Darksiders Genesis has arrived on consoles (PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch) after releasing late last year for PC and Google Stadia. Budget priced at $39.99, Genesis brings a lot of value to the table in terms of a fun gameplay loop and replayability.
Genesis is a spin-off of the main Darksiders games, and in this case serves as a prequel taking place before the three numbered games. The perspective has shifted to an isometric one akin to Diablo, the developer is Airship Syndicate as opposed to Vigil/Gunfire Games, and the game features two playable Horsemen.
Those are the main differences though. The gameplay, puzzle solving, and platforming elements are all distinctly Darksiders making this game a familiarly fun trek for fans of the mainline Darksiders games as it borrows elements from them all.
If all you knew of Darksiders Genesis was the top-down camera shift and you expected Diablo in the Darksiders universe because of it, then you might be a little disappointed. This isn’t a looter like Diablo. It is a faithful Darksiders experience, with a different view and art-style to accommodate, and the game is all the better for it.
As mentioned above, Genesis is a prequel to the mainline series. The great battle on Eden has already happened; the Horsemen have basically wiped out the Nephilim on the orders of the Council.
In the aftermath of that, the Council has given War and Strife a new mission or assignment… Lucifer. The demon king has been giving power to master demons in Hell, and this is upsetting the Balance. War and Strife are sent out to hunt the masters, gather information, and restore the balance.
There’s enough story/lore here to please fans of the series, but this really isn’t a game that a newcomer would play for the story. The gameplay is the draw here, and thankfully you’re never forced to sit through lengthy cutscenes and a ton of dialogue. There are even optional lore dialogue between War and Strife within the missions that you can choose to initiate or walk right on past if you don’t really care.
The big draw for Genesis is that it marks the first time Strife has been a playable character in the series. I think the assumption for many is that Darksiders 4 would be Strife’s game, and if that’s the case then we are getting a nice preview of him here.
Strife has ranged and melee attacks and his double pistols with different ammo type makes for a fun play experience. He’s got some cool abilities, his personality is more humorous, and he’s just generally a different feel for the series.
Strife is joined here by his brother War, who fans of the first game will be happy to hear plays much like he did in that game with abilities and attacks. If you played the first Darksiders, you’ll be at home playing War in Genesis.
I like War better, but the good thing about Genesis is that you can instantly swap between the two if you’re playing solo (which is how I played). Genesis does have co-op, I didn’t test it, but in general games are usually more fun with friends and I don’t think this would be any different.
The meat of Genesis is the same. Kill enemies, and open chests, and collect souls. Use those souls to purchase upgrades to your characters, potions, etc.
The new thing here, which is very cool and offers reason to replay the missions, is the addition of Creature Cores. These cores are occasionally dropped by enemies and bosses, and they give different passive buffs when they’re slotted into the skill tree. Some can even be leveled up by acquiring more of the same type of core, amplifying the effect of the buff.
This is a very satisfying addition to the game, allowing players to customize in different ways while continuously replaying stuff to try and get a certain core to help level one up or find a different core. It’s certainly the closest thing to help make the game feel more like an ARPG and not just a hack and slash (which it is).
I’ve found most of my time with Genesis to be fairly enjoyable. The campaign is roughly 15 hours, and that’s through 16 Chapters/missions that you can replay at will to acquire new cores or collectibles.
There’s a power level associated with each level, so you’re gonna want to be close to that level before attempting the chapter. So you may come to a point where you need to purchase upgrades or go back to a previous chapter and find one of the shards you may have missed.
The game also has numerous arenas that you can partake in, which is a wave based horde mode where you get points that you can use to buy stuff like cores, souls, upgrades, etc. This is more of an end-game activity for Genesis.
I found the map to be irritating at times, as well as the camera perspective when exploring can at times be a little wonky. Nothing major, and if you’re enjoying the game you’ll get used to its few quirks and be able to see them as the minor annoyance they are.
It’s not necessarily the fault of the game I don’t suppose, but Genesis makes my PS4 Pro sound like its about to take off worse than just standing in the Tower in Destiny 2 does. It’s awful, but I don’t deduct points because of Sony’s problem.
All in all, Darksiders Genesis is a fun experience, especially if you’re a fan of the Darksiders series as I am. It’s not what I was hoping for or expecting when it was first announced (I really wanted the full Diablo ARPG experience within the Darksiders universe); it is pretty standard Darksiders with a different perspective.
Still, as a budget title, Airship Syndicate did a really good job here and it’s nice that those guys (founded by some of the ex-Vigil guys who helped create the original game) got another chance to work on the franchise and bring something a little different to the table.
There’s fun to be had here, and some real good replayability, but I do think the price point is better for the PC version than it is the console version. If you have the option, go the PC route and save yourself $10.
Darksiders Genesis gets a three out of five: GOOD.
* A digital code was provided for this review by the publisher.