From the dawn of creation, The Charred Council has maintained the Balance across existence. Carrying out their orders are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Nephilim (powerful beings spawned from the unnatural union of angels and demons) who have pledged themselves to the Council and been granted immense power. However, this power came at a tragic cost: the Horsemen were ordered to use their newfound strength to wipe out the rest of their kind. What followed was a bloody battle on Eden where the Horsemen obeying the will of the Council, and annihilated the Nephilim.
Still reeling from the events on Eden, War and Strife have been given a new assignment — Lucifer, the enigmatic and deceptive demon king, has been plotting to upset the Balance by granting power to master demons throughout Hell. In Darksiders Genesis War and Strife must hunt down these masters, gather information, and ultimately fight their way through a tangled, demonic conspiracy that threatens to forever upset the Balance and unravel all of creation.
This all takes place before the events of the first game in the series, and it’s also the first to feature two of the horsemen as playable characters. Developer Airship Syndicate has taken charge of one of the most enthralling narratives of modern gaming in a respectfully monumental way. In the process they’ve enhanced the overall narrative by offering more exposition on not just the horsemen, but also the overall Darksiders universe as a whole.
To do so effectively with two characters at the same time meant that the gameplay had to be changed from that of a third-person action RPG to an isometric RPG. Despite this change they’ve somehow managed to keep the core fundamentals of the combat uniquely Darksiders while improving on it in some ways. War and Strife both have their own unique weapons, combat styles and abilities, however, Strife uniqueness stands out among the four. He boasts two pistols, Mercy and Redemption, along with Dual Sabers, and explosive spikes. With this arsenal he’s well adapted to fighting at range, but not totally incompotent in close quarters. Strife also has his Anarchy Form similar to that of his other siblings, which he dons by gathering energy from attacking enemies. In this form he resembles a black horned goblin with a scorpion tail for a ponytail and a mini-gun for a hand.
As for War, he remains mostly the same as he was depicted in the previous Darksiders titles. Equipped with the intimidating Chaoseater, Vorpal Blade and Tremor Gauntlet he is a force to be reckoned with. War basks in the glory of battle and is at his best carving up enemies while dodging in close quarters. His Chaos form is that of a hulking fiery demon with a massive flaming sword in hand.
Furthermore the battle system includes the ability to add elemental effects to the attacks of each rider. Most are the conventional electric or fire type additions, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. By holding the left bumper and rotating the right stick its possible to activate abilities like the Gravity Shot for Strife which pushes away enemies and holds them in place while also dealing damage. For War, you may find his Vampiric enhancement to be the most formidable choice. It not only does reasonable damage, but also turns that damage into health for War, and these are just two among six enhancements. Each rider also has special moves, like War’s swords erupting from the ground him, or Strife’s clones which provide distractions and extra damage. War can also block and counter attacks while Strife summons extra clones to attack enemies thanks to his near miss ability.
In addition to all of that we even get a special skill tree type of system, that allows for even more abilities and buffs for the horsemen. These come in the form of Creature Cores which drop from some minor enemies and bosses upon their defeat. These cores can be placed into slots and link together based on their type, and arrangement on the tree. It’s also possible to improve them by collecting multiple versions of the same cores.
As for progression, Darksiders Genesis has the main story and quests. The latter is just a series of achievements the player can complete for rewards including; souls to be used in Vulgrims shop, creature cores and other consumables. Quests are quite simple and most you’ll complete without noticing, however you will need to visit the Quest menu to claim their rewards. As for the main plot, it fits perfectly with all the other games in the franchise and is a full lenght experience. Levels are huge and detailed to perfection. Most are filled with collectables, hidden items, side quests and puzzles to solve. And when not doing those it’s possible to grind in the arenas for Creature Cores, and souls for unlocking new abilities for the horsemen.
My total time with the game was 20 hours, but I’m sure I could complete it in half that time if I didn’t partake in all the side stuff like the Arenas or finding all the hidden collectables.
Visually this is a gorgeous game on the PC. Running it at 4K, 1440p or 1080p is a treat to the eyes. It’s full of colour, stuff happening in the backgrounds and lots of atmospheric effects. In a way I think that the game being isometric has allowed the devs to focus on some aspects of it that they otherwise may not have if it wasn’t. There’s more focus on the backgrounds and particle effects since you’ll be seeing lots of enemies on screen from a bird’s eye perspective. On the switch it doesn’t look quite as good with blurred edges and lower resolutions, yet it still manages to look good enough at a steady framerate. It also includes the same seamless split screen co-op as the PC, which I’m shocked is possible on the handheld.
During co-op both players are capable of exploring the maps independently or together, however, they need to be together to advance the plot. During split screen play this equates to an impressive experience, especially on the Nintendo Switch. Being able to explore one side of the map and collect items as Strife while Player 2 does something else with War makes levels a joy. You can even find different ways to progress depending on the horseman you’re using or work together to achieve more. If you don’t have a local Player 2 you’re also able to use online co-op, or play solo and switch between War and Strife on the fly.
Speaking of War and Strife, they both have a wonderful dynamic between them. Moments where they had banter really hearkened to the dynamic between War and Death in the novel, Darksiders: The Abomination Vault. Which if you haven’t read it, you really should. It’s on Amazon, Kindle and Audible. I’ve read it twice so you have no excuse. Anywho back to the game — War is just as you remember him from the other games. He’s calm, cold and totally menacing in a heavy metal kinda way. Strife on the other hand is sarcastic and light hearted, but can flip the switch to end someone in an instant. Of the four, Death is still my favorite, but Strife has become a close second. That being said, I did have problems with him and some other aspects of the game.
To begin with, Strife’s way of speech or should I say his accent doesn’t fit with the rest of the franchise. More often than not he sounded very urban American, and nothing like all the otherworldly characters around him. What’s more, this is not the first time we’ve heard this character in the games. In Darksiders 3 he’s voiced by Phil LaMarr who did an excellent job with the character as he’s done with others including Vulgrim, a role he reprises in Darksiders Genesis.
This is not to say that Chris Jai Alex didn’t do a good job, but rather that he could have been directed to do the character more in-line with the work Phil did before him, while incorporating the humor of his rendition. During cutscenes his voice work stood out as weaker than the rest, especially Liam O’Brien as War, Vernon Wells as Samael, and the aforementioned Phil LaMarr as Vulgrim, simply because of how spectacular they are with the material. They sound like what you’d expect a heavy metal heaven and hell characters to sound like, Chris’ doesn’t, and he’s not the only one. Kimberly Hebert Gregory’s rendition of Dis suffers from the exact same flaw.
Other aspects of the game that I had problems with included; the ingame cutscenes which require player input to proceed, thus breaking up their delivery, also the platforming which wasn’t the most accurate due to the fixed camera, the lack of any kinds of camera adjustments, longer loading times on the switch and a final boss battle which leaves a lot to be desired. Those flaws however don’t bring down the overall excellent package that is Darksiders Genesis.
What the team at Airship Syndicate has done with the Darksiders material is impressive to say the least. They’ve taken a franchise of single player games and turned it into an excellent co-op experience while keeping the fundamentals of the originals intact.
Memorable characters, intricate combat, challenging boss battles, replayability.
These are the words best associated with Darksiders Genesis — An excellent addition to the franchise that I can easily recommend to anyone who is a fan of the series, and it may even be the best entry point for newcomers since it takes place before the events of the other games.
The review copies of Darksiders Genesis used for this review were provided to us by its Publisher, THQ Nordic.