If there’s one thing that can’t be denied about the Darksiders series of games, it’s that within each of its iterations there’s always something new around its style of gameplay to keep things fresh. Despite this, it’s also a series that firmly keeps one foot within its roots, producing an overriding feel that can’t be mistaken. Whatever the addition or whatever the play style, it still remains distinctly Darksiders, which is a great thing. It’s also exactly the same for the latest title within its series, as Darksiders Genesis unleashes the apocalypse onto the Nintendo Switch.
Developed by Airship Syndicate and published through THQ Nordic, Darksiders Genesis takes on its, arguably, most ambitious style yet, with a top-down, isometric view that is a far cry from its third-person origins. At first glance, it now takes on a very Diablo-esque aesthetic; but don’t be fooled by its look. This is very much a Darksiders game through and through. Set as a prequel to the first Darksiders game, we reprise our role as War, one of the four horseman of the Apocalypse. This time though, we are joined by a newcomer to the series, the gun-toting and slash-happy, Strife, as for the first time within its history, the game now employs a mechanic to be able to play in two-player co-op; both online and off.
The story follows the two horsemen as, under the orders of the Charred Council, they set off to pass judgement on Lucifer himself. Throughout the underworld, his devilish rule has tilted the balance of power and his minions run amok under a lawless state, which means only one thing. It’s now up to you, or the two of you, to take down the lords of chaos and put Lucifer back into his place. Along with a string of returning allies to help you on your quest, namely the under-sieged Samael and travelling souls-salesman, Vulcrim, you embark on a path of familiarity as you hack-and-slash your way through a series of chapters towards your final goal, as well as collect souls, cores and auras to strengthen and build your unstoppable arsenal.
Building up your characters becomes an important element of the gameplay, as the game throws you straight into the action and remains relentless until the end of its fifteen-to-twenty hour campaign. Each of its levels are sprawling labyrinths that rewards exploration. Collecting items such as souls of the fallen, boatman coins, trickster keys and monster cores, allows you to purchase upgrades and weaponry, unlock doors to reveal treasure vaults and build towards a skill-tree that reveals a number of abilities for both War and Strife. It’s in these elements where the game retains its roots and fits neatly into place as a Darksiders title.
Combat is an immensely satisfying experience that holds many intricacies in its styling. Both characters are interchangeable on the fly when playing solo, and each of them have a distinct style in their offerings. War is more close-combat with his oversized sword, whereas Strife is long-ranged with dual-pistols. However, each character also plays host to a series of extra moves within their arsenals that need to be called upon at certain points within each level. As you progress through the game, you’ll begin to unlock a whole host of extra elements that fit into the gameplay. These can range from extra weaponry and abilities, such as War’s Vorpal Blade that can be frisbee’d to chain together targets and Strife’s collection of ammo types for his guns, from fiery bullets to plasma streams.
If this wasn’t enough, the game also allows you to back-track to previous levels in order to one hundred percent everything it has to offer, from secret reveals to previously unreachable places. However, it also reveals more the longer you play, unlocking a variety of extras such as an Arena Mode that offers wave-based gameplay and an endless battle mode to fully test your mettle. There’s even an end-game with an Apocalyptic difficulty level that will force you to think strategically and think about the placements of cores and orbs in the upgrading of both characters. In spite of this and despite throwing you straight into the action and being set within the depths of hell, the game starts off on a slow-burner, but with invested play, soon becomes a guilty pleasure that can’t be put down.
The whole design of the game has been expertly crafted, from the combat elements to the traversal of each of the levels. The familiarity of gliding is still present, as well as the ability to ‘ghost-hook’ onto floating platforms or grab distant objects. There’s also a number of puzzles that need to be solved in order to find everything within each level. For the most part though, the story is largely redundant and forgettable. Despite some banter between the two protagonists, this is also largely forgettable despite some attempts to keep things light-hearted. One things for sure though, the gameplay is far from half-hearted.
The new addition of co-op play for two people is very welcome though. Through local play, the game brings an element of fun as you both play through the campaign together. However, playing online is a very fiddly affair and was one that I was never fully successful in implementing. With luck, this will be patched and made a more easier and streamlined function of the game. What I will say though, is that although the co-op is a welcome addition, it doesn’t bring anything extra to the overall game. Sure, playing with friends is fun, but playing in solo mode is never a handicap here and transitioning between characters is a seamless mechanic. As well as its fiddly online component, the game also contains a couple of other minor nuances, such as a map layout that is difficult to navigate and a couple of technical issues, especially when playing handheld, but having said that, none of them are ever game-breaking.
Overall, Darksiders Genesis is a welcome addition to the overall series and in some aspects, is the most exciting of its titles to date. It’s simply hack-and-slash heaven with some meaty combat elements, but its also its elements of level designs and exploration, secrets to unlock, collectables and levelling mechanics that make it a truly investing game. As long you are expecting a Darksiders game and not a Diablo clone, then it’ll drag down to hell with its fiery gameplay. Its new addition of co-op play is very welcome and can be great fun when played locally, but finding randoms or friends online is fiddly and at times, very broken; hopefully this will be fixed though. It’s also a game that struggles with the Switch’s handheld capability, but I played through its entirety this way, so this isn’t game-breaking in any way. However, it’s the vast scale of content that wins over in the end, producing a game that has very high replay values and for its pricing, offers superb value for money. It’s certainly a game that’s very re-war-ding and it’s level of excitement certainly won’t give you any strife.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Darksiders Genesis Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 9/10
Darksiders Genesis offers an abundance of gameplay that is both re-war-ding and won’t cause any strife.