Welcome back to the world of the Four Horseman. We finally have a chance to see how Strife fights and deals with any threats to the balance and to get it right, the game has changed genre quite a bit. Darksiders: Genesis is a prequel spinoff that zooms up and out, turning the action into a twin-stick shooter.
Just because the camera angle changed doesn’t mean everything has to be different. Melee combat still plays out in the same way and the game still has a focus on puzzles to get through areas and dungeons, just not with the same complexity or flair as Darksiders 1 or 2. The focus is very much on the number of foes this time around and having access to two Horsemen often means almost nothing can stand in your way as you turn enemies into piles of orbs and souls.
Not now, Brother
If you enjoyed the dour, strong War of the first game he is back, being just as serious and duty-driven as before, which is a stark contrast to Strife’s happy go lucky attitude that revolves around making jokes and the joy of killing things. Underneath his attempts to be flippant is a much more serious, regretful character who is battling with both his past and the orders he is following for the Charred Council. It makes for an interesting mix as Strife and War’s worldviews and opinions clash, and it makes me wonder how much better the view of each character could have been if each game had two or more of the Horsemen bouncing concerns and jabs off each other.
When playing alone, you control one Horseman at a time, with a button press switching between the two. When one is off-screen they regenerate a bit of health and will arrive in a hurry if the current hero is knocked out. The game never punishes you for playing the game solo, but having a second player does make things smoother as you split the enemy’s attention. I’m glad that you can play it completely solo, as too often co-op style games feel unfair when alone, making you wish you had a friend to play with.
The biggest issue here isn’t the characters, but the timeline. Because it is set before War arrives far too early, breaking the Seven Seals, there is a lot of time spent being introduced to characters we know all too well, enemies we have defeated before or whose machinations are already known to us. Most of the time both War and Strife are being led around by their noses by various demons, apparently unable to find their own way to reach Lucifer and find out what he is doing to endanger the balance. While it does give space for Strife’s story, having almost no plot progression for War, the council or the various demons makes the story feel much slower than it has to be. I know this is a general problem with prequels but with a bit more meat to Strife’s character, it would have been easier to swallow.
By zooming out, a lot of the action that makes Darksiders memorable is lost. Enemies feel smaller and less imposing when you are watching from on high and many of the best attacks and animations are almost lost due to their size. War’s prodigious strength and brutal execution moves are so small I felt like I was squinting to see them, or leaning towards my monitor. To make it worse, often the camera would bug out, panning away from the action and leaving me to watch half of the kill or just stare at a section of boring looking floor. Many enemies can be kited by Strife, just dodging around the arena and shooting enough bullets to power up your abilities for a few powerful shots before going back to chipping the health bars, which felt rather boring after a while. Ending a boss with an execution attack that has the camera move away from the action, or my character doing the animations several steps away from the boss, doesn’t help make it any more satisfying. Luckily War’s attacks still feel like they have weight to them and some ammo types for Strife can be fun but eventually, you will settle on a favourite and not really switch that much.
If you enjoy hack and slash and don’t mind grinding away, there is a lot to strive for once the game is done as you go back to old levels to find secrets and power-ups. But get ready for the same story bits playing out again and again as there is no way to just revisit without the scripted bits. Satisfying combat will keep you playing, but the game doesn’t have anywhere near the same satisfaction or standout moments that the early Darksiders games did.