Although we wouldn’t put the Darksiders series among our all-time favourites, it’s one that we’ve enjoyed over the years, guiding three of the Four Horsemen as they rip through enemy hordes. Rather than sticking with the formula from the first three entries, however, developer Gunfire Games is switching to more of a top-down, hack n’ slash meets twin-stick shooter approach with Darksiders Genesis.
After sticking with a single Horseman in previous games, Genesis stars two: Strife, the only one not to have previously been featured, and War, who headlined the original. When playing solo you’ll have the option to switch between the two at any point, whereas in co-op both will appear on screen simultaneously (and, obviously, no switching). Each character has a role with Strife relying on his dual guns to deal damage at range and War wading it for melee combat.
It’s a nice mix and well implemented, making both solo and co-operative play feel viable and engaging. Progression is meaningful as you find or purchase upgrades that unlock new combos, ammo and weapon effect variants, gadgets for interacting with the environment and so on. The controller gets pretty busy with multiple attacks, dashing, blocking, jumping and more, and even after 20-plus hours we’d still get our wires crossed occasionally. Still, the variety is necessary to keep things interesting across so many battles.
Where things don’t hold up as well is platforming. It’s not a huge part of the game, but it’s significant enough that the sloppiness caused some frustrating moments. We’d often miss jumps we thought we’d make with ease, gliding past or slipping off an intended landing point. We also adopted a very deliberate approach to climbing up ledges after enough instances of jumping the wrong direction. It’s easily the game’s most frustrating element.
Probably the easiest comparison for Genesis is the Tomb Raider spinoffs, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (and Temple of Osiris), which took the long-running adventure series and re-imagined it as a top-down shooter. It’s not a bad looking game, and the variety of locations and enemies is a strength, but there’s nothing here that would’ve taxed a last-gen console. It’s also a little too easy for enemies to blend into the background in certain areas.
Interplay between Strife and War shades to the silly side with the latter playing the straight man while the former hams it up. It gives the game a little different feel, which is nice, and the performances are solid. Much of the story advancement is presented in the Void, however, and the constant echoing of dialogue is grating. The music has a suitably epic feel while grunts and explosions do the job.
Set sometime before the events of the original Darksiders, Genesis finds two members of the Four Horsemen, Strife and War, dispatched by the Charred Council to investigate events set in motion by the demon Lucifer to upset the all-important balance by empowering other demons. After breaking the siege of Samael‘s fortress, he instructs you to find Vulgrim, and the Horsemen strike up a tentative alliance as you look to unravel Lucifer’s treachery.
It isn’t a particularly detailed or interesting story, but it offers a reason to wade through Hell and beyond to do the Council’s bidding. While it is a linear, chapter-based story, Genesis allows you to revisit levels to collect previously unobtainable items via some Metroidvania mechanics or pocket more souls to purchase upgrades. You can also jump into the wave-based arena from the Void hub world for extra goodies.
Areas are large and full of collectibles, and there are times you’ll need to be clever to locate an epic chest or some other desirable item. Once you collect the map all item locations will be marked, though that doesn’t make it as easy as you’d think — this isn’t helped by the odd decision to not mark your location on the map beyond your general area. There’s a good blend of combat and exploration, though at times it leans a little too heavily into badgering you with loads of cannon fodder.
It’s during the more hectic large-scale battles and boss fights that the game’s combat shines the brightest as you create space, dodge attacks, whittle down enemy life-bars and weigh the cost-benefit of executing lesser foes so that they drop much-needed health against wading into the meat of the fray. We wouldn’t have minded a few more sub-bosses to break up the large-scale battles, but it’s not overly detrimental across the game’s substantial run time.
Darksiders Genesis is unlike any of its predecessors, and while that may disappoint some fans of the series, this one-off features strong level design, solid combat and an addictive progression loop.