The Darksiders franchise is weird, y’all! While the first game was a dark, copy of the 3D Legend of Zelda games, it had heart, if some annoying combat arenas. The second game ditched (most) of the arenas and added in a whole lot of loot for you to wear, and weapon types to wield. No one cared about the third game. And now, we’re on the 4th (kind of) one, with the introduction of the final Horseman, Strife. It’s been a windy road, but the gang is all here. Well….two of the gang are here, Death and Fury aren’t here. But hey, we got Strife and War, and that’s something?
I’ve seen a lot of people comparing this game to Diablo and while some of the perspective is the same, which is about the only thing Genesis has in common with that franchise.
If anything, Genesis shares a lot, and I mean a LOT of its DNA with the two Lara Croft games, Guardian of Light and Temple of Osiris. Both games feature very large levels, which have multiple objectives and secrets. Both games feature two protagonists, although this game has online co-op from the start which is nice. Both games feature puzzles, bosses, and some slightly dodgy platforming action. So, I’d say that if you liked those earlier Lara Croft games, this one is directly up your alley.
Darksiders Genesis is a co-op action game. You play as either War or Strife and have to stop Lucifer’s plans from destroying humanity, yadda, yadda yadda. This basically involves you going through various levels of hell, as errand boys for other demons, as they have to gather items to find Lucifer.
So, I’ll be upfront and say I didn’t play Darksiders 3. From reading what happened in that game, this game starts on an…odd note. I remember how Darksiders 1 and 2 ended, basically with all 4 Horseman coming together. Darksiders 3 seems like it ends with Fury taking down the Council, meeting Strife at the very end, and Lucifer annoyed at what transpired.
This game literally starts you off with War and Strife taking orders from the Council to take down Lucifer…where the Council was destroyed by Fury? When Strife pops up with a “Hey, what about the other two?”, it’s dealt with a line of “Oh, Fury and Death are busy. Have fun you two!”. Maybe I’m thinking way…WAY too much into this, but it seemed really awkward to me.
Anyways, enough of my pontificating on the timeline of Darksiders, which I’m sure is still less convoluted than the Zelda timeline, the question to ask is “How’s it play?” My answer is “Pretty well, aside from some annoying things.”
Strife and War are two different characters. Strife is WAY more ranged focused and playing with him is akin to a dual joystick game. You move with the left stick, aim with the right and you can have two ammo types equipped to RB and RT. You do have a melee sword strike, but it’s for close-ranged combat only. Your special attacks deal in misdirection (Shadow Clone) or traps (Caltrops), along with a few others, that are very ranged-oriented.
War, as you might expect, is the more melee-focused character. He has both a light and heavy attack with his sword. His special abilities are usually about charging (Rampage), dealing AOE damage (Blade Geyser) or increasing his defense (Stoneskin). He doesn’t start off with a ranged attack, but gains an item later that lets him do one, though it is far less effective/fun than Strife’s guns. On the whole also, War is slower than Strife, who is able to dodge quite a bit better than War can.
On the whole, I probably used Strife for like 80% of my playthrough of the game. I just found him to be a more fun character to do combat with, his ammo types were much more varied, and he was more interesting. It’s akin to the Trine dilemma of “The warrior kind of sucks, and everyone likes being the archer or wizard more” sort of thing. Don’t get me wrong, War is effective in certain situations, particularly against big bosses, but I preferred playing as Strife for most of the game.
Levels in this game are long. LOOOONG. Each level is around 45 minutes, at least for me. The levels are generally huge with a ton of different collectibles and secrets for you to unlock.
One big complaint I have with Genesis is the menu: it is horrid. Like, it doesn’t actually tell you where you are, in relation to the map. A simple “YOU ARE HERE” icon would do wonders. Letting you set custom waypoints to collectibles would also be a god-send. Another thing that might be useful is just an arrow that could tell you where to go. It wouldn’t have to be on all the time, but a toggle button that could just guide you would have been really nice. Certain levels are fairly maze-like, so this could have shortened the playtime quite a bit.
Each level typically has a story objective “Find XXXX item” or “Kill (insert demonic name here) boss”, but has several side missions as well. These usually break down into hunting around the environment for certain objects to pick up, or killing certain enemies, or not dying on certain story sequences, etc. Most of these net you some souls and coins you’ll need to use to buy upgrades for your characters.
Genesis has two different leveling systems, one of which is easy and one of which is hard. The easy one is that you can just buy items/upgrades/new moves from various vendors using the souls you collect and “Boatman” coins you find in the levels (or by doing side missions). To unlock the Electric ammo for Strife, you have to pay 500 souls and 5 coins, as an example. Coins aren’t everywhere, but they also aren’t that scarce, so you should be able to find enough for the upgrades you really want, and eventually you’ll have a small stash of them.
The more arcane upgrade process is with the “Creature Board”. As you kill enemies, sometimes they will drops their souls, which you can slot into this board game-looking thing. There are three types of souls and they correspond to slots on the board. There are also “Major” souls (bosses) that can be slotted as well, which offer more substantial upgrades.
Both War and Strife basically have a gear level, so slotting in souls increases this number, and their overall effectiveness, as well as giving you passive bonuses.
The big thing is, this system is lame and they don’t actually explain it at all. It wasn’t until the third mission where I got curious what the menu option even was, then when I clicked it, it went into a tutorial about what the hell it was. A lot of the times you find duplicates of souls, which powers them up but it’s a very slow process. I only started poking around because the mission select screen said “War needs to be 240 and Strife at 210, and your War is 225 and Strife is 200”. Uh…why not have a real tutorial explaining this? Instead of me just blindly poking around until I stumble upon the right thing?
I suspect this game was made a bit on the cheap side. This isn’t a knock against it, per se, just an observation. There really aren’t CGI cut scenes, or anything too visually impressive. The opening movie was all done in comic form, and not some animated thing. Or the conversations between War and Strife are pretty much just done in voice overs.
I will give them credit though that the voice work is still really done, aside from one actor. They’ve managed to keep the voices of War, Vulgrim, Samael, etc, which is impressive, considering the franchise is a decade old. And I imagine 2019 rates for Troy Baker voice work would be slightly higher than 2010 rates for work. So, good on them for having this continuity.
The one mis-step is with the Strife voice actor, Chris Jai White. I don’t think he’s a bad voice over actor but he seems oddly miscast in the role. Everyone in the game has a very Shakespearean tone, and his work sounds very modern and out of place, by comparison.
The only other real gripe I might have for Genesis is that some of the platforming is bad. This only occurs in certain spots, but when it happens over and over, it becomes annoying. There’s a part, in the fourth level I think, where you can glide down from a high point to try and collect three coins in a row. You wouldn’t think this would be a big deal but I had to do it about 5 times, because I kept missing the second coin, due to not having enough spatial awareness and falling to the ground below. It wasn’t a huge deal but there are occasional spots in the game where you need to do precise jumping or gliding and the game just doesn’t allow for this.