|System: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC|
|Dev: Airship Syndicate|
|Pub: THQ Nordic|
|Initial Release: December 5, 2019|
|Console Release: February 14, 2020|
|Players: 1-2 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Language, and Violence|
by Jenni Lada
The Darksiders series has, so far, tended to stick to certain genres. The original three entries are all action-adventure games, occasionally with RPG elements, that give you a great third-person perspective for the world. Darksiders Genesis continues to build on the lore by setting up a foundation that helps to explain everything that comes after. Unfortunately, some elements feel a little cheap or rushed, and the fact that it masquerades as a Diablo-like action-RPG instead of proudly displaying itself as an isometric action-adventure game could keep people from understanding and appreciating what it truly is.
Lucifer is starting something. He has gathered an army, complete with bosses that are essentially his generals, to cause havoc and devastation. You know things are bad, but might not understand exactly how dire it is. The Charred Council have asked Strife and War, two of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to take Lucifer to task. But, as you do, you might wonder if the siblings can really save the day.
As I mentioned before, Darksiders Genesis is the sort of game that looks like it belongs in one genre, but really fits perfectly into another one. It looks like it would play like Diablo, but it really is a hack-and-slash, action-adventure game like past Darksiders. It just has a different perspective, which helps a lot when playing as a character like Strife, who is more of a ranged unit. So even though it looks like one thing, it is another and totally fits well. There’s no need to worry about loot or leveling.
Darksiders Genesis has a neat balance of characters too. You have both Strife and War. Strife is essentially a rogue. He’s speedy and wields two pistols. This means you want to play keep away, picking away at enemies to deal damage, using caltrops to manage crowds, and even switching to two sabers if enemies get too close. He even has some ninja-like moves, since he can make a clone of himself. War is… well, War. He plays similarly to his turn in the original Darksiders and is a bit of a tank. He can take a hit and deal powerful damage, making him a behemoth who gets up close with opponents.
This extends to the character management. Since this isn’t a Diablo-like game, it doesn’t have the leveling you would expect. Instead, it has a feature like some Castlevania games and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Sometimes, an enemy will drop a Creature Core when they are defeated. (Major and minor ones exist.) Strife and War have skill trees where you can place these orbs, which can be leveled up, to assign perks to the characters. So while you aren’t leveling, you can “grind” fighting certain enemies to get perks that will do things like buff characters’ stats, protect against certain damage, or give you bonuses like leaving behind a lava trail.
What can be really fun is the co-op element. If you have a friend on-hand, the two of you can work together to handle Lucifer’s minions. Since each character does play differently, as I mentioned before, it means you can really compliment each other. I felt like it was easier to get through the game when I had someone else on hand to help with the hacking and slashing. Not that it isn’t manageable when you’re alone. It just feels like the balance is better with someone else nearby.
Unfortunately, what doesn’t always work well are the platforming and puzzle elements. The map isn’t easy to read, so you might have to rely on trial and error to get where you’re going. Jumping can be finicky, perhaps both due to it being generally buggy and there being collision issues with where you are going. That makes it difficult anytime you need to jump onto platforms. Especially if there is a big accent in a level that completely blocks your view when Strife or War is hidden behind it. It is very easy to get stuck or not properly be able to handle foes because of the scenery. Also, the puzzles tend to be very simple. Which, well, might even be a good way to describe the concept in general. It is a simple action-adventure game where you keep cutting through areas. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can very much feel the difference in quality between something like this and Darksiders III.
This extends to how Darksiders Genesis tells its story, which is disappointing. There aren’t any cutscenes here. Instead, comic-like panels pop up to advance the story at important moments. It ends up feeling rather cheap. Which is especially disappointing considering the things Darksiders: Genesis does for the series’ lore. It spins a good yarn and it is easy to get involved in what Strife and War are doing. Especially since things might not turn out exactly as you’d hope. It feels like it doesn’t get the drama and gravitas it deserves.
Which is a shame, because some elements do lend that sort of atmosphere you expect. The voice acting for Darksiders Genesis is rather good. Strife offers a good contrast to War, personality-wise, and Chris Jai Alex does well voicing him. (I did have a soft spot for Phil LaMarr, though!) Liam O’Brien returns as War, which is helpful. They play well off of each other, and the script allows them to have moments that can be dramatic, funny, and sometimes even poignant.
Darksiders Genesis isn’t a bad game. It has a lot of potential to it and there are some things it does well. I especially liked the twists to its story. The problem is that it is pretty clear it didn’t get the same level of attention as its predecessors. Elements of its design makes it feel like corners were cut in an effort to get things done as efficiently as possible. This can mean some platforming segments are difficult to get past and a little perhaps the puzzles could have actually been challenging.