Thursday 6 June 2019

Why I'm Excited About Darksiders Genesis

This morning we were treated to a teaser trailer for a new Darksiders game. At this point I'm frankly surprised that this franchise still exists, but I'm most certainly not complaining. I have loved all of the entries in this odd-ball series, which casts the player as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and pits them against the forces of heaven and hell, but there have been multiple reasons for the people involved to stop making them over the years.

The first game was released in 2010, featuring the gorgeous, gothic, heavy metal fantasy artwork of legendary comic book creator Joe Madureira and was very well received. The second game was also well received but less so, but more importantly didn't live up to the lofty expectations and loftier marketing budget of publisher THQ, who promptly went bankrupt the same year and seemingly took the rights to the franchise with them. The third game was a surprise announcement from the completely-not-related-to-the-old-company THQ Nordic, and whilst I really enjoyed it it left a lot of players disappointed by its stripped-down scale. Until this morning I was fairly confident that we would never see a Darksiders 4.

It's hard to tell if Darksiders Genesis is supposed to be Darksiders 4 or just a spin-off. The top-down perspective is a clear departure from the previous games, which were all third-person action adventures, but one of the hallmarks of this series is that its genre is fluid. Darksiders 1 borrowed heavily from the Legend of Zelda with its dungeons and item-based puzzle solving.  Darksiders 2 took things in a more action RPG direction with procedurally generated, rarity coloured loot. Darksiders 3 saw the series try its hand at being a Souls-like with a heightened focus on difficult combat and the need to collect resources dropped on death. The new game does appear to star Strife, the last of the four horsemen still waiting for his own game, and video game publishers do tend to get squeamish once you start putting numbers higher than '3' on products they hope to sell.

Edit: The official Darksiders Facebook page has confirmed that Genesis is a spin-off

Weirdly enough things seem to have come full-circle for Darksiders. The cliff-hanger ending of Darksiders 1, in which protagonist War proudly proclaims that in the coming war he will be "not alone" before revealing the other three horsemen swooping in out of the sky, left people excitedly speculating about a four-player cooperative game as a follow-up. The trailer above features Strife prominently, but War's bulky frame is easily discernible. Hell, Strife even calls back to that famous "not alone" line. I'm hoping that Fury and Death also make an appearance and we get the full four-player co-op experience, but so far only two players have been shown.

Not only that, but development of Genesis is being handled by Airship Syndicate, co-founded by Madureira himself, and based on my quick Internet research he still works there. Joe hasn't worked on a Darksiders title since the first game, and having now read some of his books I'm excited to see him back. The company's first game BattleChasers: Nightwar (based on Madureira's comics) was an overlooked gem, featuring some ingenious new spins on turn-based combat and traditional JRPG mechanics, as well that that sumptuous, trademark art-style.

It leaves me hopeful that Darksiders Genesis will be a good game that gives people what they've wanted for almost a decade, and allow this franchise, which hooked me as soon as I saw an alpha build of the first game at PAX 2008, to continue to be its weird, disparate, ridiculous self for the foreseeable future.

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