For the most part, Darksiders Genesis is a perfectly serviceable game. Reviews have been very favorable. And on the whole the game is decently fun to play and includes a lot of content. So if you were a fan of the first Darksiders title, you’ll probably enjoy what’s on offer here.
But Darksiders Genesis certainly isn’t anything to scream about. While it’s a fairly long title with lots of content — it might push you as far as 25 or 30 hours if you really get into it — there’s literally nothing here we haven’t seen before. Darksiders Genesis is an amalgamation of elements from lots of other games. Vigil’s title does it well, borrowing all those elements. It does combat really well. It’s not a bad game. It’s also not really a remarkable game.
Try to follow along here. Last time on Darksiders, you played War, who was tricked into riding to Earth to trigger the Apocalypse when it wasn’t really time for the Apocalypse. This resulted in a war between Heaven and Hell on Earth, which destroyed Earth. Then you were locked up for a hundred years before being judged by your bosses, the Charred Council. Then it turned out it was all a conspiracy and you absolved yourself. Great.
In Darksiders Genesis, you play Death, Horseman 2 of 4, during that weird blackout of 100 years. The Apocalypse as triggered by War resulted in the extermination of humanity, but Death figures, if humanity isn’t exterminated, then War is in the clear — essentially, a literal reading of the axiom “No harm, no foul.” Death is also super-crazy-loyal to War and is willing to do anything to see his innocence proven, or at least get him off the hook. So Death ventures out to find a way to revive all of humanity.
It reads weird on paper. It plays weirder in practice. The story of Darksiders Genesis makes little to no sense throughout, but one thing it does do is lend itself to some cool settings and characters. The first place you visit is called The Forge Lands, and it’s a place populated by huge Scottish people who apparently make worlds. They also have a number of animated stone robots. You use these to solve puzzles.
Darksiders Genesis is a mixture of puzzle-solving and fast-action combo-based combat in the best tradition of games like God of War. Essentially, in fact, this game is God of War, with maybe a little latter-day Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed thrown in. You’ll get your environmental puzzles, your block-pushing puzzles, your pressure-plate puzzles; you’ll climb walls, swing on grapple points, leap from hanging columns that you can rotate around. And you’ll fight a lot of guys by clicking furiously. Death carries his primary weapons, a pair of scythes, and secondary weapons you can find and equip that range from slow-moving giant hammers to fast bladed gauntlets.
Among the more fun systems in Darksiders Genesis is its loot and inventory system. You’ll find new gear everywhere, from mob drops after you kill bosses and even standard enemies, to chests, to hidden locations you’ll miss as you explore the world. You’ll constantly be swapping out bits of gear for new ones, and after a while, you’ll find handy benefits like imbuing your weapons with frost or fire damage. Better still are a the few-and-far-between “possessed” weapons, to which you can feed your excess items to make them more powerful and give them new abilities and attributes.
Combat has its ups and downs, but is generally a good time. Death unlocks a number of abilities that will allow you to take advantage of a number of strategies. You can go straight melee, linking together fast attacks with his two weapons and throwing in a few special abilities like a teleportation strike. Or you can summon zombies and crows to fight for you, evening the odds a little. You earn skill points to unlock and increase these powers, and while it’s possible to unlock every ability, doing so means each ability remains at its weakest.
There’s a ton of depth in Darksiders Genesis, something that really plays in its favor. It’s linked together by open world elements that have you exploring for hidden objects and completing sidequests, which is nice to break up the primary flow of the game, which is to pound through dungeons finding ways to open doors. The world of Darksiders Genesis is a nice place to visit, with lots of variety.
Lots of little issues hold back the whole, however. Combat is fun, but the combat camera is a homicidal sociopath and always seems bent on rotating just as you’re hoping to dodge an enemy coming in for the kill. This gets irritating quite often, especially when you’re forced to fight in one of the smaller venues into which Darksiders Genesis routinely boxes you. The camera bounces sporadically off the walls or pins itself in corners, where Death gets cut apart. This happens all the time.
Level design, too, is often far more complex than necessary, and this leads to wasted player time. Sometimes maps are clever; other times, they’re just a confusing maze in which all the doors and passages look the same and the path forward isn’t clear. Death brings along a somewhat unreliable crow whose job is to point him toward the next proper door, but that crow often gets just as lost as the player. At least there’s a fast-travel option to instantly depart a dungeon and head to the next objective.
In terms of the game as a whole, the little irritants pile up, scouring away at the fun Darksiders Genesis presents. And it is fun, often throwing out giant boss fights and beautiful scenery. The fun things and the annoying ones seem to cancel each other, and the remainder of Darksiders Genesis is a long and deep game filled specifically with tried-and-true elements. The troublesome thing, perhaps, is that we’ve been playing this game for two whole generations now. There’s nothing in Darksiders Genesis that hasn’t been done somewhere else — done with more novelty, certainly, and perhaps with more tact and intelligence too.
Darksiders Genesis will keep you busy a long time — my fairly sidequest-less run lasted just shy of 24 hours. And it excels in competency of its many elements. It’s by no means bad, even with its annoyances. But it adds nothing to the conversation of gaming.