The Darksiders series has been around for a good 10 years now and have given us 4 games along the way. Most people will tell you it’s an underrated series, that it hasn’t received the popularity and success it deserves.
Having played them all so far, I would agree with this, but at the same time I can see why it hasn’t taken off like many other franchises. First of all, its visual style may be too dark and creepy for some people. I personally love the aesthetics but may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The other reason I think is the most likely one. It’s never really established its own identity gameplay-wise. Every game in the series is a take on another franchise. The first two games borrowed elements from The Legend of Zelda and God of War, and Darksiders 3 was clearly a Soulsbourne clone. That trend doesn’t stop, as Darksiders Genesis takes on another tried and true formula, but most importantly, is it done well enough to still be a great game?
So for the latest iteration, Darksiders Genesis takes on the twin-stick shooter and hack and slash genre, all taking place on a Diablo-style isometric view. You play as the fourth Horseman we have yet to play- Strife. To me, Strife is a breath of fresh air compared to the other Horsemen. The other Horsemen were so serious all the time, but Strife is the complete opposite. He reminds me a little bit like Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series and I really enjoyed his company. To makes things even more interesting, Strife is paired with the first Darksiders protagonist- War. Seeing the two opposing personalities clash makes for one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game.
Having two Horsemen go along for the ride obviously allows for this game for co-op, and while I never played co-op myself, I can imagine it would be a heap of fun. But if you’re like me and like to play solo, you can alternate between the two for both combat and puzzles. Both characters have their own unique set of attacks, where War is better for melee, Strife is better for long range and I believe his other abilities are more interesting than War’s. I opted to play as Strife for the majority of the game as I’ve already played as War before, but also because his guns were the highlight of the combat for me.
Strife has a decent variety of ammo types and should be changed regularly depending on the situation. Some ammo types are great for crowd control, while others are better for single opponents. I really had a lot of fun with the twin-stick portion of combat, especially when you build up your hotshot meter and can fire more powerful versions of each ammo type.
The pacing of the combat is just right, not too slow and not too fast. You’ll face hoards of enemies at a time and you just feel so powerful when you rip right through them. Enemies are constantly dropping items and souls, and it’s always a satisfying feeling with each enemy you kill.
When you’re not in combat, you’re exploring a variety of maps, each with a decent amount collectables and puzzles. Well the puzzles aren’t the best we’ve ever seen, but for this game, they’re good enough. You’ll need to make the most of both character’s abilities to solve them. So while the puzzles could have been a bit better, there’s still some clever ideas implemented and it was a nice break from all the action.
Levelling up Strife and War is done quite differently in this game. Most games have you gain XP and equip new gear to raise your stats. In Darksiders Genesis, strengthening your character is done in one of the more unique features of the game. This is in the form of Creature Cores. When an enemy or boss is killed, they may drop a Creature Core, which you then equip to gain its benefits, whether it be stat increases or perks.
The whole Creature Core system, along with the board you equip them on, can be a bit confusing, and even a bit messy. Plus if you want to boost the effects of each Creature Core, you need to collect quite a few of them to level them up, and this can become quite grindy.
On the plus side of this system, there’s plenty of cores to collect and you have a variety of ways to alter your characters and their abilities. When you’ve placed cores in the correct places (for even more of a boost), it can be quite satisfying.
You may have noticed the word ‘Genesis’ in the game’s title, so obviously this implies an origin story. The story does take place before the events of the first Darksiders game, where you’re sent on a mission to uncover Lucifer’s sinister plot. The story in the first half of the game is very ‘game-y’, where you’ll be sent off to look for various artefacts that are supposed to help you on your mission.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with the story, it’s just not the most memorable one. I will admit though, the ending and twist that occurs really surprised me in a good way. The story up until that point didn’t really feel like much effort was put in, but I was very happy with the ending!
Once you’ve completed the story, there’s still plenty of content to play through. There’s a separate Arena mode, remaining collectables to find, secret puzzles and bosses to find, so there really is good value in this game. It didn’t cost a whole lot when it released, but I got a good 60+ hours out of it.
Now as much as I enjoyed this game, there were quite a few downsides that should have, and really could have, been fixed. Firstly, the game is buggy as hell. I always encountered multiple bugs with every session I played. Most were small and didn’t bother me too much, but there were times I had to quit the game because of them.
Sometimes transitioning from one map to another just didn’t work, sometimes I would get stuck in the environment, and sometimes I would fall through the floor. It’s not just technical glitches either that hurt this game. For example, subtitles in cutscenes would change way too quickly, and whenever characters spoke in the void area, their voices would echo so badly that I couldn’t understand them.
One major oversight that really annoyed me (at the time of writing) was the fact that the map you use for navigation, doesn’t actually show where you are on it! It was infuriating always having to look at the map and try and guess where I am. The best way was to look at chests and collectables nearby, then check on the map to work out where you are. I hope a fix gets patched in for it, but it won’t matter for anyone like myself who’ve already finished the game.
Darksiders Genesis Review Summary
Darksiders Genesis overall is a very welcome addition to the series. Even though there’s been many twin-stick shooters and hack and slash games in the past, this game manages to get pacing of the combat just right, along with plenty of variety to always keep it entertaining.
There’s more than enough content here too, especially for a ‘smaller’ game, and enjoyed the vast majority of it. Where action was its strong point (especially the twin-stick shooting), the puzzles could have been expanded upon further, but I think were just good enough for this type of game.
As much fun as I had, the game did suffer from a long list of bugs and areas that needed improving. Encountering a new glitch almost every time I played did hurt the game a little, but didn’t stop me from having fun still.
When this game was revealed, I wasn’t too keen on it, and wasn’t even sure if I would eventually buy it, but I’m very thankful I did and it was great to finally play as the fourth Horseman Strife. His humour and awesome choice of weapons (his guns) makes him possibly my favourite Horseman of the lot. It may be a very different Darksiders compared to the rest, but I think all fans should still definitely give Genesis a go!