It’s horrifyingly difficult to overcome the disappointment a previous entry in a once-loved series can instil.
I’ve enjoyed delving into the dreary Darksiders universe on and off for the last ten years and, naturally, jumped at the opportunity to review both Darksiders Warmastered Edition and Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition for the Nintendo Switch. Whilst I found the first foray perfectly passable, the much grander sequel has a myriad of technical problems that, unfortunately, killed any prospective love for the title, at least on Nintendo’s pocket hybrid. It’s this disappointment that left me feeling cautiously pessimistic about Darksiders Genesis, developer Airship Syndicate’s radically different take on the tried and tested Zelda-esque action-adventure romp seen previously.
Unfortunately, my pessimism was confirmed to be warranted near immediately after booting the game up. Despite it seeming such a menial matter in comparison to most, I found that the subtitles weren’t synced to the voice acting whatsoever and would usually finish a good fifteen seconds or so before the spoken line had. Again, while this may not seem like the most heinous of sins, it further planted the cognitive seed that the upmost care hadn’t been taken on this entry too. I soldiered on regardless, now curious as to whether this admittedly small oversight was representative of the rest of the title.
The next issue is purely one of identity, especially so when playing handheld. See, Darksiders Genesis doesn’t have you controlling your horseman (or woman, should you have played Darksiders III which, incidentally, isn’t available on the Switch) from behind but instead from top-down – think Diablo and its ilk. The game largely plays the same despite this change of camera angle, yet, due to us being further away from the action per se, enemies often come across like a jagged mess of pixels with a muddy complexion. You find yourself mindlessly slashing through the many droves of enemies, never being able to appreciate the once-incredible character design.
Likewise, the playable characters – OG Darksiders War and playable newcomer Strife – don’t carry much weight either. War, thankfully still voiced by the incredible Liam O’Brien, is bulky in stature, yet Strife doesn’t carry any discernible features should you only witness him in gameplay alone. He appears in the previously mentioned third instalment and carries the same look in the few cutscenes throughout this title, but you lose that certain bad-assery a cleaner picture would have so easily afforded. The problems are somewhat lessened when playing docked, but nearly by the magnitude required to truly appreciate the art direction Darksiders is so well known for.
Once I just started playing the game for what it was, however, I started to have a great time, especially so in co-op – a first for the series. Being able to experience this once solitary adventure alongside a friend, either locally or online, truly maximises any potential enjoyment throughout, meaning the potentially tedious puzzle elements – a staple of the series – feel just that bit more enjoyable. Personally, the option to indulge in some couch co-op, regardless of title, is always a welcome one, but it feels right at home here in Genesis. War and Strifes copious quips add much-needed character throughout and whilst the narrative will never win awards, it’s suitably adequate.
The story as a whole presents itself in the same manner as the character-spoken comments do, too. Taking place prior to the first Darksiders, both War and Strife are tasked by the Council to investigate and dispatch of Lucifer, the King of Hell, who plans to create what would essentially be a super army of powerful Demons. It’s par for the course, really, but the story has ultimately never been the star of the show.
I wouldn’t consider my favourite singular element within Darksiders Genesis – the gameplay, should it not be obvious – to be the defining factor of the series, either. It’s always been about the environment for me and yet, the aforementioned problems with the world War and Strife inhabit forced me to unknowingly shift my predisposition. This isn’t the Darksiders I’ve known to love, but it’s a bloody good romp through an isometric action-adventure with hack’n’slash tendencies, all messily wrapped in a slapped-on Darksiders skin.
There’s a good chance I would have enjoyed this game just as much should it have appeared in any old aesthetic due to the tight control mechanics, but I have this niggling feeling that some of the hellish charm present works so well due to the marrying up of otherwise mediocre environmental design with superb gameplay; the former allows the latter to shine, something on whichboth previously available Darksiders titles didn’t have the opportunity to capitalise. Somehow, Genesis is all the better for having immediately apparent problems; The ultimate oxymoron in virtual form.
Darksiders Genesis £34.99
Darksiders Genesis is a wildly different game to Darksiders I and II, and is nowhere near as competent with its design. It is, however, a hell of a lot of fun, with the inclusion of co-op being a standout feature. Paying £350 for the Nephilim Edition is a massive stretch, though.