It was a strange thing when THQ Nordic announced Darksiders: Genesis, a spin-off of the popular action-adventure series, shortly before the E3 festivities began. In fact, things got even more peculiar when the publisher revealed the game to be a top-down action-RPG dungeon crawler, and that it shared several similarities to titles such as Diablo. Still, we managed to get our hands on the upcoming title at the Xbox E3 Showcase in LA and here's what we thought.
Darksiders: Genesis is a huge step away from tradition for the series. Not only is it developed by a different studio - that being Airship Syndicate - but as mentioned earlier, it's a fantasy-themed top-down dungeon crawler. What this means is that a game series known for its action-adventure gameplay has ended up moving closer to being a Diablo clone than it ever was intended to be.
As part of the short demo that we got to play in LA, we were able to explore the beginnings of chapter three of the story. There we were introduced to the characters via a short dialogue sequence, before being brought up to date on the storyline during a brief interaction between the characters. From what we can understand, the Charred Council, which governs the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, has ordered Strife, a Horseman, to recruit somebody to help fight a threat unbeknownst to us. In order to accomplish this, Strife has enlisted the help of War from the original Darksiders, and by the end of the demo we finished up in a ruined snowy castle.
Whilst the art style is pretty generic for a fantasy ARPG, what with it displaying the traditional gothic design we've seen before, the mechanics, on the other hand, are a bit of a loose cannon. The demo we played allowed us to play as both Strife and War, giving us the option to swap between them at will with a single button click, which was unusual, to say the least.
Strife's ability-set provided an opportunity for both melee and ranged combat. His ranged attacks involved aiming the character and simply firing, letting the horseman use his powerful dual hand-cannons to decimate anything coming his way. You can develop this gameplay in several ways, with him becoming even more dangerous by charging up his shots into a large single blast that can cut through even the hardiest of foes.
As for Strife's options when it comes to melee combat, these are more traditional hack and slash mechanics that let him take the fight right to his enemy. Once again, Strife's effectiveness can be improved through various in-game abilities.
War, on the other hand, is very similar in terms of how his mechanics work, with the main exception being that his ranged combat is more limited in comparison to Strife. He slices through enemies with his heaving sword, as he did in the original Darksiders, bringing a great deal of nostalgia to a game which is very different from the titles in the series that came before it.
As far as we could tell, the reason behind these alternate skillsets is to allow for more diversity in terms of how each character interacts with the environment and how you get around the place. For example, War is able to open up certain doorways using his three-pronged blade, whereas Strife cannot get through them in the same way.
All these different mechanics do add more variety to the game, although it does also make it more challenging to remember and master what looks like a very broad control scheme, which may well end up being to the detriment of the experience. Overall, this makes for an ARPG experience that has lots of platforming challenges built around hack and slash combat and a familiar setting. Whether it has what it takes to compare to both its predecessors and the games already existing in the same genre remains to be seen, but we'll find out more when Darksiders: Genesis lands on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One later this year.