The Darksiders franchise has been going strong since 2010, getting its start as a God of War style adventure under the guidance of Joe “Mad” Madureira and Vigil Games. Two years later, Darksiders II was added to the franchise, and brought a bit of irony with it. Featuring Death as a new character, this second installment was followed by the “death” of THQ, and shortly after the company went into bankruptcy.
THQ found new life a few years later, returning as THQ Nordic. The franchise was brought roaring back last year with Gunfire Games’ successful Darksiders III, featuring another new Horseman, Fury.
Now, with its newfound energy, the publisher decided to try something a bit different with the franchise by keeping the storyline moving forward without making Darksiders 4, at least not yet. So how do you do that? Simple. Bring back the man that started it all, Joe “Mad” plus his team at Airship Syndicate, and make an interesting twist on the formula with Darksiders Genesis.
Originally introduced right before the Electronic Entertainment Expo kicked off last month, Genesis adds a Diablo style twist to its proceedings. The fourth Horseman, Strife, who made an appearance near the end of Darksiders III, is the final playable character, and a fan favorite from the original title, War, returns as a secondary playable character. Games such as this are always more fun to play with a friend, right? Well, with Genesis, two players can go at it with buddy-buddy scavenging in local or online co-op.
Darksiders Genesis does feature a somewhat lighter tone than its previous installments, but it sticks with the familiar world so fans won’t miss a beat. Madureira is backed by a number of veterans at Airship Syndicate, who have worked with him at Vigil previously, and understand what he’s looking for in terms of tone and action. Based on what we’ve seen from the game so far, they definitely have that nailed down, even though the approach – isometric action compared to third-person 3D action – is much different.
Joe “Mad” noted that this game has been in development for around eighteen months or so, indicating that he’s been toying with it since Darksiders III was in the works at Gunfire. That’s an interesting contrast, though again, Genesis was never really meant to be a sequel, despite the fact it introduces Strife as a playable character for the first time.
Instead of a free-flowing adventure, Genesis works with a mission structure. You (and your compadre, should you work in a cooperative fashion) have to work to clear out enemies across each stage in order to successfully accomplish missions. You also have the ability to try for a higher ranking, should your current one not be to your liking.
This actually makes a difference for you and your fellow character, enabling you to level your abilities over the course of the game, to become increasingly powerful, which is quite useful for tougher enemies later on. However, this isn’t just a simple “one and done” system, with a number of systems that are broken down across the board.
First up, there’s the loot drops. As you take out creatures that are scattered across Genesis’ hideous world, you’ll be able to pick up all sorts of rewards that you can equip and/or spend later. These are worth hunting down, as you can pick up gear to use as you progress. Don’t worry, there should be enough for both of you to use, or something for you to scoop up if you’re going through the game on your own.
Next up are the set of skill and ability trees featured throughout the game. Though the team really didn’t show off how many of these are available for both Strife and War, we have a feeling that there will be a lot you can upgrade such as power, speed and more. How you do so is completely up to you, depending on your style of play, but it never hurts to have a little bit of balance.
Optional combat upgrades will also be available over the course of the game. We’re not sure if that means combos will open up more, or if there will be defensive abilities that open as things get heated later on. Either way, it’ll be cool to see what Joe “Mad” and the team at Airship have in mind as the game continues development.
Finally, there are “creature cores.” These can be put into a skill tree, though not fully detailed yet, they could mix things up. Who knows, maybe they could lend a supernatural hand in transformation at some point in the game. (That’s just a guess, mind you.)
Darksiders Genesis isn’t a game that’s built entirely around action. Sure, you can carve your way through demon forces and have a field day doing it, but Airship has meticulously built this world around puzzle solving. This includes using one or two characters to solve platforming puzzles, or activating key things within the world to move forward in certain areas. Based on the footage we’ve seen thus far, it’s pretty challenging, and also very cool stuff, similar to what we’ve seen in previous Darksiders games.
That being said, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a helping hand during these puzzles, as there are waves of enemies that are bound to be a real pain in your backside. One player could fend them off while you attempt to complete the puzzle, before a much larger enemy forces both of you to work together to finish them all off so you can move forward as a team.
Platforming isn’t the only way to solve puzzles; sometimes you’ll need items to find a solution. For instance, War’s Vorpal Blade can act as a boomerang at times, allowing you can hurl it at objects (like switches) in order to activate things within the world. Strife should have a similar ability as well, which will give the characters some sort of balance so one doesn’t have something over the other.
The characters will have light and heavy attacks, which you’ll be able to mix together to create some beautiful techniques for mowing down enemies. You’ll also have access to ranged attacks (read: guns) to take down incoming foes from afar, which is especially helpful. A dash technique can get you out of harm’s way quickly, and you’ll utilize it for a boss or two early on which will help you get the hang of it.
These are still early days with the game’s development, so obviously the visuals for Darksiders Genesis aren’t done, but based on the footage we’ve caught a glimpse of, it’s impressive. Granted, the world may look different from previous games, but it’s still very beautifully designed and reminds us of classic games like, well, Diablo III. The visual effects are luscious, particularly the lava and some of the enemy designs; and the animations are razor sharp, on some of the characters for example. We couldn’t really hear too much of the sound just yet, but based on a few of the samples, Airship Syndicate has some of the content put together nicely. They’re bound to have a musical score right up there with what we’ve heard in previous games, though from what we’ve heard a composer hasn’t been settled on just yet.
It’s true, Darksiders Genesis is a change of pace from what fans are used to, and it’s not Darksiders 4, but this serves as a fun little distraction in the meantime. Genisis will provide hours of loot-grabbing and demon-killing enjoyment for you and a friend. Will it knock off Diablo? More than likely not, but it’ll provide a good time nevertheless. Plus, you get to play as War again, and finally see what Strife can do in this fun little world, which we’ve been waiting to see since his appearance in Darksiders III last year.
Not to mention, Joe “Mad” Madureira’s involvement with this beloved franchise is worth its weight in gold alone. It’ll be the reunion we’ve been waiting ages to see, and will have to wait a bit longer for; Genesis wont be released until later this year for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC, but soon enough, it’ll get its chance to shine.