As well as the original protagonist War, with his big sword and sombre holy warrior attitude, Genesis introduces Strife; the fourth horseman of the apocalypse whose rapid gunslinging combat and acerbic humour brings some levity and variety to proceedings. The narrative of the game boils down to a series of excuses for the duo to take out bigger and badder demons on their way to Lucifer’s lair while finding crazier tools of destruction, but in quieter moments the interplay between the two anti-heroes is brilliant. Genesis takes place well before the original game, just after the horsemen have carried out a genocide against their own unholy half-demon half-angel race, and there’s plenty of lore tidbits for series fans.
With two players you each control a horseman, and their distinct playstyles define their roles in combat. War can parry to open enemies up to combos and learns big area of effect attacks, making him perfect for getting up close and personal with big demons or taking on tight groups. Meanwhile Strife is much more lithe and earns a “hotstreak” after a certain amount of on-target shooting, powering up his guns and letting him mow down whole armies at a distance.
Local co-op is via splitscreen, which makes things crowded but at least lets you explore independently, and solo players can switch between the two horsemen at any time which makes for a surprisingly cohesive and dynamic experience.
The greatest achievement of this game is that both combat styles stay fresh and fun throughout the entire 15-hour affair, aided by a whole host of upgrades, items and abilities. War and Strife both get totally different skills — some as part of the standard progression, some hidden off the beaten path — and you’re constantly earning new combos and augments through the shops as well. One of the most interesting systems sees you collecting “cores” from defeating creatures and placing them on a sprawling skill tree to unlock minor — but stackable — stat increases and effects. Upgrading these can take a lot of grinding in past levels, but it’s powerful enough that you can wipe all your cores off the board, start again and wind up with a very different-feeling pair of fighters.
Art-wise this still looks like what you expect from comic legend and long-time Darksiders designer Joe Madureira; filled to the brim with hypercolour muscles, skulls and lava. But the shift in perspective allows for much larger scale environments and some awe-inspiring design. There is the occassional flub where the game expects you to make jumps or explore areas that are obscured or warped by the complex geometry, but much more often the space allows for badass moments like chasing monumental bosses or riding your undead horses across rotting plains.
With the combat supported by a side of Zelda-style item-based dungeon puzzles and pre-apocalyptic series lore, this is a brilliant adaptation of Darskiders’ signature brand of fun, even if it’s not as grand or cinematic as the third-person action games.
Darksiders Genesis is out now for PC (reviewed), and is out on February 14 for PS4, Switch and Xbox One.