a good 20 or so hours of playtime. Even now I could go back and clean up some of the collectibles and optional challenges, and still plan to do so at some point. So yeah, I think Darksiders Genesis is certainly worth a look, but you?ll likely get more appreciation out of it if you?re at least familiar with the series up to now.
Note: THQ Nordic provided us with a Darksiders Genesis PS4 code for review purposes.