The Darksiders franchise has been stuck in a rut since its inception. Many refer to the games as a hodgepodge of other genres, even if the series typically has strong art direction and story. The first Darksiders is seen as a Zelda—God of War hybrid while the second implements RPG and combat mechanics reminiscent of the Dark Souls titles. Those who have seen Darksiders Genesis’s gameplay reveal will notice the uncanny resemblance the game seems to have to Diablo. These preconceived opinions can be put to rest, as this Darksiders spin-off gives developer Airship Syndicate a chance to capitalize on the series’s untapped personality.
Right off the bat of the Darksiders Genesis E3 2019 demo, players are introduced to long-fabled series newcomer, Strife. Unlike the other horsemen who, in past games actively strive for drab, overly serious dialogue, Strife is funny, hot-headed, and quick-witted. The character’s gameplay melds so well with his loose-cannon personality, letting players know immediately that the game is a welcomed take on a franchise that was beginning to wear thin.
Better yet, War makes a playable appearance in the game, too. Where War would normally take situations too seriously in previous games, he now seems to joke with his brother. This evolution on War’s personality feels natural and reassuring of the direction Airship Syndicate is taking the series in.
What players, and especially fans, will notice after being greeted with this new tone is gameplay that feels perfectly familiar to the franchise. Though the top-down perspective certainly has players thinking differently about their actions, never once does the choice feel like a step back. War specifically controls just as he did in the first game, but some simplifying has helped clean up a move set that overcomplicated itself in previous titles. Strife too feels as a Darksiders, gun-toting horsemen should. Darksiders Genesis is undoubtedly more of itself than it is Diablo, even if the influences are still easy to see.
One of the best examples of a focus on being unabashedly Darksiders is the use of exploding spike-ball puzzles and platforming. Both puzzles and beam-jumping platforming sections found their way into the E3 demo and will likely only be expanded upon come release. These platforming sections provided solid breaks from the combat and the puzzles did the same. Again, more Darksiders love is present than one might expect at first glance.
Enemy types could do with some variation, though, as, for the most part, nothing comes close to being special. The game has three enemy types in the standard dungeon section demo that are worth mentioning: small, medium, and large. The Darksiders franchise has plenty of unique designs and enemy types to choose from, so why does the game have so little variation in nearly 20 minutes of gameplay? Of course, more unique enemies could appear down the line, but the taste given does not bode well.
Another issue that will likely see some brushing up by the time release rolls around is the semi-frequent glitches and bugs. Death does not seem to extract a heavy toll, but is an annoyance nonetheless. Clipping through a ledges gets old the first time it happens, so knowing the same could happen up to five times in a 20-minute demo is unnerving.
Something else that could easily see change before release is the lack of direction players are given in Darksiders Genesis. To be fair, a lack of direction is not always a bad thing. The double-edged sword of player freedom to learn could lead to frustration at the cost of learning to progress on one’s own. However, more often than not, Darksiders Genesis could possibly benefit from a minor amount of more direction.
The first ever Darksiders spin-off was only announced a few days ago and already the early build is shaping up to offer a completely new perspective on the Darksiders world. While some technical aspects need buffing out and more direction would not hurt, the foundation Airship Syndicate has built here is more than strong enough to warrant a full game. Now all fans can do is hope the team continues to push for fresh ideas and character decisions in a world that has already proven its staying power.