Despite the isometric viewpoint, Darksiders Genesis is nothing like Diablo.
Initially I was quite disappointed by that. I was looking forward to killing legions of monsters as both War and Strife, collecting loot as I go to make my characters stronger and more unique. But as I dug further into Darksiders Genesis I began to appreciate it for what it actually is: a Darksiders game through and through, with an emphasis on co-op and a level-based structure that supports it.
Taking place before all the other Darksiders games, in Darksiders Genesis you’re tasked by the Charred Council to thwart Lucifer, whose plans are threatening the balance. It’s not long into the journey, however, that War and Strife find themselves in the Void, working with both Vulgrim and Samael to achieve their goal. Are they being used? Of course. But while their aims align, an alliance is the best option.
From the Void you can access missions, set up online or local co-op, and also engage in a bit of shopping. Just like in all Darksiders games, souls are the currency here, and they can be used to buy upgrades of various kinds. Many upgrades also require Boatman Coins, but worry not, they’re quite easily found as you go about your business.
Interacting with the portal in the centre of the Void allows you to jump to any mission currently available. Each mission takes place in its own self-contained environment, and not only allows for plenty of combat, but also ample amounts of platforming, exploration and puzzle solving. Basically, each mission is like a dungeon in a regular Darksiders game.
Playing as War, anyone that has played the original Darksiders will feel right at home, just with the action viewed from a different angle. The combat has the same weighty feel to it, and you’re still required to skilfully dodge out of the way of enemy attacks or parry them. Switch over to Strife, however, which you can do at anytime when playing alone, and you’ll find the game transformed into a twin-stick shooter.
It’s a combination that works well, really, with the two playstyles complementing each other. You’ll find that certain characters are better suited to certain situations and enemies, urging you to switch often. Or, if you’re playing in split-screen or online co-op, working to each other’s strengths and backing each other up when necessary.
Of course, as you make your way through Darksiders Genesis you acquire new abilities, including being able to momentarily turn into a giant demon. Some of them are offensive skills that open up new combat options, while others can be used to attack but are more focused on manipulating the environment. There are projectiles that can open up portals, for example, while an upgrade for War allows him to slam certain contraptions to give him some air. If you want to discover all of the game’s secrets you’ll need to return to previously completed missions after discovering them all.
Multiple difficulty levels are another reason to return to Darksider Genesis‘ levels once you’ve already completed them, as well as a multitude of challenges. Each mission has a recommended power level level depending on the difficulty selected, and to match that you’ll need to buy and discover upgrades as well as manage your Creature Cores.
Placed on a board, Creature Cores are Darksiders Genesis‘ primary way of powering up your characters and making them unique. Every Creature Core has a unique benefit, and many can be levelled up by collecting multiple of them, further increasing their potency. Furthermore, where they are placed on the board needs to be considered. Match an attack-based Creature Core to a corresponding slot, for example, and you’ll find you receive a small bonus to your attack power. Some slots place a level limit on the cores placed in them, too.
A lot of time can be spent hunting down new abilities and upgrades within levels, as well as killing monsters to collect their Creature Core. You’ll also need to harvest a lot of souls to max out each character’s movesets. And once you’ve plundered each mission for all of its riches, the fun still doesn’t need to be over. Darksiders Genesis also features many arena stages, challenging you to be beat waves of enemies. Complete them all and you can take on the endless arena challenge.
All in all, Darksiders Genesis probably isn’t what you were expecting, but it’s a pleasant surprise. Its story gives us a bit of a glimpse into the lives of both War and Strife before the events of the original Darksiders; the latter’s comedic quips giving me hope that the fourth entry in the main series happens. There’s a good twenty-plus hours of gameplay here, and co-op functionality does boost replayability. It looks, sounds and plays like a Darksiders game, but takes the series in a new direction and makes it feel fresh.
There are some issues, however. The camera isn’t always very good. Move behind an object in the foreground, for example, an instead of making the object obscuring your view transparent à la Diablo, it instead just highlights your character. If there are any enemies or collectables also hidden, you can’t see them. Platforming can also be an issue at times thanks to the zoomed-out camera, and I encountered a fair few bugs along the way. Hopefully they’ll be quashed by the day one patch.
I should probably mention how nice Darksiders Genesis looks, too. At max setting it truly looks beautiful, dripping with detail and lush with colour. I was able to play it at a steady 60 frames per second at 1440p on a RTX 2070, which is pretty good considering how hectic the action can be at times. The soundtrack is also top notch. In terms of presentation, only a poor vocal performance by Samael lets the game down.
If you’re after yet more Darksiders action and aren’t put off by the change in viewpoint, which you shouldn’t be, Darksiders Genesis will not disappoint. Even better, it’s available a bit cheaper than usual releases. Airship Syndicate has created a game that both fans and those new to the series can jump into and have a great deal of fun. And thanks to co-op, it no longer has to be a solitary affair.