The Darksiders series has always been near and dear to me. I still remember playing the original release for the first time on Xbox 360. As someone who played Zelda growing up religiously, at that time I didn’t own any modern Nintendo consoles. When I played the original Darksiders, with its temples, puzzles, blood, and gore, I felt like my favorite series has grown up.
With each subsequent release, the Darksiders series has endeavored to make each Horseman (and one Horsewoman) feel distinct. Another common factor is the fact that they are all prequels or parallels to one another. With the release of Darksiders Genesis, most of these things remain the same. While War is playable, this marks the first time Strife has been playable, so it’s technically his debut. Is it worthy of the series’ pedigree? Let’s find out.
Darksiders Meets Diablo
Comparisons are something I like to avoid, but when people think about isometric dungeon crawlers, only a few sentences will go by before the name Diablo is uttered. As one of the mainstream staples of the genre, Darksiders Genesis takes the series in a similar direction by placing the camera in an isometric perspective and sending War and Strife to hell to contend with Lucifer himself.
Superficial comparisons aside, the change to a dungeon crawler with both online and local co-op is certainly different. Developer Airship Syndicate took the reigns this time, who also worked on Battle Chasers: Nightwar.
From a story perspective, the game leans on the usual conspiracy angle to hint at Lucifer’s plans and, of course, the motivations of the ever-mysterious Charred Council, but Darksiders Genesis delivers most of its story through narrated conversations and character portraits. The signature hand-drawn cutscenes are back, but they are few and far between.
It’s not the best story in the series, and while it lasts a respectable 15 hours or so, it never really gripped me like some of the prior entries. Part of this is remedied by the nostalgic factor of seeing a younger Samael and the return of Vulgrim, along with some new faces.
The dialogue between War and Strife, while cheesy, was another high point for me. War’s ultra-serious approach to everything constantly clashes with Strife’s “I could care less” personality, and it makes this spin-off feel like the Darksiders buddy cop movie I never knew I wanted.
Despite the story being less than integral to the series, the gameplay manages to largely preserve the gameplay of the series. War controls about the same as you would expect, for better or worse, in the new perspective.
Strife acts as an opposite to War in more than his personality. While he does have melee attacks, you’ll largely rely on his pistols and different types of ammunition to handle enemies at range. From a co-op perspective, you get this nice balance between the hard-hitting melee and AOE attacks of War, and the slick ranged options provided by Strife.
The game is fully playable in single player, but both online co-op and split screen co-op are the better ways to play. Interestingly, triggering co-op requires you to find a summoning stone (regardless of local or online), and while they are fairly easy to find, it seems like an unnecessary step when you could just start the game in co-op to begin with.
The moment-to-moment gameplay in Darksiders Genesis is fast, visceral, (executions make a return!) and largely satisfying. Environmental puzzles make a return and offer some of the best ones yet. Platforming, unfortunately, is where this entry falls a little flat.
Platforming in an isometric view alone is difficult, but this is made more so by the fact that the split screen aspect ratio seems to be off. While playing in local co-op, I would often see text cut off on the sides of screen and would find myself planning jumps without my character in view because the camera was fixed elsewhere.
Other bugs reared their head in the platforming segments, like characters failing to grab ledges or pillars, and entire sections of set piece moments failing to load (though this happened only once). To elaborate on that last one, there are times when respawns are restricted and you must run through a gauntlet of platforming.
These are fine for the most part, but as I mentioned, one time I respawned only to find that the floor had already collapsed, making it impossible to proceed. Another reset fixed the issue. Another odd bug that came up in split screen was a glitch where the foreground would become blurred instead of the background. This led to stretches of gameplay where one character would be completely blurry during split screen, as if someone has smeared vaseline on the screen.
While not a bug, I did find it weird that the minimap doesn’t show your current location, leaving you to guess where you may be. Since the co-op players can separate from one another, it would have been helpful to keep track of each other’s positions.
These issues, while annoying, never stopped us from enjoying Darksiders Genesis, but it did make the local co-op experience less than ideal.
To end this segment on a positive note, let’s talk about creature cores. This aspect is my favorite new addition to Darksiders Genesis, and something I would like to see in future titles. Enemies in the game randomly drop cores that you can equip into skill trees that boost both War and Strife’s stats.
These cores are assigned a “type” like health, attack, or wrath, and slotting them into matching areas of the skill tree offers an additional boost to their benefits, some of which include passive boosts or augments to your skills. Picking up duplicate cores adds XP to a meter that eventually allows the cores to level up and increase the strength of their benefits.
It’s a great system that adds depth and replayability to formula. Since you can earn a bonus from matching the types to slots, there’s also strategy involved as you need to ensure they also link back to other cores (you can’t jump around the tree).
Some Bugs to Iron Out
As you can tell by the bugs outlined above, Darksiders Genesis has a few oddities that break the immersion and keep the game from feeling truly polished. I had hoped, since the other versions came out last year, that these things would be ironed out, but I know porting to consoles had to be a process in and of itself.
As a fan of the series, it was great to see Strife make his debut. The co-op, while not perfect, is also a welcome addition. I don’t think I want the next main game to be a dungeon crawler, but as a spin-off, I think Airship Syndicate did a fine job of keeping the Darksiders spirit alive as they transitioned genres.
Final Score: 8.0/10
A copy of Darksiders Genesis was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 2/14/2020