Darksiders is a form-changing franchise. The original game featured an entertaining mix of combat and puzzle dungeons, such as a fusion of God of War and The Legend of Zelda. Darksiders II added a prey inspired by Diablo to this equation. When Darksiders III was released in 2018, it contained elements of From Software’s Souls games. The Darksiders experiments continue with Genesis, a co-friendly top-down action game. For this prequel, Developer Airship Syndicate packs many of the key aspects of Darksiders into a new container on time for the holidays. However, this shipment contains more packaged peanuts than gifts.
From the beginning, up to two players in Genesis can control Strife and War (single players can freely switch between the two). Every character feels impressively unique in combat. War is a slow moving tank at close range, with many sword combinations reminiscent of its original Darksider abilities. In contrast, Strife shoots across the battlefield and shoots from the barrels of his twin pistols. I like the mix of abilities that both riders offer, and Genesis generally manages to recreate Darksiders’ rousing action from a new camera perspective.
The joys of battle quickly turn to agony as the difficulty escalates. By equipping creature cores that improve the strength and health of your riders, war and battle are rising. Cores also offer other additional bonuses, such as: For example, the chance that your attacks will restore your health. Unfortunately, these enemy cores fall randomly, which means that you can fight entire enemy hordes without a guaranteed reward. The problems with this system are exacerbated when you need to grind cores – and you have to grind. Each level has a recommended power range and these requirements quickly outperformed my rider’s abilities. This forced me to return to old levels (or a repeatable combat area) to break through endless food, hoping to find more seeds – an incredibly soul-sucking process.
Genesis offers a little respite with a few environmental puzzles. In co-op, these puzzles challenge War and Strife to work together to throw a series of switches, or use their unique abilities to send electric balls across the room to power ancient artifacts. In single-player mode, these puzzles require a bit more footwork, as you’ll need to use bombs to trigger multiple timers, or use other environmental tricks to navigate through a field. Whether alone or with a friend, the puzzles of Genesis are never mentally exhausting, but I was usually thankful for any interruption in the action.
The biggest change for Darksiders Genesis is the fixed overhead camera. The view makes it easier for friends to play together, but it also means that the action feels distant and less intense. More importantly, large environmental objects (such as trees and cliff walls) can get between you and the camera and affect your view of the action. Navigating the environment itself is also problematic, with only a few screen markers pointing you forward and the map not showing your exact location. Sometimes I was confused as to where to go, and as I focused on the map, I just felt more lost.
The story of Genesis also made me disoriented. Most events in the Darksiders series revolved around the war between the rich heavens and hell, which ultimately devastated planet Earth. However, before the events of the previous games, Genesis deals mainly with the political affairs between the riders and some demonic figures, which in the end contributes little to the universe of the Darksiders. This lighthearted story seems to be a missed opportunity, especially as it is the first chance for fans to control the rider Strife. Unfortunately, Strife’s constantly witty demeanor is repugnant and the dialogue between him and the Stoic war is forced.
Overall, Darksiders Genesis can not use the strengths of the series. Since the founding of Darksiders, fans have imagined what it could be like to team up as different riders. Darksider’s Genesis finally offers a co-op experience, but its fancy design and memorable story leave nothing to be desired.