Darksiders Genesis is an Action Role Playing Game (ARPG) developed by Airship Syndicate and published by THQ Nordic. It focuses on an isometric view similar to Diablo or Path of Exile, but boasts a combat system straight out of Darksiders. It is currently available on all major platforms.
Darksiders Genesis uses a hybrid style of gameplay in the truest sense of the term. At a first glance, it’s easy to presume that it’s similar to Diablo or Path of Exile. And while it does look that way initially, an isometric view is where the similarities end.
The combat system in Darksiders Genesis is straight out of the progenitor series itself. In fact, there’s hardly any difference in the way it behaves. Once you realize that, it’s really easier to approach the combat as you would any other Darksiders game.
War is played in an identical manner to his game of origin. His play-style encourages just-frame timing in counters, evasiveness, juggles, and emphasizes well strung combos. Get too spammy with your attacks and you’ll find yourself being surrounded or beat down before you can blink. His gear includes the Vorpal Blade, the Ghost Hook, and the Tremor Gauntlet.
For Strife, combat is primarily about placement, resource management, and picking the right ammo for the right job. Utilizing his dual pistols, each ammo type fires and behaves differently. Placing enough shots will activate Hot Streak mode, which shoots a limited, but vastly more effective version of his chosen ammunition. His gear includes the Ghost Hook, the Void Bomb, and the Aether Spark.
Both Horsemen have access to their own wrath abilities, unique combos, and individual weapons. Health, armor, and wrath upgrades are unique as well which means you’ll need to search carefully to ensure both War and Strife perform at their peak. As many of these are hidden, or obtained through obscure methods, a fair amount of investigation is required in each stage.
The enemies in Darksiders Genesis consist of the typical hordes of demonic, angelic, and anything in between category. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll know what to expect. If you have never played a Darksiders before, the game performs similarly to other Action games or ARPGs which have light/heavy mix-up combos. When to use launchers may be the biggest hurdle to overcome as not all enemies are susceptible to them at any time. The brutal finisher sequences are still in and look as good as ever even while zoomed out.
Defeating each enemy results in various potential drops. Souls-the staple currency of Darksiders-as well as health, ammo, and wrath orbs are your typical drops. Irregularly, a creature core can drop which can be used to passively power up the two heroes.
Most stages are fairly large, offering an opportunity to explore, platform, and battle on various terrain. Many stages have a great deal of height to them, and fighting from different elevations is fairly regular. Most stage completions end with a battle with some type of major monster, though the major antagonists have arena type stages all to themselves. Those fights are usually pretty intense, some with unique scripting that requires quick thinking such as avoiding a tidal wave. Some stages and fights even allow the use of the Horsemen’s mounts, though combat on foot is much more effective here. Each stage is also loaded with bonus conditions which will grant rewards as well as achievements/trophies upon completion.
As with any Darksiders game there are a fair number of puzzles to solve. I didn’t find any of them to be brain breaking with most of them taking a minute or two to solve. The ones that took longer were usually Void Bomb related and had more to do with just finding the right combination of portals somewhere across the map. Still, it was good to see a staple feature of the franchise alive and kicking even when the format has changed.
The Creature Core System
Creature cores are unique to Darksiders Genesis and serve as a method of passive power ups to both characters simultaneously. They are divided between minor and major cores. Major cores are typically found from bosses and have a stronger passive bonus. The primary method of obtaining creature cores is defeating enemies in combat. They can also be bought via merchants, granted through treasures chests, or as quest rewards. Each core can be leveled up by simply obtaining it multiple times through any means. Once you have maxed out a specific core, it will drop souls from that point on.
Shaped like a skill tree, each minor or major node in the core map can hold a relative core. They do however, have specific attunements which can grant additional bonuses if you set it up correctly. Inserting a wrath core into a wrath node will provide a greater benefit than a health core would. Each node is also limited in terms of what level core it can handle. Inserting a level 3 core into a level 2 node for instance will still only produce a level 2 bonus. As you can see, careful planning is required to get the most out of the creature core system.
Upgrades to their move sets, passive abilities, and creature cores are obtained through the merchants which can also be accessed from the checkpoint pillars as well. Vulgrim and his servant Dis provide these and other consumable items like Trickster Keys. A greater range of access to these items occurs at intervals as you progress through the game.
In addition to the main game, after a while you will be granted access to the arena. The arena has 20 base battles and an endless set battle as well. These are great for getting lots of creature cores and earning souls if you feel you aren’t ready for any specific challenge. There are also bonus quests and rewards for getting high ratings.
Darksiders Genesis can be tackled alone or with friends and features different ways to do it. You can either play online via invitation or local split-screen couch co-op (gasp!). Local split-screen utilizes the hosts save file, so any progress made or upgrades obtained remain with the host. If you elect to play online, you can choose your own profile. While you’ll play inside the host’s game, the progress you make is saved onto your profile as well. As of this time, there is no online matchmaking feature available for Darksiders Genesis on any platform. It is invite only or open to friends.
When playing multiplayer, the game adjusts the difficulty to account for two simultaneous players. If you are better than your partner, you will have to carry to a degree as enemies will not only hit harder, but have substantially more health. Regardless I feel the multiplayer balance is spot on and I’m glad there’s an adjustment for it. While you choose the character you want to play at the start, the game also has a feature to swap characters on the fly.
The local couch co-op was very enjoyable and for the most part runs well. The split is vertical so there’s no boundary locking or shared screen issues. Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t account for the vertical split at all times. There are times where you won’t be able to see your character, certain enemies, or how well you’re platforming. This is caused by the fixed camera aspect when looking through objects at a higher plane. The game does show you outlines most of the time, but it isn’t perfect and even with a large split screen it can still cause issues. Even with these problems, the local co-op was very fun. It’s good to see developers still include this mode as couch co-op times usually have the best memories attached to them.
Darksiders Genesis follows the story of Strife and War, and takes place prior to the events of the Original Darksiders. As the franchise itself is split between specific events chronologically, it can be difficult to keep the story straight. In essence, Strife and War are charged by the Charred Council to track down and reel in Lucifer after the catalyst event in Eden. Lucifer’s greater plot involves creating a power disparity among the Demon race leading to the events of Darksiders 1. The Horseman once again find themselves entangled within the political spheres of the various demon lords and make necessary alliances to complete their objectives.
For the purposes of this review, a native PS4 controller was used on a PS4 Pro.
The controls for Darksiders Genesis were definitely one of the smoothest parts. At the beginning of the game, it took me only minutes to realize that I was playing a full-on Darksiders game and that the controls were really no different. This made platforming and combos easy to handle and before long I was using launchers and cancels. I feel this was a great move on the developer’s part and made me more skeptical of anyone stating that the game is Diablo-like. Even if you’ve never played a Darksiders game before, the move-list has enough detail so that it shouldn’t take too long to figure out.
The camera is of course fixed and can cause the occasional bit of annoyance. The cascading of higher planed objects can sometimes obstruct your view. The game does compensate with transparent outlines to help, but it’s not always perfect. This aspect gets worse in local multiplayer but I never found it to be game breaking.
The devils are in the details here in Darksiders Genesis. Combat animations were fluid enough so that there were never any issues noticing what I was doing even with an isometric view. Textures and particles effects were all lush and detailed, and Strife’s hot streak effects were very cool to watch.
Most of the game’s plot is told through storyboard styled panels with light animations or via voice overs. If you are looking for normal cut scenes or even story based action sequences you won’t find any here. The only digital movie is really at the game’s title screen. Still, the illustrations and colors were vibrant and well drawn and had no problems conveying the plot of the game.
In terms of bugs and anomalies, the game did occasionally suffer from some type of lag or stutter. Whether I was playing on or offline this happened and it was regular enough to deserve a mention. It didn’t affect gameplay much but was noticeable.
The various effects used really lend themselves well to both the environment and action in Darksiders Genesis. Again, Strife’s hot streak sounds caught my attention even if I wasn’t playing as him at the time. Even the little but iconic cues such as the audio jingle for discovering a secret are present. Atmospheric sounds were a treat to listen to and brought life to each level. There were some mild annoyances like the echo in the serpent holes, but overall the quality was good.
The real treat here however is the voice acting. Darksiders Genesis features an all-star cast with several returning stars. Kieth David plays the new antagonist Moloch and does an outstanding job with it. The acting for War, Samael, and Vulgrim in particular were some of my favorites but I didn’t feel that there was a single bad performance in the game.
The music is as dark and orchestral as it always is in the series and there was nothing but positive feelings from me. The latin-esque choir used on tracks like The Hollow Lord were suspenseful and scene setting. Other tracks like Icebind Cavern were somber with a percussive melancholy that just conveyed a frozen wasteland without leaving much work for the imagination. Overall the boss battle tracks stole the show for me and I would have loved to see these tracks performed live. The composer, Gareth Coker, has a lot of high quality work under his belt and I highly recommend giving some of his discography a listen.
Darksiders Genesis is a worthy entry into the series, even if it wasn’t exactly what fans were asking for. Dispel any illusions spread that it’s a Diablo-like game as nothing could be further from the truth. Genesis is Darksiders through and through, and it’s awesome to see the story continue. This entry is a brutal continuation of the Darksiders legacy where we get to see multiple horsemen working together, which I think most of us were wanting. There are of course format drawbacks and a few bugs, but nothing stopped or ruined my overall experience. It will be interesting to see if they continue some form of multiplayer within the series as it continues and I’m glad they chose to introduce it. I hope to see more entries in the series soon, and I know I am…not alone.