Darksiders: Genesis is not Darksiders 4, and while that may be disappointing for those invested in the series’ ongoing story about an apocalypse triggered before doomsday and all the ramifications of such an event, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about this new entry. It marks the first playable appearance of horseman Strife, and the game is being developed by Airship Syndicate, which marks the series’ official return to its original artist, Joe Madureira.
Genesis is a prequel story in the Darksiders universe featuring the first playable appearance of Strife, the only horseman to have so far not received his own game. Unlike the first three Darksiders games, Genesis has more in common with Diablo than it does with The Legend of Zelda, or as was the case with Darksiders 3, Dark Souls. We visited Airship Syndicate in Austin, TX to spend some time with the new game and find out what this new approach to Darksiders means for the franchise.
Genesis takes place well before the events of the first two Darksiders games. The apocalypse has not been triggered at this point, and Strife is performing his typical horseman duties by working with the council and doing as they so demand. Airship Syndicate sees the game as more of a sidestory to the larger Darksiders story. “It does come before, so technically, if you called it a prequel, that would not be wrong,” Joe Madureira says. The game came about because Airship wanted to return to the franchise it helped develop, so it pitched a smaller Darksiders game idea that it felt, as a smaller studio, it could deliver.
Strife Gets His Shot
Among Darksiders’ four horsemen, Strife has received the least amount of attention, but Genesis marks his first playable appearance. He, along with all the horsemen, were designed by Joe Madureira during the early pitch stages of Darksiders 1, but his roles in 3 and Genesis meant it was time to look back at the original design, seen above. “What is this weird muscle-y stuff?” Madureira asks out loud while mousing over his first drawing of Strife, having pulled it up on a computer. He says Strife was originally inspired by the bio-organic armor of The Guyver anime. “We ended up going more ancient fantasy, so that just didn’t work anymore,” Joe Madureira says. His armor changed, but the core elements, like his hair, mask, scarf, and guns, are basically the same from his first drawing. His personality, on the other hand, has gone through a much bigger change. “At the very beginning I imagined he would be the Boba Fett guy that was everyone’s favorite who didn’t speak,” Joe Madureira says, but in Genesis Strife makes light of every situation and cracks frequent jokes.
In our hands-on, we explored an icy section of hell, viewing the action from an overhead perspective. Strife has a melee weapon, but his primary means of attack are a pair of guns. With the angle of the camera staying locked from above, I am able to aim Strife’s guns using twin-stick controls. He has two different types of powerful special gun attacks that can be swapped on the fly. One is a continuous fire handy when focusing on a single enemy. Another feels more like a shotgun, firing off powerful singular blasts. These two special gun abilities use ammo, but enemies drop so much that there is no need to be conservative. Strife also has a standard fire usable in those rare instances when you’re out of ammo.
Playing as Strife I fought waves of enemies while moving through hell, solving the periodic lever-pulling puzzle, and outrunning lava floes. As I move away from the icy entrance of the beginning of the level, it gets hotter and more industrial with giant gears and elevators impeding my progress. A large demon mini-boss guards the end of the level and he has a minigun that also fires a collection of molten rocks into the air. He sends out waves of enemies which are easily dispatched and drop ammo so that I can use Strife’s special gun attacks on the mini-boss to eventually take him down with a violent fatality marked by a button icon floating over his head. This final kill attack is reminiscent of War’s fatalities from the original Darksiders.
The general gameplay and Strife’s gun-focused action makes him feel different than the horsemen of the first three Darksiders games. I understand why the game is not called Darksiders 4 because of its alternative gameplay and narrative setup, but there is no denying it is visually part of the Darksiders universe, which is likely thanks in part to Madureira’s return.
At the end of Darksiders 2, the team at Vigil was ready to move on from the Darksiders franchise, but when THQ’s collapse caused the studio to split apart and be refounded as multiple new studios it created new opportunities. “We didn’t say we never wanted to work on Darksiders again,” Airship Syndicate president and game director, Ryan Stefanelli says. “When THQ finally shut down in finality, it was kind of like – wait… we left this story untold. I think it would have been sad, speaking for me personally, anyway, to have never gotten the chance to return to the series would have been difficult, so I am happy we have another chance.”
For a whole lot more on Darksiders: Genesis, make sure to read the upcoming July 2019 issue of Game Informer magazine.