No matter your opinion of the Darksiders series, one thing cannot be denied; it is not afraid to try new things… or at least it is not afraid to incorporate old things it's never done before. What started as a burly Zelda-like, over time took on more and more aspects of other bonafide classics such as Metroid, Diablo, and most recently Dark Souls. Each new entry has fundamentally changed the core game loop, while still retaining the DNA of the Darksiders identity.
Darksiders Genesis is the fourth entry in the series, but this time instead of moving the narrative forward, we take a look back to before the fall of humanity we bore witness to in Darksiders I. We find brother horsemen War and Strive on a mission from the Charred Council to investigate some concerning events that have torn apart The Garden of Eden, and it looks like Lucifer himself is behind the carnage. Seeing as the set-up is pushing us towards a confrontation with literal Lord of Hell, it is fitting then that this time the team at Airship Syndicate have taken a lot of inspiration from Diablo, going much further than Death's loot grind in Darksiders II, and quite literally giving gamers a whole new perspective on the series as we move from 3rd person Action Adventure to top-down Action-RPG.
Before I move on to the game itself, it is noteworthy that despite this being Airship Syndicate's first foray into the Darksiders universe, it is not their first time holding the reins of the Horsemen. Just like Gunfire Games who made Darksiders III, Airship Syndicate is built from the remains of the original Darksiders developer Vigil Games. So while Vigil may have gone the way of the dodo, it is reassuring to know that should publisher THQ Nordic wish to continue to support the series, we can be assured that there are plenty of willing and capable hands prepared to carry the series forward into the future.
On the surface Darksiders Genesis looks very much like a Diablo clone, the top-down kinetic action we know from that series is fully on display here, but just as each Darksiders game has done before, that inspiration has been forged into something uniquely Darksiders. Perhaps the most impressive feat the team at Airship has accomplished is making Genesis feel like a true Darksiders game despite the change in style and perspective. A lot of that can be laid at the feet of Joe Madureira, one of the founders of Vigil Games, as well as the artist behind Battle Chasers, and the Director of the original Darksiders. This is a Darksiders game, a fact that is immediately apparent when you first delve into the dungeons and throughout the entire adventure as you explore a surprisingly wide and varied number of landscapes over the 15-20 hours it takes to complete Genesis' story.
Right, back into the action. At any given time, you can easily swap between the brothers. War is still a colossal tank, and wields his greatsword Chaoseater with the same deliberate ferocity of the first game, while newcomer Strife is an agile ranged terror who may lack the robustness of his big bro, but more than makes up for it in his ability to traverse the landscape at high speed and rain down pain with his twin pistols. Both Horsemen can be upgraded during their quest, imbuing their weapons with unique powers, elemental effects, and various tools to control the battlefield. The real strength in how the brothers work together with plenty of synergistic abilities allowing you to unleash some devastating combos. But should you wish to focus on an individual Horseman you certainly can. Each is individually powerful and has the arsenal to decimate all that stand before them. War is the prototypical close combat melee character, feeling like the Darksiders version of Diablo's Barbarian, only even more brutal. Strife, on the other hand, shares a lot in common with Diablo III's Demon Hunter. Highly agile and able to deliver devastating amounts of damage from a great distance. That is not to say that War and Strive are copies of the iconic Diablo classes, in fact, the key differences are very apparent, especially when Strive gets too close to a swarm of unfriendly face munching demons, or when unleashing each of their Chaosforms.
Unfortunately, all is not wonderful down in hell. There were a number of times when I found myself not only battling Lucifer's legions, but also the camera itself as parts of the action became obscured by scenery, while Strife and War can both be seen through the scenery the same is not true of their enemies, leading to a number of times where I was aimlessly button mashing in the hopes of hitting my unseen foes or attempting to kite them to another part of the screen. While not a constant issue, it certainly was a persistent one, and one that should be easy to solve. There are also platforming sections you will need to navigate, but there is an element of floatiness and imprecision with the brother's jumping that can lead to an untimely descent even deeper into the bowels of hell that you intended.
My main gripes though are with the writing and story. While I was ecstatic to see and hear Vulgrim return, this time the writing is just not up to previous standards, and the story is both simplistic and rather silly, even by Darksiders over the top standards. This is a real shame, as there has always been something compellingly ridiculous throughout the series that has not quite made the transition to the Airship Syndicate. The final issue I have is a very subjective one and one that will not affect console players at all. I prefer my action RPGs to be mouse and keyboard-driven, and sadly that is not really an option here even though I was playing on PC. The game was clearly designed for a controller, and while you can use your keyboard and mouse, they feel awful to use. While not a deal-breaker as the controller mechanics are exceptional and reactive, it was an irritation that still bothers me.
That being said this is easily the best Darksiders game to come out since Darksiders II, maybe even the original Darksiders. If it was perhaps a little longer and had some more polish applied to the story, it could well be the best game in the series. But I think it stands up well against both War and Death's outings under the Vigil banner. Unfortunately it looks like his little sister may have just gotten a little angrier as she sits at the bottom of pile. Here's hoping that Fury, Strife, and their brothers have another opportunity to embrace the Dark Side in the future because I think there is still a lot of fun to be found in this series.
The only thing I am not able to comment on is the co-op as I was not able to spend any time in this mode, but on PC couch co-op is available which can only be a good thing right?
+ Kinetic, fast-paced, and fun combat.
+ Both War and Strife are a lot of fun to play and play very differently.
+ Puzzles break up the action perfectly.
+ Couch co-op even on PC.
- Story is silly, even by Darksiders standards and not as well written.
- Enemy variety is lacking.
- Platforming sections can be frustrating.
- Keyboard and mouse support is lacking.